Secretary of State Rice made these remarks en route to Tel Aviv, Israel on May 3, 2008.
SECRETARY RICE: I’ll take your questions, but obviously we’re going to Israel and to the Palestinian Territories and the purpose here is to continue to try to help the parties plus forward on the three tracks of Annapolis. I will have a couple of trilaterals again; probably the key one is to again review where we are in terms of the situation on the ground and improvement of life for the Palestinian people. A lot is going on in that realm, as you heard yesterday, in the discussions that Tony Blair put forward about the various packages for economic development, the Jenin Project and also, on the second track, the Roadmap obligations to look at some of the promises that Israel undertook, and we’ll see where they are, and we’ll see where some of the promises Palestinians undertook and where they are. And then I'll have a chance to talk to the parties about how they are doing on the negotiations, although I saw Tzipi Livni here and I'll have a chance to see her again in Israel along with Abu Alaa, Abu Mazen and others.
QUESTION: One of the things that Prime Minister Fayyad complained most bitterly about was -- yesterday were Israeli security force incursions into areas that are ostensibly under Palestinian control. With reference to Jenin, have you sought any kind of assurance from the Israeli Government, which takes the position that overall security control still resides with them even for Jenin, that they will try not to go into Jenin and, therefore, not at least in Palestinian eyes undermine their nascent effort?
SECRETARY RICE: I think there's an understanding that there are security issues here. And of course, the Israelis are going to need to make sure that their populations are protected.
That said, I think we sent pretty strong messages, including when the President was in Israel that -- I guess he was in Ramallah actually at the time -- that when the Palestinians deploy and when you're trying to give responsibility to the Palestinians, it’s important not to take steps that undermine their authority. Everybody is looking to the Palestinians to do more on security. Everybody is looking to the Palestinians to take authority of -- to take responsibility for security. There ought to be very insistent efforts to make sure that they’re not being undermined. So yes, it’s an issue.
QUESTION: Before he left Washington last week, President Abbas had an interview with us and he sounded just dejected. He felt like he was leaving Washington without having accomplished anything. He had gotten no new pledges either from you or from President Bush, and he said that he had put it to both of you pretty strongly that there really needs to be greater pressure on Israel to do something about movement and access. And I wonder did you hear that message and, if so, what, you know, what you’ll be able to do about it on his trip?
SECRETARY RICE: We are only five months after the start of the Annapolis process. And before the start of the Annapolis process there also was no peace process. There was no way for the Palestinians and Israelis to begin this difficult process of trying to end their conflict. I want to remind everyone that the issue just a few months ago was Israel wouldn’t talk about the core issues. So it’s important not to have a short memory here about where we are. I understand President Abbas’ desire to get things moving on the negotiated track, and I understand his desire to improve conditions for the Palestinian people, and that's what we’re trying to do.
We’re trying to do that by providing Palestinian security forces that can actually take on their security responsibility, which is why the group that is coming back -- the unit that’s coming back from Jordan is important. It’s why the efforts that General Dayton and others have taken on are important. It’s why the Palestinians have received $1.5 billion in pledges from the international community including a direct transfer of $150 million from the United States for the first time directly to the Palestinian budget and the Palestinian Authority. That's a vote of confidence in Salam Fayyad’s government and President Abbas’ leadership. It is also why we have a very systematic way of looking at the obligations that both Palestinians and Israelis have undertaken.
So there’s a lot of attention to this. There’s a lot of effort going on. I understand everyone, President Abbas, I, the President, would like to see things move more quickly. That's why we keep coming and pressing all the parties to meet their obligations. But we’re trying to unravel a longstanding conflict where there are real security issues as well as real movement and access issues. And I think that we aren’t going to be able to judge where this is going to come out by any one set of meetings.
QUESTION: The Quartet statement mentioned prominently the Egyptian channel, trying to come to some arrangement with Hamas and violence and access. Could you give us an idea of how that’s going? I mean is there reason for optimism about that one?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'll let the Egyptians speak for their own effort. I think it’s really not fair to speak about their diplomacy. It is their diplomacy. It is supported by the United States and the Quartet and Israel and others. But I don’t want to speak to the details of what they are doing.
