The United States strongly condemns the dangerous and provocative attacks on the mosques in the Palestinian villages of Yatma on September 8 and Qusra on September 5. Such hateful actions are never justified. Those responsible should be arrested and subject to the full force of the law.
We note that the Israeli Government likewise condemned the attacks and instructed law enforcement authorities to act vigorously to bring those responsible to justice.
We urge all parties to avoid the potential for escalation. Violence will not advance, but will impede, the hope for peace between Israelis and Palestinians based on acceptance and respect.
Assistant Secretary Brimmer: Multilateral Cooperation Between The United States and Israel: Fighting Delegitimization, Moving Forward Together
(As prepared remarks)
Good afternoon. I want to thank Rob Satloff and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy for this invitation. It is truly a privilege to have this opportunity at this distinguished institution and to exchange ideas and views on topics that the Institute has been so deeply engaged in since 1985.
As the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, my bureau serves as the primary U.S. interlocutor with the United Nations and a host of international agencies and organizations.
We are also charged with implementing the President’s vision of robust multilateral engagement as a crucial tool in advancing U.S. national interests.
This effort is particularly important for the United States as we face a rapidly changing global landscape and a myriad of difficult challenges including, continued economic instability, complex security challenges such as terrorism and nonproliferation, and a transforming North Africa and Middle East. Time and again, we have found that multilateral tools and levers at the UN and elsewhere have been essential for the United States in achieving our foreign policy goals, enhancing our security, and advancing our values.
Today I am going to focus on the Administration’s far-reaching efforts to normalize Israel’s status in and across the UN and broader multilateral system, and to counter head-on efforts of delegitimization and continued structural bias.
As you can imagine, we spend a considerable amount of time in my bureau, in the seven U.S Missions to the UN, the State Department and across the Administration on these very issues. In particular, our Missions to the UN have close cooperation with their Israeli counterparts in New York, Geneva, Vienna, Paris, Rome, Nairobi and Montreal and across the full range of UN and multilateral fora. In fact, there are only a handful of other countries where our level of cooperation at the UN is so deep.
Now many of you are already familiar with our extensive military cooperation and assistance to Israel, which helps maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge over potential threats. That cooperation is one pillar in the Administration’s unparalleled strategic partnership with Israel, which covers the full depth and breadth of our shared interests, as well as our diplomatic engagement with a special focus on core UN and multilateral issues at the highest levels.
Our diplomatic engagement with Israel in multilateral affairs is rooted in a core commitment by President Obama. As the President articulated recently, “The bonds between the United States and Israel are unbreakable — and the commitment of the United States to the security of Israel is ironclad.”
These commitments are enduring, and go well beyond our strong bilateral ties. President Obama and this Administration have worked tirelessly, in both word and deed, across the UN system, to ensure that Israel’s legitimacy is beyond dispute and that Israel has the opportunity to contribute fully to all institutions to which it belongs.
That’s why we vehemently reject attempts to de-legitimize the State of Israel. As the President stated at the United Nations General Assembly in New York last year, “Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate,” and “efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States.”
With those words in mind, I want to talk briefly about the possibility that the Palestinians will pursue membership at the UN in September. The President has been clear that he supports “two states for two peoples,” and that it would be a mistake for the Palestinians to pursue a path for statehood at the UN rather than at the negotiating table with Israel. We have been frank that we reject counterproductive attempts to resolve permanent status issues at the UN.
As the President said on May 19, “For Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. “That’s why we are focused on a negotiated outcome that will lead to the establishment of an independent, viable State of Palestine alongside a secure State of Israel.
As I said earlier, we have been steadfast in our determination to ensure that Israel is treated fairly, that its security is never in doubt, and that Israel has the same rights and responsibilities as all UN member states.
We have opposed unbalanced, one-sided resolutions, at the UN General Assembly, the UN Human Rights Council, UNESCO, and elsewhere. We have opposed the deeply flawed and biased Goldstone Report, and voted against multiple resolutions on last year’s flotilla incident at the Human Rights Council. On the Goldstone Report, we have been clear that we want to see UN action end in relation to the report. Regarding the flotilla issue, we have joined the Secretary-General in his call on Governments to use their respective influence to discourage future flotillas, and avoid unnecessary and unhelpful provocative actions that seek to bypass the effective mechanisms that exist to deliver goods and services to Gaza.
Our human rights efforts across the UN System have focused on defending the oppressed against oppressive governments. We have led an informal coalition of democracies from around the globe in criticizing those who violate human rights, including those who and seek to divert attention from their own human rights violations through biased or spurious challenges to Israel’s legitimacy in multilateral venues.
We have also tirelessly defended our principles by opposing the candidacies of human rights violators who seek places on various UN bodies. Last year, we worked hard on multinational efforts that led to the exclusion of Iran from membership on the UN Human Rights Council and the Executive Board of UN Women. We worked similarly hard in efforts to suspend Libya’s membership on the Human Rights Council in March, and last month we prevented Syria from gaining a seat at the Council.
Over the last several months at the Human Rights Council, we led unprecedented resolutions condemning human rights abuses in Libya, Iran and then Syria and putting in place mechanisms to document abuses and hold those governments to account.
We are continuing these efforts at the current session of the Council by working with a broad variety of states on joint statements on Syria and Yemen, and a resolution on Belarus. Much work still needs to be done at the Human Rights Council. We continue to protest the egregious permanent agenda item on Israel. But we have managed to use every opportunity to shift the focus of the debate at the Council addressing the most serious human rights abusers, rather than unfairly singling out Israel.
Last September we joined international partners to defeat a resolution at the IAEA that singled out Israel’s nuclear program for rebuke. Just last week, the IAEA Board of Governors, which includes the U.S., adopted a resolution finding Syria in noncompliance with its international nuclear obligations and referred the matter to the UN Security Council. Syria blatantly violated its nonproliferation safeguards obligations and has hindered the IAEA’s efforts to investigate the matter. Syria must fully cooperate with the IAEA and resolve all outstanding issues related to its noncompliance.
We have also worked to isolate Iran at the UN Security Council, imposing tough sanctions that have set back its nuclear programs. We have been steadfast in calling on Iran to live up to its own commitments and its obligations under UN Security Council Resolutions, the NPT, and its IAEA Safeguards Agreement.
At the Security Council and throughout the UN System, in the face of high diplomatic hurdles, we have mobilized countries from every region to take principled stands on these pressing issues.
All these efforts demonstrate that our commitment to defend Israel throughout the UN system, both in countering biased anti-Israeli actions and in opposing those who seek platforms to expand anti-Israel efforts at the UN, remains strong. Our efforts go beyond such defensive steps, however. Let me turn now to how Israel and the United States are working together to move forward in the UN and elsewhere.
Despite the difficulties that Israel faces at the UN, one thing has remained constant in my discussions with my counterparts in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They continue to express and implement their strong desire to expand Israel’s positive global agenda across the UN and multilateral system.
Let me review four conversations I had with Israeli officials when I was in Israel in March.
When I met with Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor he emphasized that Israel was looking for ways to draw on its expertise in a wide range of technical areas; highlighting Science, Technology, and Holocaust Education at UNESCO; Food Security and Desertification at the UN’s Food Agriculture Organization; and Emergency response efforts to Haiti and elsewhere, to further enhance its multilateral engagement.
