"All agree that Israel's plan to disengage
from Gaza and parts of the northern West Bank can be an
important step to progress on the roadmap toward realizing
the vision of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine,
living side by side in peace and security," said Secretary
of State Condoleezza Rice in her remarks to reporters June
19 after meeting with Palestinian and Israeli leaders in
Ramallah and Jerusalem, respectively, June 18 and 19.
Secretary Rice and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at joint press availability in Ramallah, West Bank on Saturday, June 18, 2005. (State Dept. photo)
The meetings produced an agreement that Jewish settler homes
in Gaza will be destroyed when Israel pulls out of the territory,
with Israel and the Palestinian Authority agreeing to cooperate
to ensure the withdrawal will proceed peacefully.
Rice called the move a "historic" and "courageous
step by the Prime Minister and by the Israeli people."
She cautioned that "the next several months ahead of
us are complicated and consequential to the future."
Rice's discussions also included former World Bank President
James Wolfensen in his new role as special envoy for the
Quartet (consisting of the European Union, Russia, the United
Nations and the United States), as well as Army Lieutenant
General William Ward, the United States' security envoy
to the Palestinian Authority.
The secretary detailed three specific steps toward the Israeli
disengagement from the West Bank : " One, Israel and
the Palestinian Authority recognize that Israeli withdrawal
must proceed peacefully and without violence directed toward
withdrawing settlers or IDF forces; [t]wo ... Israel and
the Palestinian Authority agree that the appropriate result
is the complete removal of all settler homes in Gaza; [t]hree
... Israel and the Palestinian Authority agree that Palestinian
goods and people should flow in and out of Gaza at a level
that will allow for economic revival to begin immediately."
Rice, commenting on her separate meetings with Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon, said she "found the leaders on both sides
to be focused, their governments to be focused on what must
be done ... [t]hey understand fully that this effort needs
to be cooperative and coordinated so that it can succeed
in building trust and confidence between the parties that
can then give us a foundation for accelerated progress on
the roadmap once the disengagement is done."
After her opening remarks, the secretary responded to reporters'
questions, including one on the issue of Israeli arms sales
to China. She said that she discussed the issue "with
Defense Minister [Shaul] Mofaz last night and I believe
that the Israelis now understand our concerns and I'm certain
...that we can come to some resolution to allow us to proceed."
When asked about the razing of the Jewish settlers' homes
as a condition of the disengagement, Rice asserted that
it was not an issue of contention: "You have 1,200
plus houses, you have a population of 1.3 million Palestinians
... I think that the view is that there are better land
use opportunities for the Palestinians that can better address
their housing needs."
After explaining Wolfensen's role in helping to implement
a master plan for the Palestinian infrastructure, Rice looked
ahead to her own next steps in the disengagement process:
"I can go to the international community, since I'll
be with them at the G8 ministerial in London". Ahead
of that meeting, Rice's current trip will also take her
to Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, where she can "talk
to the Egyptians and certainly to the Saudis and others
about how they might be able to contribute. Because housing
for the Palestinian people is going to be one of the most
hopeful things that could be done."
When asked if the disengagement process can move forward
despite the influence of the militant group Hamas, Rice
said "We're going to deal with the elected government
of the Palestinian people. Our policies toward Hamas are
well known. We consider it a terrorist organization. And
our view is that the Palestinian people, given a chance,
are most likely to pick a course that allows their children
to be educated and to prosper and to grow in peace."
Rice declined to establish a timetable for the Gaza disengagement
and subsequent steps on the roadmap peace process. However,
she did assert that "we have better conditions now
in terms of the fundamentals than we've had for a long time
for a possible peace between Israelis and Palestinians."
Following is the transcript of the secretary's press availability
U.S. Department of State
Office of the Spokesman
June 19, 2005
PRESS AVAILABILITY WITH
SECRETARY OF STATE CONDOLEEZZA RICE
June 19, 2005
SECRETARY RICE: As you know, the United States and President
Bush are committed to advancing a peaceful two-state solution
for Israelis and Palestinians. The challenge at hand is
a successful disengagement, on schedule.