I know that they’re trying very hard to bring quiet and calm so that the violence stops. I know they’re trying to get Hamas to stop firing rockets. I think that's extremely important. I know that they are promoting something that we think, if the details can be worked out, will be a good idea, which is to begin to try to restore the Nov 2005 agreement to try to get PA personnel at the crossings, to try to get PA personnel at the crossings to try to have more reliable opening of the crossings at Gaza. And so we’re in favor of all of those goals. It’s not easy because, of course, it is Hamas that is holding the Palestinian people hostage in Gaza by firing rockets into Israel and by building up their terrorist infrastructure.
But the efforts that the Egyptians are undertaking and more intensive Egyptian efforts to deal with tunnels, smuggling, border control -- these are welcome developments.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, could you please tell us a little bit more about what you during your trilateral with the Tzipi Livni and Salam Fayyad yesterday? And also, this morning what did you discuss with David Miliband about Iran? Is he the one that's going to deliver the refreshed package to Iran?
SECRETARY RICE: Let me not make David’s travel plans one way or another. I -- we’ve not decided on a way to transmit the refreshed proposal to the Iranians.
In terms of the discussion this morning, it was actually a -- step back -- we had a chance to talk with some British officials including their ambassador to Tehran. They’re on the ground. It’s interesting to get their perspective on things. We talked a lot about our strategic goals, about what tools we might have to achieve them. But it was not really an operational policy session; it was really something that we’ve done a couple of times which is to (inaudible) some of our experts and have a chance to talk to them in a more seminar like fashion. We did one on Afghanistan the last time I was London. So that's what we did this morning.
And you know, we’ll see about transmission of the proposal. We have some tidying up to do before we can do that.
QUESTION: What about the trilateral?
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, the trilateral. As I said to you, the reason I like the trilateral format, which I've only used now a few times, is that I can hear the parties not so much talk to me but talk to each other. And if there are points of convergence or things that we think are a good idea, we can then try and help them find ways to move forward.
And in this case, because Prime Minister Fayyad is not really the negotiator on core issues, he’s more concerned about things that would improve the Palestinian economy, things that would make it possible for investors to come into the Palestinian economy, we talked more about those kinds of issues.
And also -- rather interesting link that happened, Tzipi Livni was saying that, of course, as a part of the negotiations, they’re going to have to look at state-to-state relations and how the economies will relate to one another. And it’s a good thing to think of the improvements that are now being made for the Palestinian economy to somehow have a link to what they’re trying to do in the final outcome and how the economic relations between the two states will look.
So it was that kind of discussion. But it helps me to get a sense of where there might be parts of convergence.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, was the criticism that we heard from the Quartet and the AHLC yesterday, was that helpful -- the criticism of Israel -- will that be helpful in some way in terms of opening up some space as you go to Jerusalem today for the discussions there in terms of their -- do you think they’re feeling more pressure than they have? And what about -- you mentioned the Jenin Project and the importance of the police force coming back from Jordan and starting their work in Jenin. What about The Washington Post – do you have any reaction to the Washington Post article this morning about the Israelis blocking U.S. supplies for that force?
SECRETARY RICE: The issue of the supplies going to the forces is the kind of thing that usually gets worked out as a matter of the Palestinians, the United States, sometimes the Europeans working through the details. These are, you know, issues of certain military equipment going to the Palestinian forces that the Israelis may have concerns about. And for the most part, we’ve usually been able to work them out. So I think you see a snapshot there, but it’s also something that General Dayton is involved in working -- trying to work out.
As to the HRC and the Quartet, what I heard was a desire to have things move along more quickly, to have everybody do as much as they can, to have the Israelis do more on movement and access. I think that's what everyone is saying, and I think they have the message. It’s -- I think they’ve made some important steps, but there’s going to need to be more. I do think that the approach of being able to look at an area and say, what security is going to be provided there; what movement and access is needed for what economic projects is better than a kind of general call for improvements in movement and access. Because this is, frankly, a quite large machine out there in the West Bank, and you have to get pretty specific about what needs to be done or you'll find that orders don’t always get down. And so I think this more specific way of dealing with it is going to be ultimately more beneficial.
QUESTION: Sort of the same question. But I was wondering specifically how the statement went down with the Israelis because of the criticism or the call to halt construction settlements, the growth, etcetera. And whether you were planning to exert any more pressure on the Israelis of any form to bring this about, this freeze of settlement growth?
