THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release October 28, 1994
PRESS CONFERENCE OF PRESIDENT CLINTON AND PRIME MINISTER RABIN
October 27, 1994
PRIME MINISTER RABIN: Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, I
believe that we experienced during the visit of President Clinton in the
region a real move towards peace. No doubt that the visit of President
Clinton was crowned yesterday by the second peace treaty between an Arab
country and Israel, the first one after the convening of the Madrid
We look, from Israel's point of view, to President Clinton as a
friend of Israel and a president that works very hard to bring about
what we dream for, aspire to -- to achieve comprehensive peace; that is
to say, peace with our four neighboring Arab countries. With two, it
has been accomplished. And no doubt, the visit of the President in
Damascus, I believe it will bring about certain changes, a movement
toward better negotiations, better possibilities to overcome the gaps
between the positions of Israel and Syria.
No doubt in my mind that during the term of you, Mr. President,
as the President of the United States, we have seen dramatic change in
the relations between those Arab partners with whom we negotiate. We
signed the Declaration of Principles between us and the PLO on the lawns
of the White House. It was followed by the negotiations to bring about
the first phase of its implementation in the Gaza-Jericho first.
We are engaged today in continuation of our negotiations with
the Palestinians about Arab empowerment, elections, and no doubt,
yesterday we signed a peace treaty that the President helped to bring
about and witnessed.
For two years, to reach two agreements -- one, with the
Palestinians with which we have a long story of suspicion, hatred,
prejudice, bloodshed; and with the Jordanians, that I remember over 46
years ago that in this city I fought them and they fought me -- and we
look forward to make it possible to overcome yet the differences between
Syria and Lebanon and us.
It might take time. One has to be patient. One has to
understand that there are problems. And I believe that it will not take
long, and hopefully, we'll find ways and means by which to overcome
I hope, Mr. President, that you will continue sending Secretary
Christopher, who worked very hard and tried in your name to move between
Damascus and Jerusalem with the purpose to find ways to overcome the
Allow me also to add that the government of Israel of today is
determined, on one hand, to continue all our efforts to bring about
comprehensive peace. But at the same time, we are fully aware that
there are enemies of peace. For us, the enemies of peace are the
extreme Islamic radical terror movements. Among the Palestinians, they
are the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. Ninety percent of the terror
activities against us are carried by them.
And there is a tendency for oversimplification, to identify
those parts of the Palestinians with whom we reach an agreement and we
try to implement it, and extreme radical Islamic elements that are
enemies of peace and enemies of the Palestinians that reach agreement
with us. From Lebanon, Hezbollah, which is part of the ugly wave of
Khomeinism without Khomeini that is all over the Arab world and the
Islamic world. Whatever happens in Algeria is not related whatsoever to
the Arab-Israeli conflict, or is Sudan, or in fighting within Egypt.
It's an ugly wave that threatens not only the peace -- they are the
infrastructure of the international terrorism. And behind it, to a
certain extent to certain parties, larger extent, is Iran.
And therefore, Mr. President, we support your policy of dual
containment. We believe it's vital to the peace in the Middle East, to
stability among the Arab and the Muslim world, and to prevent
We thank you very much. You heard today in our Knesset the
government and opposition together joined in the support of the peace
treaty with Jordan, in expressing thanks to you, Mr. President, for the
way that you have stood and stand in support of Israel's security while
trying your best to bring about advancement, which was successful so far
in bringing about peace to the region.
Therefore, today, here in Jerusalem -- the united city, the
capital of Israel, and no doubt, the heart of the Jewish people -- we
thank you. Thank you very much.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Thank you, Prime Minister.
Ladies and gentlemen, because I had the opportunity to speak at
length at the Knesset this evening and to outline my position on a
number of matters, I will be very brief. I would like to make just a
couple of points.
First of all, at my first meeting with Prime Minister Rabin
shortly after I became President, he told me he was prepared to take
risks for peace. And I told him that, that being the case, the job of
the United States was to minimize those risks. For 20 months now, we
have both done our best to do our jobs, and I think it's fair to say
that we have had a reasonable amount of success in which the people of
Israel can be proud and in which they can feel secure, and one in which
I hope the American people take pride.
