Peaceful Israeli disengagement from Gaza
could provide a "foundation" for future steps
toward Middle East peace, Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice told reporters June 17.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice meets with
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia in the
West Bank town of Ramallah, Saturday, June 18.
Rice is discussing the upcoming Israeli disengagement
from Gaza and democratic reforms in the Middle
East with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. (©
In a June 17 airborne press briefing as she traveled to
begin meetings June 18 with Israeli and Palestinian leaders,
Rice said she would focus on coordination between the two
sides leading up to the planned evacuation in August by
Israel of 21 settlements in Gaza and four settlements in
the West Bank. "Our goal has been to make sure that
they're doing their planning together, in a way that everybody
knows what their responsibilities will be at that time,"
Rice said to be successful, the Israeli withdrawal must
be peaceful and leave, in its aftermath, a situation where
the Palestinians are able "to establish authority and
to begin to govern, where there is some hope for the Palestinian
people in terms of economic development, where the Palestinian
institutions are left in better shape after the Gaza withdrawal
and therefore begin to built the institutions of statehood,
that the successful conclusion of both conditions will lead
to greater confidence between the parties, greater trust
between the parties and, I believe, an accelerated progress
on the roadmap" for Middle East peace."
Leading to the August disengagement, Rice said Palestinian
leaders have made progress in the unification of security
forces "into a manageable number of forces that can
be trained and can act professionally.
But, Rice added, "more could be done" by the
Palestinians "in terms of their ability to fight terror
and what they do on a day-to-day basis. Rice said previous
discussions have dealt with the issues of fugitives in some
areas "so that the turnover of cities can continue.
We've talked about the need not to allow arrests to become
revolving door arrests. And those are all extremely important
steps that the Palestinians need to take."
Among the many issues to be discussed during the meetings
is the amount of equipment the Palestinian security forces
will need after the Israeli disengagement, Rice said. U.S.
Army Lieutenant General William Ward, who is assisting the
Palestinian Authority on security, is "very close"
to an assessment of the Palestinian security equipment needs,
Rice said. "We will work at all levels with the Israeli
government to make sure the Palestinians have what they
need in order to carry out the functions that they will
have," the secretary told reporters.
Assessing the security equipment needs of the Palestinians
has not been easy, Rice said, because of "an extremely
decentralized, particularistic, individualistic set of security
forces that had to be brought together under an interior
Rice said there were many steps on the roadmap -- the plan
for Middle East peace put forward by the United States,
the European Union, the United Nations and the Russian Federation
-- following the Gaza withdrawal. Rice said the United States
would be looking to move forward on the roadmap but the
parties now must concentrate on the withdrawal. "I
can't tell you how much I think this region has been bedeviled
by a tendency to look so far ahead and not to concentrate
on what's right before you and to build a foundation that
then can move you ahead."
The transcript of Rice's press briefing follows:
U.S. Department of State
Office of the Spokesman
June 17, 2005
Press Briefing By Secretary Of State Condoleezza Rice
To The Traveling Press
En Route To Shannon, Ireland
June 17, 2005
SECRETARY RICE: Welcome aboard. I just want to talk a little
bit about the first stop on our trip, which is to go to
the Palestinian territories and then also to meet with the
members of the Israeli government. And the principal reason
for this trip, you'll remember that the President said that
he wanted me to come out before the disengagement and so
this is an opportunity to see how the process of coordination
is going between the parties as they get ready for the disengagement
and how we are supporting that process, through what Jim
Wolfensohn is doing and through what General Ward is doing.
And I expect this really to be principally about that issue.
I had a phone call this morning before I left with some
members of the Quartet so that we were all on the same page
about what we're going to be doing. And I think we're also
planning to meet in London afterwards. So this is a pretty
intensive period of just trying to help the parties get
ready for the disengagement.
QUESTION: One of the big issues in the Gaza disengagement
is balancing Israel's need for security with the Palestinian
need for access. And are you planning to ask both sides
to agree to a series of benchmarks or milestones so progress
on issues such as the crossing points in Gaza can be, you
know, measured and monitored?