Therefore, in my meetings with Prime Minister Sharon, President
Abbas, Quartet Special Envoy Wolfensohn, and our Security
Coordinator, General Ward, we have worked on ways to advance
the disengagement effort and support this week's summit
meeting between President Abbas and Prime Minister Sharon.
Together we have developed some principles for disengagement,
and the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority
have agreed to them.
All agree that Israel's plan to disengage from Gaza and
parts of the northern West Bank can be an important step
to progress on the roadmap toward realizing the vision of
two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side
by side in peace and security.
Accordingly, Israel and the Palestinian Authority share
a commitment to ensure that disengagement proceeds smoothly,
without violence, and in a way that will also best help
the Palestinian economy. To be specific:
One, Israel and the Palestinian Authority recognize that
Israeli withdrawal must proceed peacefully and without violence
directed toward withdrawing settlers or IDF forces. Both
Israel and the PA will take the necessary actions, and will
coordinate such actions, where appropriate, to ensure a
peaceful disengagement and create the conditions for economic
viability and hope.
Two, Israel and the Palestinian Authority agree that the
appropriate result is the complete removal of all settler
homes in Gaza. Israel will undertake the dismantling of
the dwellings. Special Envoy Wolfensohn and his team will
work with the PA, Israel, and appropriate partners in the
international community to clean up the site. The PA is
reviewing a master plan so that future land use and housing
in former settlement areas are economically suitable for
the Palestinian people in Gaza. The international community
will help. The public facilities and commercial assets will
be important elements of Palestinian economic recovery,
and will be discussed between the parties and with the Special
Three. Israel and the Palestinian Authority agree that
Palestinian goods and people should flow in and out of Gaza
at a level that will allow for economic revival to begin
immediately. In this regard, Israel will, consistent with
its security needs, evaluate the way it manages the crossings.
The donor community, guided by Special Envoy Wolfensohn,
will provide technical and financial support to this effort.
This addresses some of the issues. Prime Minister Sharon
and President Abbas will address other critical topics at
their very important meeting on Tuesday. Much more work
will still be needed to be done in coming months for the
disengagement to succeed, and the United States will remain
actively involved in every step of the way. But let me say
that I found the leaders on both sides to be focused, their
governments to be focused on what must be done, and I think
that there is a good spirit of cooperation between them.
They understand fully that this effort needs to be cooperative
and coordinated so that it can succeed in building trust
and confidence between the parties that can then give us
a foundation for accelerated progress on the roadmap once
the disengagement is done.
Thank you and I'll take questions now.
QUESTION: Two questions, Madame Secretary. Did you discuss
anything specific yesterday with the Israelis to make any
immediate terms specifically on prisoners, to improve the
goodwill? And the second question is, do you have any reaction
to the remarks by Foreign Minister Shalom basically apologizing
for the sale of military hardware to China?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, on the second matter, I have had
discussions with Israeli leaders, not just here but in Washington,
about the issue of arms sales. I think everybody knows our
concerns about arms sales to China, particularly arms sales
to China with countries with which we have strong defense
cooperation relationships, which we do with Israel. I appreciate
that the Israeli government have -- has been working on
this issue. I discussed it also with Defense Minister Mofaz
last night and I believe that the Israelis now understand
our concerns and I'm certain that, as good partners can,
that we can come to some resolution to allow us to proceed.
On the first issue, the Prime Minister and President Abbas
will be meeting on Tuesday. I know that they have a large
agenda. I do believe that they have already, of course,
a joint committee to review prisoner issues, and I do know
that they have agreed that there should be a very active
role for that committee and that committee needs to continue
its very important work in a very active way.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madame Secretary. Can you tell us
a little more about the plans for these assets that were
agreed to today? Why are -- why are the houses being destroyed?