Israel’s Minister for Internal Security Yitzhak Aharonovitch affirmed his government’s interest in working with the UN to find opportunities for Israel to contribute to international peacekeeping operations, building on its successful deployment of a police contingent to Haiti last fall.
I was hosted by Israeli Deputy Minister Gila Gamliel at the Knesset where she focused on Israel’s long-standing commitment to empower women in Israel and globally. She reemphasized Israel’s desire to join UN WOMEN, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. At the event, I expressed our strong support for Israel’s involvement on Gender Issues in the UN General Assembly and at Commission on the Status of Women, UN Women, and across the UN system.
I also met with Haim Divon, head of Mashav, which is Israel’s equivalent to USAID. He emphasized MASHAV’s potential to contribute to the international community’s efforts in these areas. Like us, Minister Divon and his colleagues understand that the combination of effective diplomacy and development can reinforce our mutual interests in achieving better futures for peoples around the world. He spoke about MASHAV’s agreements with the UN, including a recent agreement with the World Food Program.
Why are all of these conversations important? They highlight something that may not be obvious. Israel wants to play a larger role globally, multilaterally and at the UN. It does not want to be viewed solely through the prism of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israelis understand that they not only have rights within the international system; they also have responsibilities, and they want to meet them. To that end, the United States is working with Israel to advance its positive multilateral engagement agenda, and move beyond the focus on contentious political and security issues, with the aim of addressing the issue of delegitimization and Israel’s treatment at the United Nations.
Here are some examples of this collaborative effort.
We have worked with Israel to support the appointment of Israelis to UN positions, like Frances Raday who was recently chosen as an Expert Member of the Human Rights Council’s Special Working Group to eliminate discrimination against women.
In 2009, we helped to secure the passage of Israeli-sponsored technical resolutions on Agricultural technology, a similar resolution with our assistance also passed in 2007.
Progress has also been made normalizing Israel’s status in multilateral bodies, including joining the OECD and removing some of the discriminatory barriers to Israel’s participation in UN voting and consultative blocs.
In fact, in a two year period from 2009-2010, Israel was admitted to the JUSCANZ Group in Geneva and in the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee in New York. JUSCANZ is comprised of Japan, the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and several others with variable memberships in different UN fora. While these are small steps forward for Israel — JUSCANZ consultation groups are important given they allow members to exchange information in advance of committee meetings and debates across the UN. Israel’s inclusion in JUSCANZ membership helps to reduce the impact of its exclusion from other negotiating and regional blocks.
Israel and its people also have a tremendous amount of expertise and know-how to share multilaterally and throughout the UN system. UNESCO’s Director General Irina Bokova in her recent visit to Israel highlighted her organization’s “excellent cooperation” with Israel in a variety of fields including education, culture, science, and communications. Given Israel’s contributions at UNESCO you can understand why, like the United States, they are candidates for the UNESCO’s Executive Board.
Certainly, Israel and the United States will continue to face difficult challenges in the UN system. We are not so naïve to think that a positive agenda alone will immediately change the status quo for Israel. However you can see a path over the past decade where there has been some success for Israel’s engagement at the UN. We plan to build on these successful efforts.
One constant we hear from Israeli counterparts is how much they appreciate the Administration’s efforts and U.S.-Israeli cooperation at the UN and multilaterally. In order to sustain these efforts, the United States must maintain the strongest position it can at the UN, and that means paying our bills on time and in full. We are more credible politically when we fulfill our treaty obligations and contribute to work that advances our interests. When we are delinquent, it impairs our ability to advance U.S. interests and effective cooperation on key security threats at the UN.
We want to see the gains of the past 2 ½ years continue, where the Administration has worked day in and day out at the UN and multilaterally on critical peace and security issues, including counter-terrorism and non-proliferation, issues which greatly concern the United States and Israel, and where we have been successful in achieving American objectives, mobilizing international partners and leveraging the full range of multilateral institutions.
Today, the UN is playing an indispensible role in two countries of enormous importance to the United States: Afghanistan and Iraq. Both this Administration and the previous Administration strongly supported this UN involvement, understanding it to be complementary to our own efforts. Without the UN’s work in Afghanistan and Iraq, U.S. efforts to responsibly draw down our military forces from both countries as the President has committed to doing would be all the more difficult. If the United States doesn’t pay our dues, why would others continue to support their dues going to missions that are great importance to the United States?
Think about it. How could we have won tough Security Council sanctions on Iran or North Korea if we were continuing to incur arrears? As the President pointed out, “At the United Nations, under our leadership, we’ve secured the most comprehensive international sanctions on the Iranian regime, which have been joined by allies and partners around the world.”
How would our failure to pay our bills impact the success of Security Council sanctions regimes — that have placed global asset freezes and travel bans on terrorists and their supporters?
How would it impact the International Atomic Energy Agency which has been invaluable in focusing on Iran and Syria’s nuclear activities?
How would it impact the President’s commitment to a shared security with Israel?
These are risks we cannot afford to take. The United States cannot afford failed short-term tactics that have long-term implications for our security, and we must be a responsible global leader, and that means paying our bills.
Another danger on the horizon is efforts by some to limit U.S. participation at the UN and in UN bodies. This would have negative repercussions for the U.S. given that our multilateral accomplishments would not have happened without an American voice at the table. UN bodies, including the Human Rights Council, have improved as the result of direct U.S. engagement. If we cede ground, if our engagement in the UN system is restricted — these bodies likely would be dominated by our adversaries. A scenario where power vacuums are filled by adversaries is not a good for the United States and certainly not for Israel.
We saw such a scenario at the Human Rights Council prior to the U.S. joining in 2009. Israel was singled out for six special sessions, far too many unbalanced resolutions focused on Israel; and far too few resolutions, special procedures, or other attention were directed to the world’s most troubling and urgent human rights situations. As I said, the challenges continue at the Council, but the Council’s improvement through U.S. engagement is undeniable.
Looking ahead, we are committed to building on our efforts with Israel at the UN, including working with Israel to advance its positive global agenda, and continuing to oppose attempts to isolate and delegitimize Israel.
President Obama has repeatedly backed up that commitment, including last month when he spoke at AIPAC’s annual conference. With that said, Israel, like the United States, must continue to adjust to a global landscape that has changed dramatically over the past two decades, and one where more of today’s solutions to 21st century challenges are found at the UN and in multilateral fora.
As President Obama stated, “The United States sees the historic changes sweeping the Middle East and North Africa as a moment of great challenge, but also a moment of opportunity for greater peace and security for the entire region, including the State of Israel.” The UN and multilateral fora are critical to meeting this challenge, and are more relevant than ever as we seek to influence and encourage lasting reform and democratic change in Israel’s neighborhood and as we respond to the shared threats and challenges of our time.
I will end there. Again, thank you this opportunity.
The United States condemns the burning and vandalizing of a mosque in the West Bank village of Al-Mughayyir today. This attack is the latest of several such acts of violence against West Bank mosques. These incidents have served to undermine efforts to promote a comprehensive peace in the region. We call on the Israeli government to investigate this attack and bring the perpetrators to justice, and for calm from all parties.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much. Thank you. Please, have a seat. Thank you very much. I want to begin by thanking Hillary Clinton, who has traveled so much these last six months that she is approaching a new landmark — one million frequent flyer miles. (Laughter.) I count on Hillary every single day, and I believe that she will go down as one of the finest Secretaries of State in our nation’s history.