Secondly, I would like to congratulate him and the people of
Israel again on the peace treaty with Jordan. We have responsibilities
there that relate to the security of both Israel and Jordan, and I have
been working on that even since the peace treaty has been signed. I was
in conversations with the King well past midnight last night. We are
attempting to do our part to make sure this peace is as wildly
successful as everyone believes it can be.
Thirdly, I thank the Prime Minister for his comments about
terrorism and his support for our policies, especially I think I should
mention something I did not mention in my speech tonight which is that
of the steadfast support of Israel for our policies in the Gulf and for
our recent action in the Gulf. I will be going to Kuwait tomorrow to
see our troops and on to Saudi Arabia. I appreciate the support of
Finally, with regard to what the Prime Minister said about Syria
and my trip there today, I went there because I was convinced we needed
to add new energy to the talks. And I come away from Syria convinced
that we have -- that some significant progress has been at least made
possible, and that there has been some change in positions that offer
the hope of more progress. And I have instructed the Secretary of State
to return to the region within a few weeks to continue. Meanwhile,
other discussions continue at other levels. And I am confident that we
can be successful by simply pushing ahead.
So on all these fronts, I feel better tonight than I did when I
came here. And again, I thank the Prime Minister for this welcome and
for the opportunity to address the Knesset.
Q Mr. President and Prime Minister Rabin, you are talking about
significant developments coming from Damascus. From what we heard
publicly until now, your visit to Damascus seems a disappointment for
the Israelis. I mean, you gave the Syrians maybe one of the biggest
gestures America has -- a presidential visit of the President of the
United States. And President Assad responded publicly in his general
words of peace which we heard in the past. So what else is new, Mr.
President? And Mr. Rabin, what did you hear maybe privately from the
President about this visit?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, I would like to make three points, if
I might. First of all, I don't think it's accurate to say that he had
ever said to me and to the rest of the world and to the people of Israel
that he wanted to make peace with Israel and wanted to have normal,
peaceful, constructive relations with Israel.
Secondly, he made some statements in our private conversations
about the details of this process which I would be wrong to discuss
because the essence of these negotiations is that they can proceed in
some confidence. But they did show some forward movement in ways that I
believe are not insignificant.
Thirdly, there's one thing I do regret about the press
conference today. I regret that President Assad did not take the
opportunity to say in public what he said to me in private about his
deep regret about the loss of innocent lives, and particularly, the bus
bombing. He said to me, "You know, we have to end the killing of
innocents wherever it occurs, whether it was on the bus or in Hebron. I
deplore it all." And I am convinced that only by making peace can we
end it. And when we do make peace, it will end. That is what he said
I think the way the question was posed to him, I think, led him
to give an answer which may have been somewhat misleading -- not
intentionally, but because he did not say that. I also want to reaffirm
that there was absolutely no discussion in our private meeting, as he
said, about the question of the United States removing Syria from the
terrorist list. He did not ask for that; he did not bring it up. And I
certainly did not bring it up. There has been no mixing of those two
So I think that his statement did break some new ground. I know
that his private conversations broke some new ground. And I was
particularly encouraged by what he said in private to me about the
killing of innocent people. I regret that that was not said in public,
but I can tell you that it was said in private. And what I said in the
press conference is now, as I understand it, even being rebroadcast on a
regular basis in Syria tonight to reaffirm that that is, in fact, what
PRIME MINISTER RABIN: I am accustomed to the prolonged and
sometimes difficult period of negotiations. If one would have told us
two years ago that we'd make a strategic understanding with Chairman
Arafat and the PLO, people would not believe.
In the process towards peace, we have to overcome on both sides
certain perceptions; certain, sometimes, prejudices -- one about
another. Therefore, I believe that all the partners to the Madrid Peace
Conference -- and by now remain the Palestinians with which we reached
and agreement in principles -- Syria and Lebanon would like to have
I don't know any one of the partners who don't want to have
peace. The only question is, what is the meaning of peace? What is the
price of peace? It takes time to overcome differences. And whatever I
had, this first: that Syria strategically decided for peace. Second,
they are ready to continue the negotiations not in the best way to my
opinion, but as long as there is any avenue of negotiations, we should
follow it. Thirdly, I don't believe it will be right on the part of
Israel, regardless what was said or didn't say on the press conference
today in Damascus, which I would like that he would say different
things, but it doesn't discourage me to continue our negotiations.
