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Secretary Clinton on Israel, Egypt, and Syria During her July Trip to Jerusalem

David Citadel Hotel, Jerusalem, Israel



SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good evening, everyone. I’m sorry to keep you so late, but it’s been a very busy and active, productive day here in Jerusalem. I’m happy to be back in Israel and happy to be consulting very broadly with my colleagues and counterparts.
I know that there are a lot of issues that are of concern to both of us right now, but let me start by stating the obvious. Israel is a nation that shares a special bond with the United States. We are friends; we are allies. And more than that, Israel holds great personal significance for many Americans, including myself. I’ve been coming to Israel for more than 30 years. I count not only many friends, but many memories from those trips.

So being here today to reiterate our commitment to Israel’s security, our investment in Israel’s long-term future, making it clear that we are connected on a deep level of shared values, and that we are determined to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities of this time.

Israel and the United States cooperate every single day at the highest level and across many dimensions. We saw that this week with the U.S.- Israel Strategic Dialogue, chaired by Deputy Secretary Bill Burns; Tom Donilon, the National Security Advisor’s in-depth strategic consultations; Secretary of Defense Panetta will be here later this month; and of course, my visit today.

I had a chance to cover a range of foreign policy issues with President Peres, Foreign Minister Lieberman, Defense Minister Barak, and of course, Prime Minister Netanyahu and members of his office and cabinet.

Let me start with Egypt. This weekend, I traveled to Cairo. I met with the new President, a number of other key stakeholders, as well as Field Marshal Tantawi. My message in public and in private was the same: The United States and the international community look to the new leaders of Egypt to play a constructive role in advancing regional peace and security, in particular by upholding their international agreements, including the peace treaty with Israel. It’s obvious that both Israel and Egypt, along with the region and indeed the world, all share a strong interest and commitment to this treaty which has served as a backbone for regional stability for more than three decades.

We also discussed our commitment to bring about a comprehensive regional peace in the Middle East, peace among Israel, the Palestinian people, and Israel’s Arab neighbors. I’ve spoken many times about the forces of demography, technology, and ideology because I believe all three call for an urgent negotiated solution. And I’ve also been clear that it is only through negotiation, not through international venues or unilateral acts, that peace can be and will be secured. This is a point I also repeated in my meeting with Prime Minister Fayyad this afternoon and President Abbas last week in Paris and Israel’s leaders today.

We all spoke about how to build on the exchange of letters between President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu to get negotiations going because we know the status quo is unsustainable. The proof is in the security threats Israel faces – rocket attacks, terrorist threats, challenges in Gaza and on your borders. And so our goal remains an independent Palestinian state living in peace and security alongside a secure Jewish democratic state of Israel.

As we proceed, we must keep supporting the Palestinian Authority as they work to provide security and economic growth to their people. And in my excellent meeting with Prime Minister Fayyad today, he briefed me on the challenges the Palestinian Authority faces, and we discussed how the United States and the international community can help support them.

Another focus of today’s conversations was our joint efforts to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. As President Obama has said, the entire world has an interest in preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Because of our work to rally the international community, Iran is under greater pressure now than ever before. That pressure will continue and increase so long as Iran fails to meet its international obligations. We all prefer a diplomatic resolution and Iran’s leaders still have the opportunity to make the right decision. The choice is ultimately Iran’s. Our own choice is clear: We will use all elements of American power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Finally, I spoke today about the historic changes sweeping the region and their implications for the stability and prosperity of Israel and her neighbors. We consulted on the alarming events in Syria, which raise deep concerns for every country in this region and for the international community. And more broadly, at this time of change and transformation, we discussed what Israel can do and what we can do together to support regional security and progress.

All my conversations today started from a simple premise: America’s commitment to Israel is rock-solid; by strengthening Israel’s security, we strengthen America’s security. We are two democracies working together to ensure that our people can live without fear and with dignity and opportunity so that men and women, boys and girls, Israelis, Americans, Christians, Muslims, and Jews, people across the region, can fulfill their own God-given potential.

So once again, I appreciate being here. I am only sorry that I have to leave. My traveling team is anxious to get home. I’d like to be hanging out in Jerusalem, but I have to do my duty. So I thank the people of Israel for their friendship with the people of the United States. And with that, I’d be happy to take some questions.

MS. NULAND: Okay. For this evening, we’ll start with AP. Brad Klapper, please.

QUESTION: Yes, Madam Secretary. In the three years since the Obama Administration made Arab-Israeli peace a top priority, there has been no progress. To what do you attribute this failure? And if you could do it all over again, would the Obama Administration do anything differently – maybe on the issue of settlements?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Brad, I’m looking forward because I think that’s where the future lies and where any potential agreements and solutions are waiting for us. As I said, we remain focused on the resumption of direct negotiations, since we believe that is the only route to a lasting, stable peace. My message to both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas was the same, namely that the international community can help – the United States, the Quartet, we stand ready to do so to help support an environment for talks, but it’s up to the parties to do the hard work for peace.

And to those who say the timing isn’t right, the other side has to move first, or the trust just isn’t there, I say peace won’t wait and the responsibility falls on all of us to keep pressing forward. So the United States will keep showing up, as we have for many years now. We’ll keep pushing our friends to do what they can to move the agenda forward. And we will do everything possible to try to see this vision of peace between Israel and the Palestinians realized.