The State Department is a fitting venue to mark a new chapter in American diplomacy. For six months, we have witnessed an extraordinary change taking place in the Middle East and North Africa. Square by square, town by town, country by country, the people have risen up to demand their basic human rights. Two leaders have stepped aside. More may follow. And though these countries may be a great distance from our shores, we know that our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics and security, by history and by faith.
Today, I want to talk about this change — the forces that are driving it and how we can respond in a way that advances our values and strengthens our security.
Now, already, we’ve done much to shift our foreign policy following a decade defined by two costly conflicts. After years of war in Iraq, we’ve removed 100,000 American troops and ended our combat mission there. In Afghanistan, we’ve broken the Taliban’s momentum, and this July we will begin to bring our troops home and continue a transition to Afghan lead. And after years of war against al Qaeda and its affiliates, we have dealt al Qaeda a huge blow by killing its leader, Osama bin Laden.
Bin Laden was no martyr. He was a mass murderer who offered a message of hate –- an insistence that Muslims had to take up arms against the West, and that violence against men, women and children was the only path to change. He rejected democracy and individual rights for Muslims in favor of violent extremism; his agenda focused on what he could destroy -– not what he could build.
Bin Laden and his murderous vision won some adherents. But even before his death, al Qaeda was losing its struggle for relevance, as the overwhelming majority of people saw that the slaughter of innocents did not answer their cries for a better life. By the time we found bin Laden, al Qaeda’s agenda had come to be seen by the vast majority of the region as a dead end, and the people of the Middle East and North Africa had taken their future into their own hands.
That story of self-determination began six months ago in Tunisia. On December 17th, a young vendor named Mohammed Bouazizi was devastated when a police officer confiscated his cart. This was not unique. It’s the same kind of humiliation that takes place every day in many parts of the world -– the relentless tyranny of governments that deny their citizens dignity. Only this time, something different happened. After local officials refused to hear his complaints, this young man, who had never been particularly active in politics, went to the headquarters of the provincial government, doused himself in fuel, and lit himself on fire.
There are times in the course of history when the actions of ordinary citizens spark movements for change because they speak to a longing for freedom that has been building up for years. In America, think of the defiance of those patriots in Boston who refused to pay taxes to a King, or the dignity of Rosa Parks as she sat courageously in her seat. So it was in Tunisia, as that vendor’s act of desperation tapped into the frustration felt throughout the country. Hundreds of protesters took to the streets, then thousands. And in the face of batons and sometimes bullets, they refused to go home –- day after day, week after week — until a dictator of more than two decades finally left power.
The story of this revolution, and the ones that followed, should not have come as a surprise. The nations of the Middle East and North Africa won their independence long ago, but in too many places their people did not. In too many countries, power has been concentrated in the hands of a few. In too many countries, a citizen like that young vendor had nowhere to turn -– no honest judiciary to hear his case; no independent media to give him voice; no credible political party to represent his views; no free and fair election where he could choose his leader.
And this lack of self-determination –- the chance to make your life what you will –- has applied to the region’s economy as well. Yes, some nations are blessed with wealth in oil and gas, and that has led to pockets of prosperity. But in a global economy based on knowledge, based on innovation, no development strategy can be based solely upon what comes out of the ground. Nor can people reach their potential when you cannot start a business without paying a bribe.
In the face of these challenges, too many leaders in the region tried to direct their people’s grievances elsewhere. The West was blamed as the source of all ills, a half-century after the end of colonialism. Antagonism toward Israel became the only acceptable outlet for political expression. Divisions of tribe, ethnicity and religious sect were manipulated as a means of holding on to power, or taking it away from somebody else.
But the events of the past six months show us that strategies of repression and strategies of diversion will not work anymore. Satellite television and the Internet provide a window into the wider world -– a world of astonishing progress in places like India and Indonesia and Brazil. Cell phones and social networks allow young people to connect and organize like never before. And so a new generation has emerged. And their voices tell us that change cannot be denied.
In Cairo, we heard the voice of the young mother who said, “It’s like I can finally breathe fresh air for the first time.”
In Sanaa, we heard the students who chanted, “The night must come to an end.”
In Benghazi, we heard the engineer who said, “Our words are free now. It’s a feeling you can’t explain.”
In Damascus, we heard the young man who said, “After the first yelling, the first shout, you feel dignity.”
Those shouts of human dignity are being heard across the region. And through the moral force of nonviolence, the people of the region have achieved more change in six months than terrorists have accomplished in decades.
Of course, change of this magnitude does not come easily. In our day and age -– a time of 24-hour news cycles and constant communication –- people expect the transformation of the region to be resolved in a matter of weeks. But it will be years before this story reaches its end. Along the way, there will be good days and there will bad days. In some places, change will be swift; in others, gradual. And as we’ve already seen, calls for change may give way, in some cases, to fierce contests for power.
The question before us is what role America will play as this story unfolds. For decades, the United States has pursued a set of core interests in the region: countering terrorism and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons; securing the free flow of commerce and safe-guarding the security of the region; standing up for Israel’s security and pursuing Arab-Israeli peace.
We will continue to do these things, with the firm belief that America’s interests are not hostile to people’s hopes; they’re essential to them. We believe that no one benefits from a nuclear arms race in the region, or al Qaeda’s brutal attacks. We believe people everywhere would see their economies crippled by a cut-off in energy supplies. As we did in the Gulf War, we will not tolerate aggression across borders, and we will keep our commitments to friends and partners.
Yet we must acknowledge that a strategy based solely upon the narrow pursuit of these interests will not fill an empty stomach or allow someone to speak their mind. Moreover, failure to speak to the broader aspirations of ordinary people will only feed the suspicion that has festered for years that the United States pursues our interests at their expense. Given that this mistrust runs both ways –- as Americans have been seared by hostage-taking and violent rhetoric and terrorist attacks that have killed thousands of our citizens -– a failure to change our approach threatens a deepening spiral of division between the United States and the Arab world.
And that’s why, two years ago in Cairo, I began to broaden our engagement based upon mutual interests and mutual respect. I believed then -– and I believe now -– that we have a stake not just in the stability of nations, but in the self-determination of individuals. The status quo is not sustainable. Societies held together by fear and repression may offer the illusion of stability for a time, but they are built upon fault lines that will eventually tear asunder.
So we face a historic opportunity. We have the chance to show that America values the dignity of the street vendor in Tunisia more than the raw power of the dictator. There must be no doubt that the United States of America welcomes change that advances self-determination and opportunity. Yes, there will be perils that accompany this moment of promise. But after decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be.
Of course, as we do, we must proceed with a sense of humility. It’s not America that put people into the streets of Tunis or Cairo -– it was the people themselves who launched these movements, and it’s the people themselves that must ultimately determine their outcome.
Not every country will follow our particular form of representative democracy, and there will be times when our short-term interests don’t align perfectly with our long-term vision for the region. But we can, and we will, speak out for a set of core principles –- principles that have guided our response to the events over the past six months:
The United States opposes the use of violence and repression against the people of the region. (Applause.)
