Op with King Abdullah II of Jordan
The East Room
The White House
August 1, 2002
10:20 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Before I welcome His Majesty back to the Oval Office, we will
take two questions apiece after our opening statements.
First, Your Majesty, welcome back. I look forward to a good and fruitful discussion
about our common interests. Obviously, your neighborhood is still a dangerous
place. Today in America we mourn the loss of American lives. My prayers and
sympathies go to the loved ones of those who were killed by terrorists -- who
must hate the thought of peace, who must firmly believe that violence is the
best hope for mankind in that part of the world -- a concept I strongly reject.
It's a concept that is just foreign to peace and, therefore, the first thing
we must do is to work hard as a team to uphold our responsibilities and fight
off terrorist activities that kill innocent life.
I look forward to talking to His Majesty about how to move the foundations of
peace, the prospects of peace forward in the Middle East. That's going to, of
course, be discussions about a security force in the Palestinian territory that
will be able to help deal with those who want to destroy the prospects for peace.
I want to thank His Majesty for working with CIA Director Tenet to strategize
about how to best help the Palestinians have a more secure future. We'll also
be talking about the plight of the Palestinian people, how sad it is that for
too long the Palestinians have suffered. They've been pawns in the game of foreign
policy and we want to help them.
It's going to be very important for us as we go forward to have confidence,
however, in the Palestinian government that emerges. We want to have confidence
that the money that we eventually will spend to help the Palestinian people
is spent on the people. We want to have confidence that those who emerge to
lead the Palestinian people are -- long for peace and want to co-exist, side-by-side
in peace with Israel.
And so, Your Majesty, welcome back. I look forward to a good and fruitful discussion.
KING ABDULLAH: Thank you, Mr. President. Again, it's a delight to be back with
you here, especially to discuss your tremendous commitment to bring peace and
stability to our region. You have really given us the hope that once and for
all we'll be able to move forward as Arabs and Israelis to be able to move in
harmony and have a tremendous future.
We're here, obviously, to discuss how we can best move the process forward.
But, again, the President's very strong commitment to assist alleviating the
suffering of the Palestinian people, which is of tremendous importance, and
we're very grateful for that. So I'm looking forward to it.
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks.
QUESTION: Mr. President, with American victims now -- and of course, you've touched
on this and I'm sure I know how you feel about it -- but does this raise the
war on terrorism to a new level? Is there something the U.S. must do to respond
to the murder of Americans now?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Barry, we are responding to a murder of Americans. We're
responding all across the globe to murders of Americans. And we responded in
Afghanistan to murders. We responded in the Philippines. We will -- we're responding
by working with our Arab friends and Israel, of course, to track these people
down. The war on terror is fought on many fronts. And I just -- I cannot speak
strongly enough about how we must collectively get after those who kill in the
name of -- in the name of some kind of false religion.
I just -- I grieve for all people whose lives are taken by terrorist activities.
I'm particularly sad today because of American families who cry today and weep
at the loss of a loved one, because there's some fanatic who believes that killing
innocent life is positive. It's incredibly negative.
And so, yes, Barry, we're committed to the war on terror and to fighting the
war on terror and to winning the war on terror. And this bombing in Israel showed
how tough it's going to be, but this country is tough and united and strong,
QUESTION: Mr. President, you've recently articulated your vision for peace in the Middle
East. However, an action plan is still needed to be crystallized --
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
QUESTION: So, you know, is there any framework for such a plan? And what are the guarantees
that both sides would be committed to that plan?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I'm committed to peace. That's -- I can speak
for myself. And I'm committed to a vision of two states respecting each other,
two states living side by side in peace.
Secondly, there is an action plan going forward, and that's what I'm going to
review with His Majesty. Step one is to develop a security force that actually
serves the people, not a particular leader. The security force must be designed
to fight off terror, not designed to serve the whims and interests of a -- of
Secondly, we've got to work together to develop a constitution so that the institutions
of a new state are bigger than any one person. And that's very important.
Thirdly, that we've got to make sure that there is the capacity for the Palestinian
Authority to spend money in a way that -- and account for money in a transparent
way that will give us all confidence that when we try to help the Palestinian
people, the money goes to the people.
At the same time, as I mentioned in my talks, I do believe that we can get to
a so-called conference within the three-year period of time. But before -- what
has to happen is we must have confidence in a state.
Now, there are some who will say, well, you know, there's only one person that
could conceivably make this happen from the Palestinian side. I just simply
don't believe that. I believe there's all kinds of brilliant and smart and capable
Palestinians that, given the chance, given a chance to emerge -- and by the
way, people committed to peace -- and given the chance to articulate that vision
of peace will do so.
And I look forward to working on this -- on the vision. It's the right vision.
It will lead to peace. All parties have responsibilities, by the way, and we
will continue to insist that people uphold their responsibilities.
QUESTION: Mr. President, thank you. I can't see you there. Israel has said it will respond
militarily to yesterday's attacks. Do you support this, and is it the right
thing to do at this time?
THE PRESIDENT: Israel must defend herself. But as I say to all parties involved,
we must keep the vision of peace in mind. We must be committed to peace. We
must understand that the consequences we take to make the area more secure also
must be -- these decisions to make the area more secure must be made in the
context of peace for the long run.
And I'm just as angry as Israel is right now. I'm furious that innocent life
is lost. However, through my fury, even though I am mad, I still believe peace
is possible. And I will -- and I know that we can improve the conditions of
everybody in the region by working toward a vision that is hopeful and optimistic
-- and not letting the terrorists destroy the possibility for peace.
KING ABDULLAH: Mr. President, I have to support the President's vision that
he does understand that the suffering that Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs
are going through in the Middle East. And what has been so reassuring to me
is that the President has the commitment to work very hard with his government
to give the hope for Arabs and Israelis to be able to move to the future.
And we have always been working very closely with the President and he does
have the kind of conviction to stand up for the hope that we've all had in him
and his government to bring peace and prosperity to the Middle East. And we're
very grateful for your position on that.
THE PRESIDENT: Have you got a final question?
QUESTION: Mr. President, you seem to -- the two of you seem to disagree on Iraq. Are
you going to discuss those disagreements? And could you maybe elucidate on those
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I appreciate that, John. The policy of my government, our
government, of this administration is regime change. For a reason. Saddam Hussein
is a man who poisons his own people, who threatens his neighbors, who develops
weapons of mass destruction. And I will assure His Majesty, like I have in the
past, we're looking at all options, the use of all tools. I'm a patient man.
But I haven't changed my opinion since the last time he was in the Oval Office.
And one of the things we will do is consult with our friends. But he just needs
to know how I feel. He knows how I feel, I had the opportunity and the honor
of explaining that to him before and he'll find out I haven't changed my mind.
KING ABDULLAH: All I'd like to say is that, again, what I found from day one
with the President is he understands the bigger picture and that at the end
of the day, peace and stability for the Middle East has been at the forefront
of his mind. And so we have many areas where we find common base to be able
to move the region forward.