SECRETARY RICE: I don't expect to ask them to put together
a set of benchmarks. But I do expect to have discussions
that will help me to clarify and hopefully will help the
parties to clarify how they can move forward on each of
There's actually a quite long list of issues that they
have to deal with. And I think they're actually working
through them themselves, so I'm not here to try to negotiate
settlement of the issues between them. But Jim Wolfensohn
has had a couple of trilateral meetings. I think he will
have further trilateral meetings to try and see if the parties
can understand better each other's concerns about everything
from, as you said, access issues to security issues on the
day that the disengagement begins, to issues concerning
the disposition of assets after the Israelis leave. But
I don't expect myself to do that.
I do expect to hear from the two sides how they think they're
coming on that, and to help Jim and General Ward figure
out how they can engage.
QUESTION: Maybe specifically, are you going to ask Abu
Mazen to try to prevent Hamas from -- to keep amassing arms,
which they seem to be doing in this period?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'm certainly going to talk with
President Abbas about the need to provide for the Palestinians
to play a critical role in providing a secure environment
in which the Gaza disengagement can take place. And obviously
that means that the calm that he has discussed with the
various Palestinian factions is going to have to hold. And,
yes, I think we have to be concerned about the amassing
of arms. Absolutely.
QUESTION: Yes, Madame Secretary, when the President spoke
about your mission, part of it we understood was to convince
the Palestinians that there was also an après Gaza,
there was an after Gaza process there. Will you be discussing
that with them and where are you going to start after Gaza?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, first we're going to get through
Gaza successfully. Because the real point about Gaza is
not to stop with Gaza. The President has been clear, we've
been clear with the Israelis that it cannot be Gaza only;
there has to be a day after the successful withdrawal from
But as the President has said, without a successful withdrawal
from the Gaza -- and I mean one that's peaceful, where the
Palestinians are able afterwards to establish authority
and to begin to govern, where there is some hope for the
Palestinian people in terms of economic development, where
the Palestinian institutions are left in better shape after
the Gaza withdrawal and therefore begin to build the institutions
of statehood that the successful conclusion of both conditions
will lead to greater confidence between the parties, greater
trust between the parties and, I believe, an ability to
accelerate progress on the roadmap. That's why we really
have to stay focused on the Gaza withdrawal.
Now, the roadmap is a guide to the two-state solution.
There are lots of steps and obligations that the parties
will have that don't relate to just Gaza withdrawal. And
I think what we'll be looking to do is to move forward on
the roadmap. But I do not want to get the discussions distracted
about what happens after the Gaza withdrawal because it's
really -- I can't tell you how much I think this region
has been bedeviled by a tendency to look so far ahead and
not to concentrate on what's right before you and to build
a foundation that then can move you ahead. And I think we
just have to be determined not to have that happen this
QUESTION: Just following on the expectations on the security
front from the Palestinians, Prime Minister Sharon is critical
in saying that they have not arrested people, they have
not taken control of the areas that Israel has already withdrawn
from. General Ward has been quoted as saying that progress
is being made. Can you be very specific about what expectations
are and what you hear or what you are being told about whether
the Palestinians are meeting them?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we'll certainly have a better idea
about that after I've had fuller discussions with a wide
range of officials on both sides. But I do think progress
is being made. Progress is being made in terms of the unification
of the security forces. Progress is being made in terms
of the Palestinians' apparent determination to streamline
their security forces into a manageable number of forces
that can then be trained and can act professionally. And
I think they are making progress on that.
In terms of their ability to fight terror and what they
do on a day-to-day basis, frankly I do think more could
be done, and we've talked about the need to deal with the
fugitive issue in some of the cities so that the turnover
of cities can continue. We've talked about the need not
to allow arrests to become revolving door arrests. And those
are all extremely important steps that the Palestinians
need to take.
General Ward will have very soon, I think, a pretty clear
plan for exactly what needs to be done in terms of equipping
of the Palestinians. It has not been all that easy, frankly,
to do a kind of audit of what the Palestinians need, because
the security services have been so scattered and particularistic.
Now that it's become a more unified force, I think he thinks
he's getting a better handle on that, including the question
of what kind of equipment they need.
QUESTION: Thanks, Madame Secretary. I wanted to follow
on that, because apparently the Israelis have been very
resistant to allowing the Palestinians to get weapons, trucks.
And how can one expect that they're going to be able to
maintain the peace after disengagement if you can't get
an assurance that they will be able to get this equipment?
Are you confident now? And can you tell us something about
the meetings that General Ward has been having? Is he going
to be able to convince the Israelis to allow this equipment
to come in, and where will it come from? Thanks.