What will happen to the remains? And what is your expectation
on the other assets, the greenhouses and the public facilities?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think that the second issue, the
commercial assets, there's much more work to be done. And
what the parties agree is that they have to work this in
a cooperative way so that there can be a contribution to
the Palestinian economy going forward, recognizing that
these could be very important assets to that economy. But
that requires a good deal more work.
Just on the housing, I think it's just a statement of principle
that really underscores what's a fairly observable fact.
You have 1,200 plus houses, you have a population of 1.3
million Palestinians. And I think that the view is that
there are better land use opportunities for the Palestinians
that can better address their housing needs.
The most important thing is that the parties want to work
at this together. This is not an issue of a kind of unilateral
decision to do this or that; it is a recognition that when
the Israelis leave the Gaza, that it ought to be a place
that is viable for the Palestinians, that it's a place that's
hopeful for the Palestinians that addresses their needs.
And so I didn't get into here and I don't expect to be able
to get into the details of how precisely they're going to
do this. Jim Wolfensohn does have a series of meetings coming
up to talk to them.
One thing that I can do, since they are developing a master
plan for the land use in the Gaza, is I can go to the international
community, since I'll be with them at the G8 ministerial
in London, and talk about how we can support some of these
-- some of these concerns for the master plan. I can also,
when I'm in the Arab world, talk to the Egyptians and certainly
to the Saudis and others about how they might be able to
contribute. Because housing for the Palestinian people is
going to be one of the most hopeful things that could be
done. And I know that, for instance, Abu Dhabi is already
engaged in some housing activity. And so I think we want
to make this a centerpiece of what could be really good
for the Palestinian people. But we'll have to leave the
details of how they work this out to the parties.
Israeli press? Yes.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) your conversations in Ramallah and
Jerusalem, what would you see as the most critical issue
between the parties? What do you think, or for example put
some obstacles on the withdrawal from Gaza (inaudible)?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, to my mind, the most important issue
is the issue that has been there all along, which is to
try and provide a peaceful atmosphere in which this can
take place. That is, to be very attentive to the security
conditions and for the Palestinians to do everything that
they can on the security side to fulfill the desire that
the Israeli settlers be able to leave peacefully, disengage
peacefully. That the armed forces of Israel, who will be
helping with the disengagement, are treated peacefully.
I think obviously the security situation is the most important
But it is also very important that both parties find cooperative
means by which to leave a Gaza behind that is viable and
hopeful for the Palestinian people. And I found the most
hopeful part of these discussions that both of those items
are really firmly on the agendas of both parties -- the
security situation and the need to leave the Gaza as a hopeful
place for the Palestinians.
There is much detailed coordination and planning that needs
to go on. There is obviously much planning that needs to
go on on the side of the Palestinians and on the side of
the Israelis, and much planning and cooperation that they
need -- coordination that they need to do together. But
I think those two principles, security so that it's peaceful,
and leave it hopeful for the Palestinians, those are the
two most important principles. And General Ward and Mr.
Wolfensohn are going to be here actively helping the parties
to do that.
QUESTION: Two of the issues that President Abbas raised
with you yesterday, one having to do with the Philadelphia
corridor and who monitors that after the Israelis leave,
and also the reopening of the Palestinian airport, I noticed
those were not addressed in your statement. Does that indicate
there is no agreement on those matters and what needs to
be done on that?
SECRETARY RICE: Glenn, as I said, there are a number of
complicated issues that they have to continue to work on.
I think the issue of economic viability and how goods will
move and the like is probably one of the most important
that they're going to work on. But Jim Wolfensohn has been
working with them on that issue. General Ward is engaged
with them on that issue. I'm sure that they will come to
some solutions. And the Prime Minister, of course, and the
President will have a chance to talk directly about that
when they meet on Tuesday in terms of the, you know, the
seaport and the airport and passage from the Gaza into the
You had another part to that, though?
QUESTION: Yes, the Philadelphia corridor.