MS. NULAND: Next question (inaudible) Channel 2, please.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, you said that you were very coordinated with Israel. After your visit here in Israel, what are the chances that Israel will attack Iran eventually? What is your assumption?

On the matter of Jonathan Pollard, we’ve been here for a long time. Don’t you think it’s a matter of justice and even a humanitarian issue that after almost 27 years in jail he should be released?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first with respect to Iran, my discussions today are part of a very long, in-depth, ongoing consultation. We always compare notes on Iran, and today’s consultations were particularly timely because our two-track policy of diplomacy and pressure is in full mood here – move here, because the P-5+1 talks, with the imposition of even tougher sanctions. We know the sanctions are biting. Israel and the United States agree on that.

And we talked about concrete steps that we can take to continue to build the pressure. And as to the diplomatic track, I made very, very clear that the proposals we have seen from Iran thus far within the P-5+1 negotiations are nonstarters. Despite three rounds of talks, it appears that Iran has yet to make a strategic decision to address the international community’s concerns and fulfill their obligations under the IAEA and the UN Security Council.

So we are pressing forward in close consultation with Israel. I’m not going to prejudge the outcome of these efforts. I think that it’s absolutely fair to say we are on the same page at this moment trying to figure our way forward to have the maximum impact on affecting the decisions that Iran makes.

With respect to Mr. Pollard, he was, as you know, convicted of spying in 1987. He was sentenced to life in prison. He is serving that sentence, and I do not have any expectation that that is going to change.

MS. NULAND: Next question, AFP Jo Biddle, please.

QUESTION: Thank you. Madam Secretary, in four days the UN’s mandate to Syria will expire. Despite numerous diplomatic efforts, there still seems to be very sharp divisions about coming up with a new resolution. Even today, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov accused Western nations of black – or trying to blackmail Russia into getting behind a new resolution. What is your response to his comments? And how concerned are you that in fact diplomatic efforts at the United Nations will fail and the Syrian people will just be left to their own fate?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as you know, we are working very hard in New York in the Security Council to obtain a Chapter 7 resolution with consequences. Kofi Annan is in Moscow today and tomorrow to talk with President Putin and Russian officials to make the case directly to them regarding the importance of having such a UN Security Council resolution.

I spoke with UN Special Envoy Annan yesterday before he left for Moscow, made it clear that there had to be consequences. He has said that. We agree with that completely. So we’re going to continue to press forward in the Security Council. We’re going to continue to press the Russians because that is an important part of reaching a resolution in the Security Council.

But it is worrisome that the violence is increasing, that it is more prevalent in Damascus and the suburbs. I believe – and I’ve said it before and obviously I can’t put a timeline on it – that this regime cannot survive. I just wish that it would move out of the way sooner instead of later so that more lives could be saved and we could have the chance to achieve the kind of democratic transition that we all, including Russia, agreed to in our meeting in Geneva a few weeks ago.

MS. NULAND: And last question before we go home, (inaudible) from (inaudible), please.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, two questions, if I may. It comes from Egypt (inaudible). And you were attacked there by protests and (inaudible). Were you offended by the behavior of the new democratic Egypt, Egyptians?

And the other question is, were there – President Morsi said yes to the proposal to meet (inaudible).

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first of all, I have been around longer than I care to remember, and protests are not a uniquely Egyptian phenomenon. I have some experience with my own country and other vibrant societies like Israel and elsewhere where protests are part of the fabric of a democracy.

So in one way, seeing people express themselves, even though their assumptions and conclusions were absolutely wrong, is a sign of that freer environment that Egypt now enjoys. It is also evidence that the Egyptian people are still concerned about the future. They’re not yet sure what is the path forward. They have an elected president. They don’t have a parliament that is yet confirmed. They don’t have a constitution. They don’t have a government. So I think it’s understandable that there are many unanswered questions and lots of anxiety about what may or may not be happening.

So the sooner that there can be a government that takes responsibility, whose actions can be judged and held accountable, then people will be able to draw decisions, because words don’t mean as much as action. And therefore, I was not offended. I was relieved that nobody was hurt, and I felt bad that good tomatoes were wasted. But other than that, it was not particularly bothersome.

With respect to your second question, there is a – that is something that is up to the two leaders to determine for themselves. I would only add that the amount of work ahead of this new Egyptian Government would be daunting for the most experienced political leaders. The economy is in desperate need of reform. The political system is a work in progress, a long way from being finalized. There are serious fissures within society that have to be addressed. As I said last night in Alexandria, the real evidence as to what a democracy in Egypt means is not the holding of an election. It is whether the leaders who are elected respect the rights of all Egyptians, protect the rights of minorities, further the rights of women, have a view that the rule of law must be faithfully implemented, protect the independence of the press, the independence of the judiciary, and so much else, because we’ve been at the work of our democracy more than 236 years. This is hard work, as Israel knows very well, every day. It’s not just leaders who have to work at it; citizens have to work at it. And never in the 5,000-year history of Egypt have they ever had this opportunity or challenge.

So we’re going to be watching. We’re going to be doing what we can to make clear what we believe the principles and values of a democracy have to be, and we will be working with those who we believe want to ensure the kind of future for Egypt that will truly benefit the Egyptian people, one and all.

Thank you very much.

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