Sends Secretary of State Colin Powell to Middle East
The Rose Garden
The White House
April 4, 2002
11:00 A.M. EST
Good morning. During the course of one week, the situation in the Middle East
has deteriorated dramatically. Last Wednesday, my Special Envoy, Anthony Zinni,
reported to me that we were on the verge of a cease-fire agreement that would
have spared Palestinian and Israeli lives.
That hope fell away when a terrorist attacked a group of innocent people in
a Netanya hotel, killing many men and women in what is a mounting toll of terror.
In the days since, the world has watched with growing concern the horror of
bombings and burials and the stark picture of tanks in the street. Across the
world, people are grieving for Israelis and Palestinians who have lost their
When an 18-year-old Palestinian girl is induced to blow herself up, and in the
process kills a 17-year-old Israeli girl, the future, itself, is dying -- the
future of the Palestinian people and the future of the Israeli people. We mourn
the dead, and we mourn the damage done to the hope of peace, the hope of Israel's
and the Israelis' desire for a Jewish state at peace with its neighbors; the
hope of the Palestinian people to build their own independent state.
Terror must be stopped. No nation can negotiate with terrorists. For there is
no way to make peace with those whose only goal is death.
This could be a hopeful moment in the Middle East. The proposal of Crown Prince
Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, supported by the Arab League, has put a number of
countries in the Arab world closer than ever to recognizing Israel's right to
exist. The United States is on record supporting the legitimate aspirations
of the Palestinian people for a Palestinian state.
Israel has recognized the goal of a Palestinian state. The outlines of a just
settlement are clear: two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side,
in peace and security.
This can be a time for hope. But it calls for leadership, not for terror. Since
September the 11th, I've delivered this message: everyone must choose; you're
either with the civilized world, or you're with the terrorists. All in the Middle
East also must choose and must move decisively in word and deed against terrorist
The Chairman of the Palestinian Authority has not consistently opposed or confronted
terrorists. At Oslo and elsewhere, Chairman Arafat renounced terror as an instrument
of his cause, and he agreed to control it. He's not done so.
The situation in which he finds himself today is largely of his own making.
He's missed his opportunities, and thereby betrayed the hopes of the people
he's supposed to lead. Given his failure, the Israeli government feels it must
strike at terrorist networks that are killing its citizens.
Yet, Israel must understand that its response to these recent attacks is only
a temporary measure. All parties have their own responsibilities. And all parties
owe it to their own people to act.
We all know today's situation runs the risk of aggravating long-term bitterness
and undermining relationships that are critical to any hope of peace. I call
on the Palestinian people, the Palestinian Authority and our friends in the
Arab world to join us in delivering a clear message to terrorists: blowing yourself
up does not help the Palestinian cause. To the contrary, suicide bombing missions
could well blow up the best and only hope for a Palestinian state.
All states must keep their promise, made in a vote in the United Nations to
actively oppose terror in all its forms. No nation can pick and choose its terrorist
friends. I call on the Palestinian Authority and all governments in the region
to do everything in their power to stop terrorist activities, to disrupt terrorist
financing, and to stop inciting violence by glorifying terror in state-owned
media, or telling suicide bombers they are martyrs. They're not martyrs. They're
murderers. And they undermine the cause of the Palestinian people.
Those governments, like Iraq, that reward parents for the sacrifice of their
children are guilty of soliciting murder of the worst kind. All who care about
the Palestinian people should join in condemning and acting against groups like
Al-Aqsa, Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and all groups which opposed the peace
process and seek the destruction of Israel.
The recent Arab League support of Crown Prince Abdullah's initiative for peace
is promising, is hopeful, because it acknowledges Israel's right to exist. And
it raises the hope of sustained, constructive Arab involvement in the search
for peace. This builds on a tradition of visionary leadership, begun by President
Sadat and King Hussein, and carried forward by President Mubarak and King Abdullah.