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, yes. That is a matter that, again,
General Ward has been discussing with parties. But also
the Egyptians and Israelis are in very intensive discussions
about how that might be resolved.
Israeli press again?
QUESTION: Many people in Israel, maybe even including the
Prime Minister himself (inaudible) mainly after the disengagement
plan, Israel should not make any more steps and more withdraws
from the West Bank. What do you expect from Israel to do
after the disengagement plan? Do you expect Israel to withdraw
also from the West Bank?
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Well, first of all, I want to
underscore how much the President and I believe that this
is an historic step that is being taken in the withdrawal
from the Gaza. And it's a courageous step by the Prime Minister
and by the Israeli people. This is not easy, and the next
several months ahead of us are complicated and consequential
to the future. So I have really focused while I've been
here on the next several months.
I've been saying -- our press is probably tired of hearing
it -- but I've been saying that one of the problems I think
with the Middle East is that there's a tendency always to
look out there and not to do what's right in front of you.
And if we do this well, if the parties do this well, then
I'm quite certain that the level of confidence and the level
of trust between them, and the capacity of the Palestinians
to do certain things will be enhanced.
Now, we have a roadmap that everybody remains committed
to. The United States remains committed to it, the Quartet,
the international community and, most especially, the Palestinians
and the Prime Minister have said that he remains committed
to the roadmap. And so it's not as if we don't know what
other steps are necessary to try and move toward a two-state
solution and the eventual establishment of two states living
side by side. So the roadmap is there, but let's get through
this disengagement and get through it in a way that enhances
the possibilities for further progress.
Two more --
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I'd like to ask you are you
(inaudible) Hamas organization is considered the most influential
political element in the Gaza strip. Can this go ahead despite
the strength of Hamas?
SECRETARY RICE: I am mostly considering the fact that the
Palestinian people as a whole elected Mahmoud Abbas to be
their president. And they elected him on a platform that
said, it's time for Palestinians -- the armed intifada has
not resulted in peace, security or prosperity for the Palestinian
people, and it's now time to go to a negotiated solution.
I find President Abbas a figure who is deeply concerned
about the future of his people. This is not someone -- with
all due respect -- who is doing this for the Israelis; he
is doing this for the Palestinian people. And it's a very
strong commitment that this way forward is the best way
for the Palestinians.
We're going to deal with the elected government of the
Palestinian people. Our policies toward Hamas are well known.
We consider it a terrorist organization. And our view is
that the Palestinian people, given a chance, are most likely
to pick a course that allows their children to be educated
and to prosper and to grow in peace.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary? On the back.
SECRETARY RICE: Pardon me?
QUESTION: On the back. From Channel 2 News in Israel. I'd
like to ask you on two different issues. One, please, it
seems that the only determined date now is mid-August when
Israel starts the disengagement. And I wonder about your
perspective on the timetable. Is there a new timetable for
the implementation of the roadmap? And if it is, what is
And the other is -- sorry -- the other issue is regarding
the -- our ambassador in Washington. You have to work with
an Israeli ambassador who his boss, our Foreign Minister,
said he lost faith with, in him. And he is, in fact (inaudible)
Prime Minister. And I wonder how do you maneuver between
the two of them?
SECRETARY RICE: I deal with the Israeli Ambassador as the
Israeli Ambassador and we have long and good relations and
he is an ambassador who has done a lot for U.S.-Israeli
relations. In fact, we've known each other since he was
foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Sharon. And so
we continue to have a very good working relationship. These
issues are, of course, for the Israeli government to decide.
In terms of timetables, again, I look at our press and
I know that their eyes are glazing over because I say I
don't like timetables. I don't like to talk in those terms.
Diplomacy has a certain rhythm to it. And we are now about
to go through an historic step that could accelerate what
is possible for us to do. And maybe it's because I'm a veteran
of, you know, the end of the Cold War when if you had set
timetables, you would have been embarrassed by how quickly
things moved, but I also recognize that sometimes things
don't move very quickly but, when they do, they move in
a very positive direction.
