Secretary of State Hillary Clinton participated in a joint interview with Udi Segal of Israel's Channel 2 and Amirah Hanania Rishmawi of Palestine TV at the Department of State.
Transcript follows the jump.
I will start in asking, this Administration repeats that the Palestinian state is a strategic American interest. Is this become slogan for varied and concrete policies and steps to be taken from your side? Touch on that.
SECRETARY CLINTON: First, thank you both for giving me this opportunity not only to talk to you, but through you to Israeli and Palestinian citizens. And I thank you for that.
The United States believes very strongly, and we are totally committed to working with and supporting the efforts of the Israeli and Palestinian leadership and people to achieve a viable Palestinian state and a secure Israel living side by side. That has been a personal commitment of mine going back many years, and I believe first and foremost it is in the interests of the people of Israel and of the Palestinians, and particularly of the children.
But it is also an interest of the United States. We strongly support the security and the future of Israel and we strongly support the aspirations of the Palestinian people. The only way, in our opinion, in the 21st century, that you can have the kind of security and peace that gives you a chance for the future that each of your people deserve is through a settlement of all of the outstanding issues and an end to the conflict.
Madam Secretary, you said it yourself yesterday, both sides are so disappointed. What makes this attempt different? Why are the odds – this time it’s for us rather than against us?
SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s a great question, because I know of the skepticism and even the suspicion in the minds and hearts of people in the region. And I said yesterday I’m personally disappointed. I have not only supported the efforts that have come before, but was deeply involved in the support of what my husband tried to do in the 1990s. And I think I’m the first person ever associated with an American administration who called for a Palestinian state as a way to realize the two-state solution.
Why is it different? I think it’s different for three reasons. First, I think that time is not on the side of either Israeli or Palestinian aspirations for security, peace, and a state. It’s not because – there are so many changes in the region where the rejectionist ideology and the commitment to violence that some unfortunately have as we recently saw with the terrible killings in Hebron and the attack outside of Ramallah. They gained greater access to weapons. They have a sponsor, namely Iran, who is very much behind a lot of what they’re doing. The technology is threatening to the stability of both peoples’ lives.
I mean, if you look at the economies that are now growing, much of the world is still coming out of a recession. In the Palestinian business community, in Israel, you have vibrant, growing economies that are making a difference. In Nablus, last year, unemployment was 30 percent; it’s down to 12 percent. It’s clear to me that the forces of growth and positive energy are in a conflict with the forces of destruction and negativity. And the United States wants to weigh in on the side of leaders and people who see this as maybe the last chance for a very long time to resolve this.
Now, I will be the first to tell you it is very difficult. I cannot change history. I cannot take an eraser to the history books and change everything that has happened between you for so many years. But what we can do is offer a different future. But then it takes courage to accept that, because it is a bit of a leap of faith. That’s why I was very impressed that both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas came here despite the skepticism.
So Your Excellency, public in the region — consider that Prime Minister Netanyahu came here for a public relationship – relations exercises. What are you going to do at the end of this month if he will not – if he wants to combine between settlement and these public relationship? The end of the month is going to be the last date for that sort of moratorium before the settlement. What are you going to do?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first let me say that I have known Prime Minister Netanyahu for many years, and I am convinced that he understands and accepts the importance of achieving a two-state solution. He publicly committed to that, something he had not done before, and he negotiated with the Palestinians in the past. He and President Abbas know each other. They have, in my presence, been very clear that they want to work extremely hard to get to a final agreement.
We’re well aware that there are issues that have to be dealt with, such as the one you referred to, at the end of the month. I’m not going to get into their discussions, because that really is at the core of their being able to make some tough decisions, being able to have the confidence that they can have sensitive discussions without me or anybody else talking about them. But I am absolutely convinced that these two men, for different reasons, maybe the two can actually do this.
Everyone knows that in order for Israelis to accept a two-state solution, they have to believe – and I support this with all my heart – that they will be more secure, not less secure. And from their perspective, and one of the reasons for the skepticism in Israel, is we pulled out of Lebanon, we got Hezbollah, we pulled out of Gaza, we got Hamas. So there’s a reality to it. It’s not just a kind of public relations or theoretical argument. I think with President Abbas, he was courageous in the times when he was alone in the Palestinian leadership, in the PLO, in Fatah. He’s been calling for a two-state solution for decades and has given his whole life to trying to realize that. And he knows that this may be the last time.
So I really am convinced that we have obstacles, we have some looming challenges in terms of time. But I believe that both men came with the best of intentions. And now, we have to work hard to overcome those obstacles.