SECRETARY RICE: I don't think there will be any shortage
of people willing to donate equipment to the Palestinians
-- sorry, to provide equipment to the Palestinians. The
question that General Ward first had to answer was what
do they need. And it has actually not been that easy to
establish that because this has really not been one security
force. We really have to recognize the degree to which this
was an extremely decentralized, particularistic, individualistic
set of security forces that had to be brought together under
an Interior Minister. And really the Defense Minister and
Interior Minister have to be answered to by these people.
I think General Ward is getting very close to an assessment
of what is actually needed. And at that point, we will work
at all levels with the Israeli government to make sure that
the Palestinians have what they need in order to carry out
the functions that they will have.
QUESTION: Thank you. You mentioned the day of the disengagement
or the day it begins. What are your concerns about that
day and what would you like to see each side do ahead of
that time to satisfy your concerns?
SECRETARY RICE: I think everybody would like to see it
be peaceful and orderly. And, you know, this is going to
be very difficult. What they're doing is moving thousands
of people with their effects and families, and it's going
to be complicated. And I know that the Israelis have done
a lot of planning, I know that the Palestinians have done
a lot of planning. Our goal has been to make sure that they're
doing their planning together, in a way that everybody knows
what their responsibilities will be at that time.
But I think -- and, obviously, it should be peaceful and
orderly so that when the Israelis leave, or as the Israelis
leave, the Palestinians will be able to fill back behind
them in a way that shows that they have the institutions
and the capability to actually govern. I think at that point,
you then have yet another element of confidence as you try
to move forward on the roadmap.
There is clearly a lot of planning being done, on the Israeli
side, on the Palestinian side. What we've been concerned
about is making sure that everybody knows everybody's plans,
and it goes to Glenn's first question that there is also
a clear picture of expectations about the key six or seven
issues that are there, about assets, about freedom of movement
and the like. So there needs to be clarity between the two
sides about what to expect. That, I think, will lead to
less confusion in what is likely to be, under the best of
circumstances, a pretty complicated date, set of dates.
QUESTION: While the focus is clearly going to be on Gaza,
will you engage the Israelis on the settlement issue east
of Jerusalem? Because the back and forth, Sharon reiterated
his intention to build those 3,500 homes?
SECRETARY RICE: I will certainly say to the Israelis what
we've continued to say to the Israelis, which is that the
United States has very clear policy on this. They also have
very clear obligations under the roadmap. And we don't intend
to give -- we don't intend that the Israelis try to create
facts on the ground. They simply cannot engage in activities
that are supposed to somehow prejudge a final status outcome.
The President said to Prime Minister Sharon when he was
there in April of last year that there are certain facts
that -- certain realities that have been created since 1967
that will have to be taken account of at the time of negotiation.
But it will still have to be a negotiation and any changes
are going to have to be mutually agreed, and I will make
those points clear again to the Israelis.
QUESTION: A broader question. Have you talked to the Israelis
or engaged their views on the larger goal here for the U.S.
of spreading democracy and reform in the Arab world? After
all, a lot of Israelis look back to 1979 and see that they
had a good ally with the Shah of Iran who was pressured
out by the United States talking about human rights, replaced
with a regime that is perhaps the biggest problem for them.
And a lot of Israelis have said they're best off dealing
with reliable dictators.
SECRETARY RICE: I just don't think that the course of events
supports that argument. While it is true that -- that Israel
has made a peace of sorts with its neighbors, in many examples
and in many cases I think it's been a colder peace than
people would have liked to have seen. And in the case of
the Palestinians, I think, you know, couldn't get there
with Yasser Arafat. I think that was clearly a lack of accountability
to the Palestinian people that was the root cause there.
I do believe that as the Middle East democratizes and Israel
is not, in effect, the only democracy in the region -- although
Iraq is now on its way there -- that the Israelis will be
in an environment in which governments would have to be
accountable to their people. And I simply don't believe
that governments that are accountable to their people are
going to countenance or look the other way while people
within their countries plan for the day when Israel is no
more, or send their children off to be suicide bombers,
or engage in the kind of activities that we saw on September
11th. And I believe that the President believes that it
is a freedom deficit in the Arab world that leads to that
kind of hatred. The continued absence of freedom is a threat
to Israel too. And when you talk to the Israelis, I think
that many of them recognize that.
The strategic goal -- goals of peace and stability in the
region have not been realized in the absence of democracy
and freedom. So it's time we tried democracy and freedom
and see if we can't get there through that course.