The United States supports a set of universal rights. And these rights include free speech, the freedom of peaceful assembly, the freedom of religion, equality for men and women under the rule of law, and the right to choose your own leaders -– whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus, Sanaa or Tehran.
And we support political and economic reform in the Middle East and North Africa that can meet the legitimate aspirations of ordinary people throughout the region.
Our support for these principles is not a secondary interest. Today I want to make it clear that it is a top priority that must be translated into concrete actions, and supported by all of the diplomatic, economic and strategic tools at our disposal.
Let me be specific. First, it will be the policy of the United States to promote reform across the region, and to support transitions to democracy. That effort begins in Egypt and Tunisia, where the stakes are high -– as Tunisia was at the vanguard of this democratic wave, and Egypt is both a longstanding partner and the Arab world’s largest nation. Both nations can set a strong example through free and fair elections, a vibrant civil society, accountable and effective democratic institutions, and responsible regional leadership. But our support must also extend to nations where transitions have yet to take place.
Unfortunately, in too many countries, calls for change have thus far been answered by violence. The most extreme example is Libya, where Muammar Qaddafi launched a war against his own people, promising to hunt them down like rats. As I said when the United States joined an international coalition to intervene, we cannot prevent every injustice perpetrated by a regime against its people, and we have learned from our experience in Iraq just how costly and difficult it is to try to impose regime change by force -– no matter how well-intentioned it may be.
But in Libya, we saw the prospect of imminent massacre, we had a mandate for action, and heard the Libyan people’s call for help. Had we not acted along with our NATO allies and regional coalition partners, thousands would have been killed. The message would have been clear: Keep power by killing as many people as it takes. Now, time is working against Qaddafi. He does not have control over his country. The opposition has organized a legitimate and credible Interim Council. And when Qaddafi inevitably leaves or is forced from power, decades of provocation will come to an end, and the transition to a democratic Libya can proceed.
While Libya has faced violence on the greatest scale, it’s not the only place where leaders have turned to repression to remain in power. Most recently, the Syrian regime has chosen the path of murder and the mass arrests of its citizens. The United States has condemned these actions, and working with the international community we have stepped up our sanctions on the Syrian regime –- including sanctions announced yesterday on President Assad and those around him.
The Syrian people have shown their courage in demanding a transition to democracy. President Assad now has a choice: He can lead that transition, or get out of the way. The Syrian government must stop shooting demonstrators and allow peaceful protests. It must release political prisoners and stop unjust arrests. It must allow human rights monitors to have access to cities like Dara’a; and start a serious dialogue to advance a democratic transition. Otherwise, President Assad and his regime will continue to be challenged from within and will continue to be isolated abroad.
So far, Syria has followed its Iranian ally, seeking assistance from Tehran in the tactics of suppression. And this speaks to the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime, which says it stand for the rights of protesters abroad, yet represses its own people at home. Let’s remember that the first peaceful protests in the region were in the streets of Tehran, where the government brutalized women and men, and threw innocent people into jail. We still hear the chants echo from the rooftops of Tehran. The image of a young woman dying in the streets is still seared in our memory. And we will continue to insist that the Iranian people deserve their universal rights, and a government that does not smother their aspirations.
Now, our opposition to Iran’s intolerance and Iran’s repressive measures, as well as its illicit nuclear program and its support of terror, is well known. But if America is to be credible, we must acknowledge that at times our friends in the region have not all reacted to the demands for consistent change — with change that’s consistent with the principles that I’ve outlined today. That’s true in Yemen, where President Saleh needs to follow through on his commitment to transfer power. And that’s true today in Bahrain.
Bahrain is a longstanding partner, and we are committed to its security. We recognize that Iran has tried to take advantage of the turmoil there, and that the Bahraini government has a legitimate interest in the rule of law.
Nevertheless, we have insisted both publicly and privately that mass arrests and brute force are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain’s citizens, and we will — and such steps will not make legitimate calls for reform go away. The only way forward is for the government and opposition to engage in a dialogue, and you can’t have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail. (Applause.) The government must create the conditions for dialogue, and the opposition must participate to forge a just future for all Bahrainis.
Indeed, one of the broader lessons to be drawn from this period is that sectarian divides need not lead to conflict. In Iraq, we see the promise of a multiethnic, multisectarian democracy. The Iraqi people have rejected the perils of political violence in favor of a democratic process, even as they’ve taken full responsibility for their own security. Of course, like all new democracies, they will face setbacks. But Iraq is poised to play a key role in the region if it continues its peaceful progress. And as they do, we will be proud to stand with them as a steadfast partner.
So in the months ahead, America must use all our influence to encourage reform in the region. Even as we acknowledge that each country is different, we need to speak honestly about the principles that we believe in, with friend and foe alike. Our message is simple: If you take the risks that reform entails, you will have the full support of the United States.
We must also build on our efforts to broaden our engagement beyond elites, so that we reach the people who will shape the future -– particularly young people. We will continue to make good on the commitments that I made in Cairo -– to build networks of entrepreneurs and expand exchanges in education, to foster cooperation in science and technology, and combat disease. Across the region, we intend to provide assistance to civil society, including those that may not be officially sanctioned, and who speak uncomfortable truths. And we will use the technology to connect with -– and listen to –- the voices of the people.
For the fact is, real reform does not come at the ballot box alone. Through our efforts we must support those basic rights to speak your mind and access information. We will support open access to the Internet, and the right of journalists to be heard -– whether it’s a big news organization or a lone blogger. In the 21st century, information is power, the truth cannot be hidden, and the legitimacy of governments will ultimately depend on active and informed citizens.
Such open discourse is important even if what is said does not square with our worldview. Let me be clear, America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard, even if we disagree with them. And sometimes we profoundly disagree with them.
We look forward to working with all who embrace genuine and inclusive democracy. What we will oppose is an attempt by any group to restrict the rights of others, and to hold power through coercion and not consent. Because democracy depends not only on elections, but also strong and accountable institutions, and the respect for the rights of minorities.
Such tolerance is particularly important when it comes to religion. In Tahrir Square, we heard Egyptians from all walks of life chant, “Muslims, Christians, we are one.” America will work to see that this spirit prevails -– that all faiths are respected, and that bridges are built among them. In a region that was the birthplace of three world religions, intolerance can lead only to suffering and stagnation. And for this season of change to succeed, Coptic Christians must have the right to worship freely in Cairo, just as Shia must never have their mosques destroyed in Bahrain.
What is true for religious minorities is also true when it comes to the rights of women. History shows that countries are more prosperous and more peaceful when women are empowered. And that’s why we will continue to insist that universal rights apply to women as well as men -– by focusing assistance on child and maternal health; by helping women to teach, or start a business; by standing up for the right of women to have their voices heard, and to run for office. The region will never reach its full potential when more than half of its population is prevented from achieving their full potential. (Applause.)
Now, even as we promote political reform, even as we promote human rights in the region, our efforts can’t stop there. So the second way that we must support positive change in the region is through our efforts to advance economic development for nations that are transitioning to democracy.