President Abbas said clearly that if settlement freeze does not continue, there will be a – come to a screeching halt in negotiation. What do you – do you agree to that? What do you make of that saying of President Abbas?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Udi, I think part of what we are doing here is creating an atmosphere that is conducive to a final agreement that rests on tough decisions. And the parties know that the goal here is to make the decisions within a framework agreement on all the core issues, all the difficult core issues. And clearly, territory, settlements, borders, security, those are the hardest of the core issues in my opinion.
SECRETARY CLINTON: They have to – and absolutely, Jerusalem, refugees, water, I mean, there’s a whole list of the hard internal core decisions. And I think that dealing with all of them – not in a piecemeal way, but in a comprehensive way, because each side is going to have to make concessions, each side is going to have to make tradeoffs. I’ve never been in a negotiation where one side got everything, because that’s not what happens in negotiations. So I understand the positions of both leaders and I think they are sincere about trying to work to get to a resolution of the outstanding problems, including the one that is looming at the end of the month.
Your Excellency, some people in the region say that peace talks are intended to appease Arabs or the Arabs before some kind of military action against Iran. Is there any truth of that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, and I think that’s a very important question, because we have great concerns about Iran. And it’s not only about Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons; it’s about Iran’s sponsorship of terror and its supply of weapons to groups that are trying to destabilize countries and societies. So that’s a given. And that concern, as you know, is shared by much of the Arab world, because they see in their own countries the results of Iranian state-sponsored terrorism.
But the Arab Peace Initiative that was led by the Saudis and by King Abdullah, which said, “Here is an outline for how we would like to have peace with Israel,” has been embraced by Arab and Muslim countries, as you know. That had nothing to do with Iran. That was an expression of the recognition by Arab leaders that this conflict needs to be resolved, and it needs to finally result in a two-state solution, because there’s so much to be gained in the region, turning the attention to what could be done together on all these difficult issues that are looming over the region, like water and dealing with terrorism and the like.
So I think that Iran is a serious problem. I’m the first to tell you that. It’s a problem not just for the United States. It’s a problem for the entire region, because more than anyone, you see the results. I mean, Hamas is not only attacking Israelis; Hamas has been brutal to the people in Gaza in so many ways over the last years.
So let’s recognize that we have a lot of problems we have to deal with. My goal has been to try to tackle each problem and to say, “What can we do to make progress?” There are connections, but on their own, getting to a two-state solution is so much in the interests of the entire region.
I want to follow up Amira’s question.
Isn’t – we are witnessing a simple deal here, “We, the United States will dismantle of Iran nuclear weapons, and in return, you, the Israeli and Palestinians, finally will establish a Palestinian state”?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that there are some who make that case. I mean, I make the case on the merits. I mean, in the 1990s, Iran was not a looming threat the way that it is now because of its advanced nuclear program. And my husband, I, and others worked very hard with Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak and others to try to get to the point where we could establish – and of course, I wish we had done that. We’d now have had a state for 10 years and we would have had, I think, a very clear example to the world about what that meant.
I don’t want to miss this opportunity. We are making progress on the sanctions against Iran. They are clearly feeling the pinch of those because we see it in all the interactions around the world where they are now under tremendous economic pressure. Countries that we didn’t think would join with us have joined and are part of trying to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. So we’re going to stay focused on that. But we know that on its own, this is such an important accomplishment. Will it have consequences? Of course. It will, I believe, help to undermine Iran’s support and that is, in and of itself, good.
Your Excellency, let’s go back – go back with me to the normal and daily life for the Palestinians in the Palestinian territories, checkpoints involved. The Palestinian – Israel maintained more than 500 checkpoints that seriously hinder the freedom of movement in the West Bank. Are the United States writing this up in the negotiation? And are there steps that really give the Palestinians freedom to move, freedom to pray, to reach Jerusalem, to reach a mosque, to reach a better future?
SECRETARY CLINTON: That is very much on our mind and it’s very much on the minds of both the Israeli and Palestinian leadership. We are well aware that improving the daily lives of Palestinians, which has been going on for a few years now – we think that President Abbas, Prime Minister Fayyad, other leaders – but mostly citizens themselves, mostly Palestinians who have really, in the West Bank, been able to do more on their own behalf – are demonstrating, in ways we could not say, the effects, the positive effects of peace. So, the checkpoints, the roadblocks, all of the daily challenges that we know affect the Palestinians are certainly on the agenda.
Tony Blair, who you know represents the Quartet, which has played an important role in keeping the world’s attention focused on the need for these negotiations, will be working even more with the – persistently and we hope effectively with both Israel and the Palestinian leadership to try to ease as many of those problems as possible while the negotiations are going.