And this is the essence of the peacemaking process -- be
patient, to be determined, and not to be misled by ups and downs of
public statements. Therefore, we will continue the way that it will be
possible in negotiations with Syria. I am aware that there are gaps
between our positions. But I can't recall any negotiations in the past
that there were no gaps. And whenever we succeeded to reach an
agreement came about as a result of the capability to make the
compromise that breached the gap.
Q: Mr. Prime Minister, if you'll forgive us, we're going to
keep pressing still. The President is speaking of change in positions;
you're speaking in change of perception. We have the issues tattoed on
our forehead. The issues have been here for three years. We know there
are major gaps. Are you talking about new atmospherics three years
after Madrid, or have you been told something about Syria's position on
Golan, on security, on the terms of peace? Have you heard sufficiently
for you to reverse your election stand and surrender the Golan Heights?
PRIME MINISTER RABIN: Well, first, I believe that whoever sees
what has taken place in the last over three years, he cannot ignore the
tremendous change as a result of the Declaration of Principles between
the PLO and us; the signing of the peace treaty; the openness in the
Arab world that a foreign minister of Israel can fly to Bahrain; that
multilateral negotiations can be taking place in Amman and Qatar and who
knows where else; that the decision of the six members of the Gulf
Community Council about ignoring, not considering the Arab boycott.
There is a trend, a move that no doubt will have its implications in
other Arab countries -- I hope in the short run, or in the long run --
even on the issues that have not yet been solved between Syria and
I believe that the mere fact that there is a continuation of
negotiations with all the partners, it creates new realities in the
region. From Moroc tomorrow our mission headed by the Foreign Minister
will go to the Casablanca meeting. When did you expect that such a
meeting would take place in an Arab country? We have to see beyond
technical or certain important issues between us and one of our
partners, the changes that have taken place in the whole region; in the
attitude -- a change of attitude. This is what realities speak about.
And therefore, don't ask me today about details of this part or
that part of the negotiations. The fact that we are moving
Palestinians, yesterday Jordan; openness in the Arab world; different
kinds of relations -- Maroc, Tunisia, and I believe there will be other
This is the importance. You don't have to look at the limited
point of view. You have to look at the other changes in the region,
other changes in the attitude of so many Arab countries towards
relations to Israel, or not -- this is the issue.
And it will continue. And we will continue regardless to the
terrible atrocities of the Islamic radical terror groups against us. I
believe you will see more changes and more in the right direction.
Q: Mr. President, the restoration of Israel's exact fulfillment
of over 300 Bible prophecies proves the Bible is God's true word.
Genesis 17:8 says God gave Israel "all the land of Canaan for an
everlasting possession." And Leviticus 25:23 forbids her to ever sell
it. How can it produce real peace to induce Israel to defy God by
selling Judea and Samaria for Arafat's or Assad's paper promises of
PRIME MINISTER: You ask the President of the United States the
question? He is not representing Israel, to the best of my knowledge.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: That was the answer I was going to give.
The people of Israel, through their elected leaders, will decide
what they are required to do for their own existence, their own
security, their own future, and for their patience and peace with God.
Q: Mr. Prime Minister, in the agreements you signed with some
of your Arab nation neighbors, the issue of Jerusalem remained
unresolved -- the whole status of East Jerusalem. And that's also true
at the U.N. and in most of the world, it's unresolved. Why did you
assert such absolute control? Were you trying to put President Clinton
on the spot tonight?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: You mean in his speech to the Knesset?
PRIME MINISTER RABIN: First, we are independent states. And we
have our positions and the United States has got its positions. I can
speak only on the Israeli position. We believe that Jerusalem must
remain united under Israel's sovereignty. But we did not reject that
the Palestinians, once we negotiate permanent solution, will raise the
issue. We know their position; they know ours.