After all, politics alone has not put protesters into the streets. The tipping point for so many people is the more constant concern of putting food on the table and providing for a family. Too many people in the region wake up with few expectations other than making it through the day, perhaps hoping that their luck will change. Throughout the region, many young people have a solid education, but closed economies leave them unable to find a job. Entrepreneurs are brimming with ideas, but corruption leaves them unable to profit from those ideas.
The greatest untapped resource in the Middle East and North Africa is the talent of its people. In the recent protests, we see that talent on display, as people harness technology to move the world. It’s no coincidence that one of the leaders of Tahrir Square was an executive for Google. That energy now needs to be channeled, in country after country, so that economic growth can solidify the accomplishments of the street. For just as democratic revolutions can be triggered by a lack of individual opportunity, successful democratic transitions depend upon an expansion of growth and broad-based prosperity.
So, drawing from what we’ve learned around the world, we think it’s important to focus on trade, not just aid; on investment, not just assistance. The goal must be a model in which protectionism gives way to openness, the reigns of commerce pass from the few to the many, and the economy generates jobs for the young. America’s support for democracy will therefore be based on ensuring financial stability, promoting reform, and integrating competitive markets with each other and the global economy. And we’re going to start with Tunisia and Egypt.
First, we’ve asked the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to present a plan at next week’s G8 summit for what needs to be done to stabilize and modernize the economies of Tunisia and Egypt. Together, we must help them recover from the disruptions of their democratic upheaval, and support the governments that will be elected later this year. And we are urging other countries to help Egypt and Tunisia meet its near-term financial needs.
Second, we do not want a democratic Egypt to be saddled by the debts of its past. So we will relieve a democratic Egypt of up to $1 billion in debt, and work with our Egyptian partners to invest these resources to foster growth and entrepreneurship. We will help Egypt regain access to markets by guaranteeing $1 billion in borrowing that is needed to finance infrastructure and job creation. And we will help newly democratic governments recover assets that were stolen.
Third, we’re working with Congress to create Enterprise Funds to invest in Tunisia and Egypt. And these will be modeled on funds that supported the transitions in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. OPIC will soon launch a $2 billion facility to support private investment across the region. And we will work with the allies to refocus the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development so that it provides the same support for democratic transitions and economic modernization in the Middle East and North Africa as it has in Europe.
Fourth, the United States will launch a comprehensive Trade and Investment Partnership Initiative in the Middle East and North Africa. If you take out oil exports, this entire region of over 400 million people exports roughly the same amount as Switzerland. So we will work with the EU to facilitate more trade within the region, build on existing agreements to promote integration with U.S. and European markets, and open the door for those countries who adopt high standards of reform and trade liberalization to construct a regional trade arrangement. And just as EU membership served as an incentive for reform in Europe, so should the vision of a modern and prosperous economy create a powerful force for reform in the Middle East and North Africa.
Prosperity also requires tearing down walls that stand in the way of progress -– the corruption of elites who steal from their people; the red tape that stops an idea from becoming a business; the patronage that distributes wealth based on tribe or sect. We will help governments meet international obligations, and invest efforts at anti-corruption — by working with parliamentarians who are developing reforms, and activists who use technology to increase transparency and hold government accountable. Politics and human rights; economic reform.
Let me conclude by talking about another cornerstone of our approach to the region, and that relates to the pursuit of peace.
For decades, the conflict between Israelis and Arabs has cast a shadow over the region. For Israelis, it has meant living with the fear that their children could be blown up on a bus or by rockets fired at their homes, as well as the pain of knowing that other children in the region are taught to hate them. For Palestinians, it has meant suffering the humiliation of occupation, and never living in a nation of their own. Moreover, this conflict has come with a larger cost to the Middle East, as it impedes partnerships that could bring greater security and prosperity and empowerment to ordinary people.
For over two years, my administration has worked with the parties and the international community to end this conflict, building on decades of work by previous administrations. Yet expectations have gone unmet. Israeli settlement activity continues. Palestinians have walked away from talks. The world looks at a conflict that has grinded on and on and on, and sees nothing but stalemate. Indeed, there are those who argue that with all the change and uncertainty in the region, it is simply not possible to move forward now.
I disagree. At a time when the people of the Middle East and North Africa are casting off the burdens of the past, the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent than ever. That’s certainly true for the two parties involved.
For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.
As for Israel, our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values. Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums. But precisely because of our friendship, it’s important that we tell the truth: The status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.
The fact is, a growing number of Palestinians live west of the Jordan River. Technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself. A region undergoing profound change will lead to populism in which millions of people -– not just one or two leaders — must believe peace is possible. The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome. The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation.
Now, ultimately, it is up to the Israelis and Palestinians to take action. No peace can be imposed upon them — not by the United States; not by anybody else. But endless delay won’t make the problem go away. What America and the international community can do is to state frankly what everyone knows — a lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples: Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people, each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.
So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, a secure Israel. The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.
As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself -– by itself -– against any threat. Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism, to stop the infiltration of weapons, and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state. And the duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.
These principles provide a foundation for negotiations. Palestinians should know the territorial outlines of their state; Israelis should know that their basic security concerns will be met. I’m aware that these steps alone will not resolve the conflict, because two wrenching and emotional issues will remain: the future of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees. But moving forward now on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation to resolve those two issues in a way that is just and fair, and that respects the rights and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.
Now, let me say this: Recognizing that negotiations need to begin with the issues of territory and security does not mean that it will be easy to come back to the table. In particular, the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel: How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist? And in the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question. Meanwhile, the United States, our Quartet partners, and the Arab states will need to continue every effort to get beyond the current impasse.
I recognize how hard this will be. Suspicion and hostility has been passed on for generations, and at times it has hardened. But I’m convinced that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians would rather look to the future than be trapped in the past. We see that spirit in the Israeli father whose son was killed by Hamas, who helped start an organization that brought together Israelis and Palestinians who had lost loved ones. That father said, “I gradually realized that the only hope for progress was to recognize the face of the conflict.” We see it in the actions of a Palestinian who lost three daughters to Israeli shells in Gaza. “I have the right to feel angry,” he said. “So many people were expecting me to hate. My answer to them is I shall not hate. Let us hope,” he said, “for tomorrow.”
That is the choice that must be made -– not simply in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but across the entire region -– a choice between hate and hope; between the shackles of the past and the promise of the future. It’s a choice that must be made by leaders and by the people, and it’s a choice that will define the future of a region that served as the cradle of civilization and a crucible of strife.
For all the challenges that lie ahead, we see many reasons to be hopeful. In Egypt, we see it in the efforts of young people who led protests. In Syria, we see it in the courage of those who brave bullets while chanting, “peaceful, peaceful.” In Benghazi, a city threatened with destruction, we see it in the courthouse square where people gather to celebrate the freedoms that they had never known. Across the region, those rights that we take for granted are being claimed with joy by those who are prying loose the grip of an iron fist.
For the American people, the scenes of upheaval in the region may be unsettling, but the forces driving it are not unfamiliar. Our own nation was founded through a rebellion against an empire. Our people fought a painful Civil War that extended freedom and dignity to those who were enslaved. And I would not be standing here today unless past generations turned to the moral force of nonviolence as a way to perfect our union –- organizing, marching, protesting peacefully together to make real those words that declared our nation: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
Those words must guide our response to the change that is transforming the Middle East and North Africa -– words which tell us that repression will fail, and that tyrants will fall, and that every man and woman is endowed with certain inalienable rights.