Now, other Arab states must rise to this occasion and accept Israel as a nation
and as a neighbor. Peace with Israel is the only avenue to prosperity and success
for a new Palestinian state. The Palestinian people deserve peace and an opportunity
to better their lives. They need their closest neighbor, Israel, to be an economic
partner, not a mortal enemy. They deserve a government that respects human rights
and a government that focuses on their needs -- education and health care --
rather than feeding their resentments.
It is not enough for Arab nations to defend the Palestinian cause. They must
truly help the Palestinian people by seeking peace and fighting terror and promoting
Israel faces hard choices of its own. Its government has supported the creation
of a Palestinian state that is not a haven for terrorism. Yet, Israel also must
recognize that such a state needs to be politically and economically viable.
Consistent with the Mitchell plan, Israeli settlement activity in occupied territories
must stop. And the occupation must end through withdrawal to secure and recognize
boundaries consistent with United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338. Ultimately,
this approach should be the basis of agreements between Israel and Syria and
Israel and Lebanon.
Israel should also show a respect, a respect for and concern about the dignity
of the Palestinian people who are and will be their neighbors. It is crucial
to distinguish between the terrorists and ordinary Palestinians seeking to provide
for their own families.
The Israeli government should be compassionate at checkpoints and border crossings,
sparing innocent Palestinians daily humiliation. Israel should take immediate
action to ease closures and allow peaceful people to go back to work.
Israel is facing a terrible and serious challenge. For seven days, it has acted
to root out terrorist nests. America recognizes Israel's right to defend itself
from terror. Yet, to lay the foundations of future peace, I ask Israel to halt
incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas and begin the withdrawal from those
cities it has recently occupied.
I speak as a committed friend of Israel. I speak out of a concern for its long-term
security, a security that will come with a genuine peace. As Israel steps back,
responsible Palestinian leaders and Israel's Arab neighbors must step forward
and show the world that they are truly on the side of peace. The choice and
the burden will be theirs.
The world expects an immediate cease-fire, immediate resumption of security
cooperation with Israel against terrorism. An immediate order to crack down
on terrorist networks. I expect better leadership, and I expect results.
These are the elements of peace in the Middle East. And now, we must build the
road to those goals. Decades of bitter experience teach a clear lesson: progress
is impossible when nations emphasize their grievances and ignore their opportunities.
Storms of violence cannot go on. Enough is enough.
And to those who would try to use the current crisis as an opportunity to widen
the conflict, stay out. Iran's arms shipments and support for terror fuel the
fire of conflict in the Middle East. And it must stop. Syria has spoken out
against al Qaeda. We expect it to act against Hamas and Hezbollah, as well.
It's time for Iran to focus on meeting its own people's aspirations for freedom
and for Syria to decide which side of the war against terror it is on.
The world finds itself at a critical moment. This is a conflict that can widen
or an opportunity we can seize. And so I've decided to send Secretary of State
Powell to the region next week to seek broad international support for the vision
I've outlined today. As a step in this process, he will work to implement United
Nations Resolution 1402, an immediate and meaningful cease-fire, an end to terror
and violence and incitement; withdrawal of Israeli troops from Palestinian cities,
including Ramallah; implementation of the already agreed upon Tenet and Mitchell
plans, which will lead to a political settlement.
I have no illusions. We have no illusions about the difficulty of the issues
that lie ahead. Yet, our nation's resolve is strong. America is committed to
ending this conflict and beginning an era of peace.
We know this is possible, because in our lifetimes we have seen an end to conflicts
that no one thought could end. We've seen fierce enemies let go of long histories
of strife and anger. America itself counts former adversaries as trusted friends:
Germany and Japan and now Russia.
Conflict is not inevitable. Distrust need not be permanent. Peace is possible
when we break free of old patterns and habits of hatred. The violence and grief
that troubled the Holy Land have been among the great tragedies of our time.
The Middle East has often been left behind in the political and economic advancement
of the world. That is the history of the region. But it need not and must not
be its fate.
The Middle East could write a new story of trade and development and democracy.
And we stand ready to help. Yet, this progress can only come in an atmosphere
of peace. And the United States will work for all the children of Abraham to
know the benefits of peace.