And so there is a lot happening not just between the Israelis
and Palestinians, but also in this region as a whole. And
what we have to try to do is to get up every day and make
as much progress as we can. But we have better conditions
now in terms of the fundamentals than we've had for a long
time for a possible peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Sorry -- are we -- all right. I'll take one more American
and then we have to go.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, it's now 10 years since the
Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 was passed in Congress, which
called for the United States to move its embassy from Tel
Aviv to Jerusalem. Last Thursday, the White House announced
that the transfer will be delayed for yet another six months
in order to, and I quote, protect the national security
interests of the United States.
Do you think that relocating the embassy to Jerusalem would
be a greater threat to U.S. security than, let's say, some
other current actions that the United States is involved
in, perhaps Iraq, to mention just one?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, obviously I think the involvement
of the United States in Iraq is the involvement of a country
that recognizes that without a fundamentally different kind
of Middle East, it is going to be very difficult to protect
American security interests. We learned that the hard way
on September 11th. And the changes that are coming in the
Middle East, the changes that are happening in places like
Iraq, whatever you wish to think about the American decision
along with several coalition members like Great Britain
and Australia and others and Poland, to finally deal with
Saddam Hussein, whatever you think about that decision,
I think there are very few people in the world who think
the world was better off with Saddam Hussein in power.
And so we have given the Iraqi people now, through their
liberation, an opportunity to build a strong, democratic,
unified, peaceful state in the midst of the Arab world,
and that could be a fundamental change in the way that the
Middle East proceeds in the future.
As to the issue -- the Jerusalem issue that you raised,
you know, we continue to review it. But, again, we are very
focused right now on what needs to be done with the historic
opportunity that is before us, which is to try and help
the parties make this disengagement work. And I want to
be very clear: The United States can't make the disengagement
work; only Israelis and Palestinians can make the disengagement
But what the United States can do, what General Ward can
do, what Mr. Wolfensohn can do, what the international community
can do is to offer all the support that we possibly can,
recognizing the consequential several months into which
we are about to pass.
Ann, you have the last question.
QUESTION: You said just a moment ago you don't like to
talk about timetables. But you've also said that you're
focusing very heavily on the next few months. From what
you've seen in the last two days, are you personally convinced
that the disengagement will happen when the Israelis say
it will happen in mid-August, and what would be the consequences
if it didn't?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'm not someone who can predict coming
events. But I do know that I saw a commitment on the part
of the Israeli government to make this disengagement work,
to make it work with their Palestinian partners to do what
is ever necessary to move this along. Because having made
the historic and strategic decision to do this, the key
now is that a lot is at stake for the state of Israel, a
lot is at stake for the Palestinians, and a lot is at stake
for the international community.
I saw committed parties on both sides that are doing the
necessary planning. The people who are engaged in this planning
are working harder than you could possibly imagine to try
and make it work. That's all human beings can do; they can
put their absolute best efforts and their commitment to
work in trying to deal with something this complex. And
that's all that human beings can do. And I do believe people
are doing everything that they can.
Now, the course ahead is one that is going to require even
greater coordination. There need to be no surprises between
the two sides in terms of what's going to happen in the
Gaza. And that's why General Ward is going to be out here
so much working with the parties, it's why Mr. Wolfensohn
is going to be working with the parties. But we just need
to step back for a moment and recognize that this is a courageous
and difficult step for the Israeli Prime Minister and his
government, a consequential step for the Israeli people,
and a consequential step for the Palestinian people that
could leave a foundation -- leave conditions for the emergence
of a democratic and independent and viable Palestinian state.
And just like an Iraq in the center of the Arab world that
will be a pillar of a fundamentally different Middle East,
a Middle East in which there is tolerance and moderation
and willingness to live together, so too would be a two-state
solution of two democratic states living in peace and freedom.
Thank you very much