It will not be easy. There’s no straight line to progress, and hardship always accompanies a season of hope. But the United States of America was founded on the belief that people should govern themselves. And now we cannot hesitate to stand squarely on the side of those who are reaching for their rights, knowing that their success will bring about a world that is more peaceful, more stable, and more just.
Thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.) Thank you.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, it is a great pleasure to welcome once again my good friend King Abdullah to the White House. The United States and Jordan have had a longstanding friendship, an extraordinary relationship of cooperation on a wide range of fronts. I have valued His Majesty’s advice on numerous occasions, and obviously this meeting was an opportunity for us to share our views on the extraordinary changes that are taking place throughout the Middle East, throughout the region.
We discussed the situation in Libya, and are grateful for the support of a wide range of Arab countries in our efforts to make sure that humanitarian assistance and humanitarian protection occurs inside of Libya. We discussed the rapid transformation that’s taking place in places like Egypt and Tunisia, and we both agreed that it’s critical that not only does political reform proceed, but economic reform accompanies those changes there, because so much of what’s taking place has to do with the aspirations of young people throughout the Arab world for their ability to determine their own fate, to get an education, to get a job, to be able to support a family. And that means some of the old structures that were inhibiting their ability to progress have to be reworked.
His Majesty discussed the reform efforts that are taking place inside Jordan as well, and we welcome the initiatives that His Majesty has already embarked on, and feel confident that, to the extent that he’s able to move these reforms forward, this will be good for the security and stability of Jordan, but also will be good for the economic prosperity of the people of Jordan. And so we’re very pleased to support him on that front.
Along those lines, one of the things we discussed is how the United States can continue to be supportive of these economic efforts that His Majesty has embarked on, and so I’m pleased to announce that we have mobilized several hundreds of millions of dollars through OPIC, and that will leverage ultimately about $1 billion for economic development inside of Jordan. In addition, because of the huge spike in commodity prices throughout the world, we are going to be providing 50,000 metric tons of wheat to Jordan. All of this will help to stabilize the cost of living and day-to-day situation of Jordanians and will provide a foundation so that these economic reforms can move forward and long-term development can take place. So we’re very happy to be partnering with His Majesty on that issue.
We also discussed the situation with respect to Israel and the Palestinian conflict. And we both share the view that despite the many changes, or perhaps because of the many changes that are taking place in the region, it’s more vital than ever that both Israelis and Palestinians find a way to get back to the table and begin negotiating a process whereby they can create two states that are living side by side in peace and security.
Jordan, obviously, with its own peace with Israel, has an enormous stake in this. The United States has an enormous stake in this. We will continue to partner to try to encourage an equitable and just solution to a problem that has been nagging the region for many, many years.
Finally, I just want to say that we continue to appreciate all the security and counterterrorism cooperation that we receive from the Jordanians. It is very important in terms of our own security, and that partnership we expect to continue.
So Your Majesty, you are always welcome here. The American people feel great affection for the Jordanian people. And we trust that during this remarkable time of transition in the region that Jordan will be at the forefront in being able to move a process forward that creates greater opportunity and ensures that Jordan is a model of a prosperous, modern, and successful Arab state under your leadership.
So thank you very much.
HIS MAJESTY KING ABDULLAH: Thank you. Mr. President, I’m delighted to be back here and again take this opportunity to thank you and your government for the tremendous support that you’re showing Jordan economically and the support of the United States and a lot of our friends internationally on really being able to push reform in an aggressive manner in our country, and again your continued interest and support on the core issue of the Middle East, which is the Israeli and Palestinian peace.
We are very, very grateful to the President’s role in all these issues. I’m delighted to be back here. And I will continue to be a strong partner with you, sir, on all the challenges that we face. Thank you.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good. All right, thank you very much, everyone.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the State Department. And welcome especially to my friend and my colleague the foreign minister, with whom I have had the privilege of meeting many times over the last two years to discuss a range of very serious and significant issues.
Before I talk about our meeting today, I want to say a word about the protests taking place in Cairo and other Egyptian cities. As we monitor this situation carefully, we call on all parties to exercise restraint and refrain from violence. We support the universal rights of the Egyptian people, including the rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly. And we urge the Egyptian authorities not to prevent peaceful protests or block communications, including on social media sites.
We believe strongly that the Egyptian Government has an important opportunity at this moment in time to implement political, economic, and social reforms to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people. The United States is committed to working with Egypt and with the Egyptian people to advance such goals. As I said recently in Doha, people across the Middle East, like people everywhere, are seeking a chance to contribute and have a role in the decisions that affect their lives. And as the President said in his State of the Union yesterday night, the United States supports the democratic aspirations of all people.
When I was recently in the region, I met with a wide range of civil society groups, and I heard firsthand about their ideas, which were aimed at improving their countries, of giving more space and voice to the aspirations for the future. We have consistently raised with the Egyptian Government over many years, as well as other governments in the region, the need for reform and greater openness and participation in order to provide a better life, a better future, for the people.
And for me, talking with the foreign minister from Jordan is always a special experience because of all the work that is being done in Jordon. On every occasion when we meet, it reflects our longstanding friendship and the mutual goals that we share between Jordanians and Americans. And I especially appreciate and respect his counsel. The United States has had a long, close relationship with Jordan for many decades. We value Jordan’s guidance in the region, and today we spoke at length about many of the issues.
We spoke about Lebanon and expressed our hopes that it will be the people of Lebanon themselves, not outside forces, that will sustain the independence and sovereignty of Lebanon. I know that the foreign minister and His Majesty share our concern about peace and stability in the region. And I commend his call for Lebanon to maintain its national unity, security, and stability.
Jordan has developed important relationships with many critical countries and has built a unique and respected position as a peace broker among diverse parties. It was a critical player in the creation of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which brought 57 Muslim states together to advocate a comprehensive peace between Israel and all Arab states. Jordanian peacekeeping troops have served in far-flung places around the world, including Haiti, Sudan, and Cote d’Ivoire. And earlier this month, the Jordanian prime minister, accompanied by Foreign Minister Judeh, led the very first visit by a head of government to meet with the newly elected government in Iraq.
For both our nations, permanent peace in the Middle East remains our number one priority. So much of our discussion centered on ways to keep working toward a two-state solution that will assure security for Israel and realize the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state of their own. Such an agreement, Jordan and the United States believe, will not only bring peace and prosperity to those who are directly affected, but it will be a major step toward a world free of extremism. Jordan’s tireless diplomacy has been, and continues to be, indispensible to this process.
Now, we talked about many other things: water shortages, rising food and oil prices, the need for continuing social and economic reform. And Jordan has taken crucial steps to do just that. I was very proud to have the foreign minister here when we announced the Millennium Challenge Corporation grant. Jordan met the very high standards of the MCC on these social and political and governance indicators. And that compact committed $275 million for sustainable development, jobs, and safe drinking water. It was a vote of confidence in the path that His Majesty is pursuing. And last November, the government invited international observers to monitor its parliamentary elections, and these observers declared the process to be peaceful, fair, and transparent.