SECRETARY RICE: This isn’t an issue of exerting pressure; it’s an issue of working through problems. Sometimes you are able to work through them in these very complicated environments, and sometimes it takes a considerable time to work through them, and sometimes there are problems that you aren’t able to work through in the current political circumstances in which we find ourselves.
Now, I think as this political process moves forward, the incentives for both sides to try to do more is growing. And I believe you're going to see more efforts to do more to improve the lives of the Palestinian people. I'll give you an example of something that's working very well. One of the highest profile and most important steps that Salam Fayyad has taken is this Bethlehem Conference. I heard no complaints about cooperation for the Bethlehem Conference.
And so you hear about the things that are hard to get done, but you don’t always here about the things that are getting done and that are moving forward. And we have some movement and access issues and we have -- I was talking to Salam about them and there are a couple that have been very significant and they’ve been very helpful to the Palestinian people and they’ve been done.
But, of course, the tendency is to look at the ones that haven’t been done. And that's been my approach, too, I tend to push aside the ones that have been done and say, okay, check, those are done, let’s move on to the ones that haven’t been done. But in doing so, it’s quite easy to get a picture that nothing is being done when, in fact, it is.
And so the Israelis didn’t react to the statement. It was not unlike other Quartet statements that have been issued.
QUESTION: Just going back to the last week’s meeting at the White House, you probably heard that some of the Palestinians weren’t happy about the President’s visit to Israel to celebrate the creation of the State of Israel and they think that’s sort of disrespectful to them because as a result of that, they’ve been suffering for so many years. Did that come up at all and, if not, what would you say to the Palestinians because they are concerned that it might send the wrong signal? Oh, and also, I wanted to ask about any arrangements that are being made for the President to meet in Egypt with President Abbas and others?
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, those arrangements are being made. I don’t have anything further for you. You know, the White House is working on that.
First of all, I always find it difficult to comment on unnamed, unidentified Palestinian sources that didn’t say the same thing to us -- let me put it that way -- I mean that did not object to the President coming to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Israel’s founding.
The founding of Israel is a fact. It’s also a fact that the United States was the first country to recognize Israel 11 minutes after it declared its statehood; a very difficult decision for Harry Truman. Apparently, I remember the story of how George Marshall said, you know, I’ll be your Secretary of State but I’ll never vote for you again. I mean it was -- this was a very historic and courageous decision by Harry Truman. And Israel is a strong and important friend and ally of the United States. Why would you not celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of this once fragile state founded on the horrors of really one of the most awful moments in certainly modern human history and that has grown into a vibrant economy and – a vibrant democracy and a vibrant economy? Why would you not celebrate that?
Celebrating that does not mean that you don’t recognize that there were consequences for the people of the region from that founding and that we’re still trying to deal with those consequences and the fact that the President has talked about the need to found a Palestinian state and has been talking about that since he became President practically and says that he recognizes that the Palestinians also deserve to live in their own state and to become a vibrant democracy and hopefully a good friend of the United States. So there's no contradiction here.
In fact, I hope that it may or may not be -- it certainly won’t be on our watch, but I hope someday that somebody will be – I mean it will be well beyond our watch -- somebody will be coming to celebrate the 60th anniversary -- you won’t be here either by the way -- of the Palestinian democratic state one day, that some American President will say George W. Bush took a courageous decision to support the creation of a Palestinian state and it came into being and now here we are to celebrate that. So there’s no contradiction here.
SPOKESMAN: Alright. Thank you.
SECRETARY RICE: What?
SECRETARY RICE: Oh yeah.
QUESTION: A shorter one. Do you expect to leave Israel with any sort of assurances from the Israelis about removing more roadblocks similar to the last time. And the Palestinian’s have been complaining of that kind of --
SECRETARY RICE: The first thing we’re going to do is review the ones that were supposedly moved. And one thing I want to talk to the Israelis about is the qualitative character of those roadblocks because not all roadblocks are created equal. And we’ve had a chance to look at some on the questions of significance, and I think that’s right now a more important issue. We could, of course -- of course, we’ll ask for the next iteration, but I also think it’s important to go back and say what effect is this actually having. Because we don’t want to get into a numbers game in which, you know, you just move X number of roadblocks but it’s not really improving the lives of the Palestinians.
I think there are some of them that are quite significant. I think there's some that probably fall in the category of not as significant as they might have been.
SECRETARY RICE: As far as I know, there was movement on all of them, but I'd have to go and read my materials and make sure. So with that I will-- (end)