I believe that in the long run, the Jerusalem problem should be
solved on two levels -- the political one -- that is to say, what will
be the sovereignty over the united Jerusalem, which we have no doubt
that it must be Israeli sovereignty; and the question of the holiness of
Jerusalem to the other two religions. And you'll see a sign in the
Washington Declaration, in the peace treaty that we signed between
Jordan and Israel, that we distinguished between the holy shrines to the
Muslims that in the last 27 years we allowed free access, free practice.
But even beyond that, the administration of the holy shrines to
the Muslim -- is done by the respective churches. We don't intervene.
In that way that they run something within the holy shrines that derived
from their own religion as long as it doesn't affect the security of the
area. It works for 27 years. And I believe we have in the Hebrew an
expression "Jerusalem dele maala, Jerusalem shell matta" -- "Jerusalem
in the heavens, and Jerusalem on the ground."
I believe this is the key to the real solution in the long run
of Jerusalem. But we are committed if they want to raise this issue.
We know our position when we negotiate the permanent status between us
and the Palestinians. We negotiate the solution to the refugee
problems, a much wider scope, not only with one partner, on a regional
basis. Therefore, from my point it's very clear.
Q: Mr. Prime Minister, I should like to take this opportunity
to ask you a question in Hebrew. President Clinton and the Secretary of
State have spoken about progress in Damascus. Following your meeting
with President Clinton, do you share their estimation that, indeed,
there is progress towards peace? And, if so, in what areas?
PRIME MINISTER RABIN: To begin with, I heard from President
Clinton about his meeting with President Assad. His impression, whereby
on certain subjects there has been some progress, is relevant. We must
bear in mind that we are now negotiating with the Syrians. In fact,
this has been going on for three years; ever since the Madrid
Convention. And we are advancing in tiny steps, inch by inch.
In the talks between us we reached an agreement whereby
Secretary of State Christopher, in a period of three or four weeks,
would examine the progress being made in order to implement, or to put
into practice what we hope will be done. In other words, we are
interested in reaching peace with Syria. We do want a peace treaty with
Syria. In principle, we have agreed to a withdrawal. There is no
agreement between us and Syria as to the final borders of peace, and
there are other areas which have not yet been resolved.
President Clinton did not tell me that there was a historic
breakthrough. He said that there was some progress on certain areas.
Therefore, we must pursue these efforts. We must continue along the
road on which the negotiations have been taking place so far. In other
words, Secretary of State Christopher will continue shuffling between
Damascus and Jerusalem. And indeed, we have agreed that this will be
taking place within three or four weeks from today, if I'm not mistaken.
Q: -- have another day yet before the trip is over and I know
I'm getting you while you're somewhat tired. But even so, I'd like to
ask you if you could to reflect a little bit, since this is the last
press conference before you go home. If you could tell us a little bit
about what have you learned on the trip the last couple of days. What
will you take home with you that's different from what you came here
with? And what do you feel has changed for yourself from the
experiences that you've had in the last however many hours it's been?
MR. PRESIDENT: Well, this has been my first opportunity to see
first-hand the potential for a new Middle East, the real potential for
peace and the yearning that I see everywhere.
In Damascus today, when I was riding along the road, and people
would stop their working, and children would crowd around their
buildings; their play-yards, and wave a greeting, they did it because
they see the United States as the instrument of peace to bring these two
nations together, or at least to make it possible for them to come
together. These are all things that you know, but until you see it,
it's a very different thing, indeed.
I also come away from this trip profoundly grateful to the
leaders of Israel and Jordan for setting an example that I think will
give confidence and conscience to the efforts that others will make now
to resolve the problems in the Middle East.
I also came away, frankly, with a much clearer idea of what
things the United States can do and, indeed, what we must try to do to
help make peace successful from a security point of view and from an
economic point of view.
So all these things I leave with. But the most important thing
is the deep yearning for this to work. I saw it in the energy in the
Knesset tonight. We saw it in the energy and the passion in the
Jordanian Parliament last night. And I have seen it on the streets of
every place I have been in the eyes of the people. I think we are on
the right historic mission and we need to redouble our efforts until we
PRIME MINISTER RABIN: May I, Mr. President? In the last 15
years, the President of the United States did help and attended signing
of the peace treaty between an Arab country and Israel.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 11:16 p.m. (L)