Jordan is setting a great example, and we are proud to be your partner and your friend. Sixty years of mutual respect, common security interests, and shared values has built a strong and enduring relationship, and we continue to look for Jordan to lead further progress in the region as we meet the challenges ahead.
Thank you very much, Minister.
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Thank you very much, Madam Secretary, for your warm words, for your friendship, and for the partnership that we enjoy between our two countries. And it is a real pleasure and honor to be here at the State Department again today, and I wish to thank you for the warm reception and for the constructive and important talks we had today on peace efforts, regional issues, and our excellent bilateral relations, and ways and means to enhance them and build on them.
Middle East peace efforts, as you said, Madam Secretary, are at a crucial juncture. There is a growing and pressing sense of urgency attached to resuming direct negotiations that address all core issues of borders, security, Jerusalem, refugees, and water in the very near future, and with an appropriate and effective context that guarantees the continuity of those negotiations without interruption until they conclude with an agreement that brings about the two-state solution within the anticipated 12-month timeframe identified by the Quartet when direct talks resumed on September 2nd, 2010.
Secretary Clinton and I discussed the means by which we can resume direct Palestinian-Israeli negotiations promptly. And we both agree that the current stagnation is simply not acceptable and also has dangerous repercussions for the security and the stability of the region. His Majesty the King always stresses that the two-state solution is the only solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which is at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict. There are no alternatives to this solution. And as His Majesty the King cautions, with changing demography and geography, and with shifting political dynamics resulting from settlements and other unilateral measures which are illegal and illegitimate and corrosive to peacemaking efforts, the alternative would be devastating to the whole region.
Jordan firmly believes that for the Middle East and the world to enjoy stability, prosperity, and security, the two-state solution must transpire, whereby an independent, sovereign, viable, and territorially contiguous Palestinian state emerges on the ‘67 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital, living side by side in peace and security with all the countries of the region, including Israel, within a regional context that ushers in comprehensive peace based on an internationally agreed-upon terms of reference and the Arab Peace Initiative. This is the only gateway that would enable us to deal more effectively with other challenges and threats.
We discussed the situation in Lebanon, as the Secretary mentioned, and agreed that all efforts must be exerted to ensure that peace, stability, and security prevail, and that the constitutional process and deep-rooted political customs and traditions in Lebanon be fully respected by all parties, as this is the only way to maintain and preserve viability, stability, security, and peace. Jordan unequivocally supports Lebanon’s sovereignty, national cohesion, and independence, and stresses the importance of respecting the sovereignty fully and implementing the commitments and obligations made to Lebanon by the international community and vice versa.
We also discussed our excellent bilateral relations and means to expand them. I briefed the Secretary on the progress achieved by the government in implementing the comprehensive reform agenda of His Majesty King Abdullah II, including the fact that the new house – the lower house of parliament, which is the product of a fair and free general election, as attested to by U.S. and international observers, as the Secretary mentioned, who were invited to witness the elections.
Now, the parliament is in place. The reforms and their economic dimension are challenging and have social impacts, and we are attempting to do all we can to continue steadfastly in a political and economic reform agenda, while at the same time alleviating the economic hardships resulting from rising oil and food prices internationally which affect the Jordanian economy. With the help of our friends here in the U.S. and in other parts of the world, we are steadfast in our political and economic reform agenda, and in alleviating and addressing the economic hardship that result from the economic situation around the world.
And we are, as always, committed to this, His Majesty is committed to this, and we are committed to continuing our dialogue and consultation with you at all times, Madam Secretary. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, my friend.
MR. CROWLEY: Kirit Radia from ABC.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Madam Secretary, I’d like to follow up on your opening statement on Egypt. In Tunisia, the United States was quick to support the aspirations of the protestors. Will the United States support the aspirations of the Egyptian protestors? Mr. Minister, is Jordan worried about these protests spreading elsewhere in the region? Madam Secretary, there are reports already that Egypt has shut down Twitter and Facebook. Do you plan to bring this up with the Egyptian Government directly?
And if I may stay in the region on behalf of a colleague and go a little further south – (laughter) – to Sudan, your meeting later today with the foreign minister of Sudan. Is the United States ready at this point to take them off the terror list? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I hope I’m awake enough to remember all those questions.
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: I remember mine.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good, good. (Laughter.)
Well, first, let me say clearly the United States supports the aspirations of all people for greater freedom, for self-government, for the rights to express themselves, to associate and assemble, to be part of the full, inclusive functioning of their society. And of course, that includes the Egyptian people. I think that what the President said last night in the State of the Union applies not only to Tunisia, not only to Egypt, but to everyone. And we are particularly hopeful that the Egyptian Government will take this opportunity to implement political, economic, and social reforms that will answer the legitimate interests of the Egyptian people. And we are committed, as we have been, to working toward that goal with Egyptian civil society, with the Egyptian Government, with the people of that great country.
So I think then, we were going to you.
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Thank you very much. I think your question was: Are we worried that these protests will spread? I can’t speak for other countries. I can speak for Jordan, and I’m happy to do so, and I’ve addressed this issue publicly.
In Jordan, we have economic hardships. We have economic realities that we’re dealing with. We have a political and economic reform agenda that is initiated by His Majesty the King and that the government’s trying to implement. This, of course, comes with social considerations. And yes, we are an importer of 90 – 96 percent of our energy. We rely on imported goods. And when there is a rise in oil prices internationally or a rise in food prices internationally, it affects all sectors in Jordan. And the government is trying its best, through economic measures, to alleviate the hardship that the people of Jordan feel.
While at the same time there is freedom of expression in Jordan, where protests dictate this and will probably happen every time there’s an issue, but at least we in Jordan are proud of the fact that the demonstrators demonstrate in an orderly way and have issues to have demonstrate against, and certainly their voices are heard.
And I just want to say that we had a protest over fuel prices and food prices last Friday and the Friday before that. And I think you’ll all remember that last Friday the police was passing out water and juice to the demonstrators. And demonstrators started at a certain time and ended at a certain time, and they had announced their demonstration well ahead of time, weeks before.
So I think that we have to differentiate between economic hardship and – which we have in many countries around the world. Jordan’s not living in a bubble. It’s part and parcel of the fabric of these international economies – and between political stability, which we are blessed with in Jordan with the Hashemite leadership, His Majesty the King, who initiates reform from within, as I mentioned earlier.
So I can speak for Jordan and I can tell you that we have economic realities that we have to deal with, but we have a political system, guided by His Majesty the King, that promotes freedom and openness and freedom of expression.
SECRETARY CLINTON: With respect to my meeting later this afternoon with the Sudanese foreign minister, I’m very much looking forward to consulting with him about the progress that has been made to date. The United States and many other nations were encouraged by the peaceful execution of the referendum in the South. And we hope to continue working with the government in Khartoum on the remaining issues, which are many, in order to fully implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, to finally resolve the status of Abyei, citizenship issues. We are still very focused on the ongoing problems in Darfur. So we have a full agenda of issues to discuss.
MR. CROWLEY: (Inaudible) from –
QUESTION: Thank you, P.J. Madam Secretary, you seem to imply that the Egyptian Government is capable of reforming itself and meeting the expectation of the people. Yet the mood in the streets of Cairo today contrasts that, and people are demanding for radical change, removal of the government and President Mubarak not to nominate himself for another term. Are you unsure of what’s happening in Cairo?
