Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
The Oval Office
The White House
October 16, 2002
3:24 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: So here's what's going to happen. I'm going to have an opening
statement; the Prime Minister will make an opening statement. I will call on
a person; he will call -- the Press Secretary will call on a person. I will
call another, he will, and that's it -- two questions a side.
It's my honor to welcome Prime Minister of our close friend to -- back to the
White House. We've just had a good discussion about peace and security, about
prosperity. I first want to say that I understand that -- what terror has done
to economy. Terror has affected our economy; terror has affected the Israeli
economy. But we've got great confidence in the Israeli economy. We've got great
confidence in the Israeli people. The greatest asset Israel has is the brainpower
and ingenuity of her people. And I'm convinced that the economy will be strong.
I appreciate so very much the fact that the Prime Minister is committed to working
with his Cabinet to move some of the Palestinian money to the Palestinian people;
that he cares about the human condition of the Palestinians; and that under
a monitoring system to make sure that the money being sent back to the Palestinian
people will not be used for terrorist activities, that he is willing to work
with his Cabinet to do just that. I believe that's important.
We talked about the framework for peace, the idea of working toward peace, the
idea of two states living side-by-side in peace as a part of our vision. And
to this end, Bill Burns, Ambassador from the State Department, is going back
to the Middle East to continue to work on the process; continue to work toward
achieving concrete, real, objective and measurable reforms, so that there's
a peaceful future for the region.
So, Mr. Prime Minister, thanks for coming. It's good to welcome you. I appreciate
you being here.
THE PRIME MINISTER: I would like to thank you, Mr. President, for having us
again here. I would like to express our deep appreciation to your leadership
facing the world terror. We regard terror as the most dangerous thing, and seeing
the terror spread now, seeing that your leadership -- under your leadership
the world will be able to face the terror and contain terror and stop terror.
We have been facing terror for over 120 years, and we still face terror. But
we believe the day will come, and hope it will be soon, that we'll be able to
start peace negotiations. I believe that Jews and Arabs will be able to live
together. And we, on one hand, are taking all the necessary steps against terror.
And we will continue to defend our citizens. In the same time, we'll take all
the necessary steps to move forward the political process. And I believe the
day will come and we'll have peace.
We discussed -- we had an interesting discussions here, very important. I would
like to thank you, Mr. President, for the friendship and cooperation. And as
far as I remember, as we look back towards many years now, I think that we never
had such relations with any President of the United States as we have with you,
and we never had such cooperation in everything as we have with the current
administration. I would like to thank you for that, and we are looking forward
for better future for all of us.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, sir.
Barry of AP.
QUESTION: Mr. President, are you asking the Prime Minister, have you asked the Prime
Minister not to respond if Iraq attacks?
And, Mr. Prime Minister, have you any concrete offers of help from the administration
to reduce the risk of an Iraqi attack?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I have told the Prime Minister that my hope
is, is that we could achieve a disarmament of the Iraqi regime peacefully. I
haven't given up on the fact that we can achieve it peacefully. We have no plans
to use our military until -- unless we need to. I explained to the Prime Minister,
just like I explain to every citizen who is interested in this, the military
is my last choice, not my first choice.
So we talked about -- we talked about the desire to -- for the U.N. Security
Council to be strong, and for the nations that care about peace to see that
Saddam is disarmed. And he's got to disarm himself. That's what we talked about.
QUESTION: If I could ask for the Prime Minister's response, please.
THE PRESIDENT: He's trying to do the two question thing. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: -- two questions.
THE PRESIDENT: Wait a minute, Barry. He's an old pro.
QUESTION: Mr. President, I would like to complete my colleague's question. If an Iraqi
missile lands in Tel Aviv, killing tens of people --
THE PRESIDENT: -- an unprovoked attack -- if tomorrow an Iraqi missile lands?
QUESTION: Theoretically, and it can be practically.
THE PRESIDENT: If Iraq were to attack Israel tomorrow, I'm sure there would
be appropriate response.
QUESTION: How should Israel respond? How should you respond --
THE PRESIDENT: If Iraq attacks Israel tomorrow, I would assume the Prime Minister
would respond. He's got -- he's got a desire to defend himself.
Our hope is that the Iraqi regime will disarm peacefully. But I can't -- maybe
-- maybe Saddam will attack tomorrow. He's certainly a dangerous man. And he's
got to understand that the international community won't tolerate an unprovoked
attack on Israel -- or anybody else, for that matter. Of course, he's done it
in the past. That's what I've explained to the American people. He's attacked
two nations. He's gassed his own people. He's a dangerous man. That's why he
must be disarmed. And that's why the international community must work to disarm
QUESTION: Thank you, sir. It's been more than a month since you said you expected the
United Nations to act in days or weeks on a new Iraq resolution. How much longer
are you prepared to wait, and why aren't you losing patience?
THE PRESIDENT: Because I'm a patient man. (Laughter.) My mother and wife think
that's hysterical when I say that, of course. (Laughter.)
Let's see, because it takes a while to get things done in the U.N., I guess
is the answer. I mean, we will -- I've made the commitment to go to the U.N.,
I've asked the U.N. to act. We have got to deal with members of the Security
Council. There are differing opinions on members of the Security Council. And
we've got to work hard to reach a consensus, a resolution that will, on the
one hand, do everything it can to disarm Saddam Hussein; and also has got the
capacity for there to be consequences should he not disarm. And therefore, we're
working closely with the Perm Five, as well as others on the Security Council,
to reach this resolution.
I am a patient man. I think it's important. I made the decision to go to the
U.N. And therefore, we're willing to work with the U.N. If the U.N. can't act,
however, if they're unable to act, if once again, after 11 years and 16 resolutions,
they cannot bring themselves together to disarm Saddam Hussein, then we will
lead a coalition to do just that. But, in the meantime, we're giving the U.N.
time to listen to the arguments and to, hopefully, come together soon to get
-- to get a resolution which will achieve the objectives.
QUESTION: Mr. President --
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, the Prime Minister is waiting for a question or two. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: If you will allow me, I will ask him about --
THE PRESIDENT: Strict guidelines. We must be disciplined.
QUESTION: Mr. President, the Hezbollah is threatening to escalate the situation in the
Israeli northern border, and Israel has intelligence information that Palestinian
terror organizations are also planning to escalate and have more terror attacks
because the United States might attack Iraq to disarm Saddam Hussein. Is there
any limitations on Israel to defend itself? Did you ask the Prime Minister not
to do certain -- not to take certain measures if he's attacked by Hezbollah
or by the terror organization, the Palestinian terror organization?
THE PRESIDENT: We certainly want to work with Israel and we'll make it clear
to Hezbollah, nations housing Hezbollah, whether in the context of Iraq or not,
we expect there to be no attacks. This is terrorist activity, and we will fight
terror wherever terror exists.
I find it -- the doctrine that says if you harbor a terrorist still exists.
And we expect -- again, apart from Iraq, we expect Hezbollah not to attack our
friend. And so we will work with Israel and work with other nations, making
it clear to them our position on harboring terrorist activities.