You see, I think the political negotiations need to be matched with changes on the ground and confidence-building and interactions between Israelis and Palestinians. You both know the problems that we face in any society where there is a really small number of people who are committed to terror and violence – it sends all kinds of messages of fear into people who themselves are just wanting to live their lives. So we want to increase freedom of access, we want to increase opportunities in the West Bank, while at the same time, we’re pursuing the political track.
A hypothetical “What if” question if I may: If a full agreement cannot be reached through this negotiation, is creating Palestinian states with provisional borders an option?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I never answer hypotheticals and I don’t particularly want to answer this one because that’s really for the parties to decide. And at this point, that is not on the agenda. What’s on the agenda is a final agreement that ends the conflict, resolves all claims, creates a viable Palestinian state, and gives Israel the security that you deserve and need to have.
So we don’t want to talk about fallback positions because that’s not been mentioned by either leader. I mean, each leader has come prepared to talk about all the core issues, and it would be far better to resolve borders, which then resolves a lot of other difficult matters, than to only do it halfway. So our goal, working with and supporting the negotiation by the leaders, is to get to a framework that deals with all core issues and then a final agreement.
Your Excellency, peace doesn’t only come through beautiful words, but needs to be backed by actions. We all know that the PA government now is through a financial crisis. So what is your message to the donors? And we really need, as a Palestinian, your message to them because they are – start losing hope in peace.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. Well, two messages.
First, on the Palestinian Authority, I want to publicly commend the work that has been done by the Palestinian Authority. The advances in security are recognized by all of us. The Palestinian security forces have gained a good and well-deserved reputation for their work in the West Bank. I want to commend the changes in financial management and accountability. And the United States, as you, I’m sure, know has increased dramatically our direct support for the Palestinian Authority. And I have encouraged and urged all the donors to do that and more. Last year was a good year. We got a very robust amount of contributions. This year, we are upping our request to all of the donors to support the peace process by supporting the Palestinian Authority.
And the second message is really to the Palestinian people themselves. I was in Ramallah last year and I met with a group of young Palestinians. And I came away not only impressed, but so encouraged by their motivation, their ambition, their curiosity, their intelligence. And then shortly after that, I was in Israel and I met with a group of young Israelis. And as an outsider, but someone who has long been devoted to Israel and long been committed to a Palestinian state, I see the potential in this next generation.
And I’m hoping that the adults, I’m hoping that the leadership will be willing to try one more time and to be willing to do the hard work of making peace, because these young people – they deserve to have a future in Ramallah or Jericho, not in Toronto or Chicago. If the Palestinian diaspora came home, it would be one of the most talented group of people ever – the doctors, the lawyers, the business leaders. And Israel deserves to have a peaceful, secure future. And so that’s a passion for me, and I will do everything I can to support this process.
You spoke about a core issue. I’m a little confused. When you were a candidate for presidency, you said that Jerusalem was the undivided capital of Israel. Then you retracted from this statement like the candidate, now President Obama. Who should we believe, then? Candidate Clinton or Secretary of State Clinton?
SECRETARY CLINTON: You should believe that I am committed to a safe and secure Israel, and that I believe a two-state solution that realizes the aspirations of the Palestinian people is in the best interests of Israel. Jerusalem is a contested, emotional issue for both Israelis and Palestinians, and really, for Christians, Jews, and Muslims around the world, as you well know.
I want to support what is the outcome that the parties can agree to. And I think both parties know that they’re going to have to engage on this issue and come to an understanding and a resolution so that Jerusalem becomes not the flashpoint, but the symbol of peace and cooperation. And so I am fully supportive of what can be negotiated between the parties.
You mentioned your husband. Maybe on a personal note, do you have an extra incentive to keep on from the point that your husband left it, and this time, succeed?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, there’s no doubt about that. Both my husband and I were very sad that we missed that opportunity. And I’ve told this story before, but I’ll tell it again. We – they were so close. I mean, then-Prime Minister Barak and then-President Arafat were so close. And my husband expended so much energy because he cares so deeply. And when he left office some weeks later, Yasser Arafat called him and he said, “Well, now, we’re ready to take the deal,” and my husband said, “But I’m not the president anymore.”
Do you think that Palestinians still losing chances in this time?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I hope not, because I want to see this done. I want to see it not because it’s something that I care about, although I care deeply. I want to see it because it is so much the right thing to do historically and morally and spiritually and politically and economically.
Otherwise, I see, unfortunately, the forces of destruction, the forces of negativity on both sides gaining strength. And then more young Palestinians and more young Israelis will leave. And that’s – and they don’t want to leave. I mean, I meet with them all the time and they don’t want to leave. But they want to live their lives. They want to live their lives with a level of peace, security, and opportunity, which every person of any common sense wants to have.
So thank you very much, Your Excellency, for having us.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you.