And if I may, you made a focus – the Israeli-Palestinian question a focus of this Administration. Yet the most important speech by the President last night seems to skip it, not to mention it by word even. Are you giving up on the Israeli-Palestinian question?
Very quickly, if I may – (laughter) – since I have – entitled the same rights as the Americans –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, you do. You do. (Laughter.) We believe in equal rights – (laughter) – for Jordanians, Americans, women, men. We are in favor of equal rights, even for reporters. (Laughter.)
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Please make sure my question is not as long as that one. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: No. Very quickly – you talk about reigniting the process. How do you propose to break the impasse?
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Reigniting?
QUESTION: The Israeli-Palestinian –
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Yeah, in the overall context of what we’re talking about reigniting (inaudible). (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Yeah, I picked the word.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Do you want to answer that and then I’ll answer it? (Laughter.)
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Reigniting the process?
QUESTION: Yeah. How do –
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Fine.
QUESTION: Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: With your position, Madam Secretary, I mean, I think that our discussions today centered on what we need to do collectively. The current impasse in the peace process, like – I always use the expression “Arab-Israeli conflict, at the core of which is the Palestinians, (inaudible).” The current impasse is very, very unsettling, and it has to be resolved. And I know that the Secretary has reassured me today that they are still committed. We always say that the United States is not just a mediator or an honest broker; the United States is a full partner on this.
And it has been said that – by President Obama, by the Secretary, by Senator Mitchell, whom I’m seeing later on – that this is U.S. national interest. This is not just a local or regional conflict. This is a conflict that is loaded with global ramifications. We’ve said that before. And it is U.S. national interest, just like it is the national interest of all the parties concerned, the stakeholders, to reach a solution to this lingering conflict. The Palestinians are entitled to their state. Israel and the whole region is entitled to security and stability.
When we’re talking about economic hardship, I think we also have to bear in mind that peace will usher in the opportunities that come with peace – economic opportunities, not just political peace, but an economic peace, an integration and reintegration of the whole region, and the vast potential that can be unleashed from this region. Don’t forget that the majority of the people who live in the Middle East are young, below the age of 30. They need opportunities. In this day and age, you refer to Twitter and Facebook, and I am on Twitter myself – (laughter) – as the diplo-babes know. (Laughter.) Yeah, they are the diplo-babes, didn’t you know that? (Laughter.) They see the opportunity –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Try to dig yourself out of that one. (Laughter.)
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Well, they are. (Laughter.) They refer to themselves as –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah. Oh, excellent.
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Yeah. (Laughter.)
Anyway, this is some – the situation where people see the opportunities all over the world and they want to have the same opportunities, so there are economic dividends of peace as well. And I think the time has come to pool our efforts collectively to ensure that the next few weeks will see a resumption of negotiations according to international legitimacy, the parameters that we’re all agreed on, and the Arab Peace Initiative, and the timeframes that we have announced.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I would certainly second everything that Nasser just said. With respect to the President’s speech, there were many parts of the world not mentioned and many very serious issues that were not mentioned because, as you could tell from the content of the speech, it was very much focused on the American agenda and dealing with our own economic challenges – getting more jobs, growing the economy, innovating, educating, rebuilding; but make no mistake; we are absolutely committed to the process. And we believe that a framework agreement that resolves the core issues not only remains possible, but necessary.
And as the foreign minister said, he will be meeting later with George Mitchell. We have a constant dialogue going on with many of our friends and partners in the region and around the world. We remain committed to a two-state solution. We are absolutely continuing our work. I will be going to Munich a week from Saturday for a Quartet meeting that will be held where we will discuss the way forward toward our common goal. So there is – from the top with President Obama and myself, all the way through this government, we remain absolutely committed and focused on what needs to be done.
With respect to the Egyptian Government, I do think it’s possible for there to be reforms, and that is what we are urging and calling for. And it is something that I think everyone knows must be on the agenda of the government as they not just respond to the protest, but as they look beyond as to what needs to be done economically, socially, politically. And there are a lot of very well informed, active civil society leaders in Egypt who have put forward specific ideas for reform, and we are encouraging and urging the Egyptian Government to be responsive to that.
Thank you very much.
FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Thank you very much.
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
Delivered by Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe
Follow-up to the report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict resolution
Human Rights Council 16th Session
Thank you, Mr. President.
The Council is too often exploited as a platform from which to single out Israel, which undermines its credibility. The United States strongly encourages the Council to seek an alternative to highly politicized resolutions and a permanent agenda item focused on one country. There are serious human rights issues to be addressed in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, but in the Human Rights Council, the human rights record of all states should be addressed under a robust common rubric. Moreover, consistent with our dedication to a universal application of international human rights, we urge both parties to examine and improve their own human rights records.
The best way to truly address human rights issues in Israel and the Palestinian territories is to end the underlying conflict and forge a comprehensive peace. For this reason, the United States continues to work vigorously on a simultaneous two-track strategy: a political negotiations track which ultimately results in a two-state solution, with a secure Israel and a sovereign Palestine living side by side in peace and security, and equally a Palestinian institution building track in preparing for a future Palestinian state. We also are committed to supporting the efforts of humanitarian agencies, such as UNRWA, which address critical needs of the Palestinian population, and we urge our fellow Council members to join us in doing so.
We must all do our part to help shape an environment conducive to meaningful and substantive negotiations and create an atmosphere of trust that can help the parties reach an agreement on all final-status issues. And so the United States again urges this Council to take a balanced, objective, and constructive approach to the human rights situation in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. We look forward to working together to promote peace and protect human rights in the Middle East and around the world.
Israel has been conducting its own process of credible investigations, and Israeli officials have been actively engaged in scrutinizing doctrinal issues. Israel has also established an independent public commission to examine the Israeli mechanisms for investigating complaints and claims raised in relation to violations of the laws of armed conflict. The commission has completed the first segment of their work, and we look forward to their next report.
Through its ongoing inquiries and changes in combat doctrine, Israel is demonstrating its ability to conduct credible investigations and serious self-scrutiny. We urge all parties to the conflict to uphold their responsibilities to pursue accountability for alleged human rights abuses. We note that both reports from the Committee of Experts did not endorse the recommendations in this resolution or any further UN follow-up on this matter. Extension of this issue in the UN is unhelpful and further evidence of the ongoing bias at the Council.
With respect to the present resolution, we object, in particular, to the following elements: (1) the recommendation for the Swiss government to convene the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention in what is bound to be a highly politicized and counterproductive session; (2) the one-sided call for the High Commissioner to take the unprecedented step of determining the “appropriate modalities for the establishment of an escrow fund” for the provision of reparations to Palestinians; (3) the invitation to the ICRC to consider launching a discussion on the legality of the use of certain munitions, which risks a politically-motivated outcome, and (4) the resolution’s recommendation for the UN General Assembly to suggest to the UN Security Council that it consider referring the situation to the ICC Prosecutor. Further UN consideration of this matter is not productive. We cannot support international oversight of these domestic legal processes absent any indication that they are manifestly failing to deal seriously with alleged abuses. The parties’ ongoing domestic processes should be left to play out of their own accord.
Accordingly, we must call a vote, and vote against this resolution.