Press Release
Contact Information: Hussein Ibish
April 15, 2010 - 12:00am

In remarks delivered at the Daniel S. Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton strongly restated US support for “two tracks in the Middle East - negotiations between the parties aimed at reaching a two-state solution and also institution building that lays the necessary foundations for a future state.” She emphasized that "the only people who benefit from continued conflict are those who traffic in hate and violence, who exploit and inflame old enmities to advance their own goals at the expense of real progress for the region. It gives strength to Iran’s anti-Semitic President and extremists like Hamas and Hizbollah.”

Below are Secretary Clinton’s full remarks:

APRIL 15, 2010

It is a great pleasure to be here tonight with so many old friends to formally dedicate the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace and congratulate your new president, Robert Wexler. For seven terms in the House of Representatives, Robert was a passionate voice on behalf of Israel’s security and the imperative of achieving a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. And I know he will bring the same commitment and leadership to this new role.

He will have the best partner possible in Danny Abraham. Danny has worked for decades to build trust and momentum for peace in the region and, along with his great friend, the late Congressman Wayne Owens, has conducted enough shuttle diplomacy to exhaust several Secretaries of State. He has become, and remains, a confidante of leaders from across the spectrum. Like so many in Washington, Jerusalem, Cairo, and Damascus, I have been fortunate to call Danny my friend – and to benefit from his experience and wisdom.

The Center for Middle East Peace is a testament to his commitment to this cause. Its mission, and Danny’s vision of a comprehensive peace in the region, have never been more important.

The United States has long recognized that a strong, secure, and successful Israel is vital to our own strategic interests. Our countries and our peoples are bound together by our shared values of freedom, equality, democracy, the right to live free from fear, and our common aspirations for a future of peace, security, and prosperity.

This week we are commemorating the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps. With every passing year, fewer survivors and liberators are still with us, but their stories remain as powerful and important as ever. Each one is a reminder of why a secure homeland for the Jewish people is not an abstraction, not a wish, but a necessity. Next week we will celebrate Israel’s Independence Day and renew our commitment to ensure that homeland will always remain secure, free and flourishing.

For President Obama, whose grandfather marched in Patton’s Army and great-uncle helped liberate Buchenwald, for me, and for this entire Administration, that commitment is rock solid and unwavering. And from our first day in office, we have made the pursuit of a comprehensive peace a top priority because we are convinced that Israel’s long-term future as a secure and democratic Jewish state depends on it.

The lack of peace between Israel and the Palestinians threatens that future, holds back the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people, and destabilizes the region.

An Ideological Struggle for the Future of the Middle East

Last month at AIPAC’s national conference, I spoke about the challenge that this poses to Israel and its future. Tonight I want to focus on how it strengthens those in the region most hostile to peace, weakens those most open to compromise and coexistence, and diverts public opinion that might otherwise create pressure for needed reform, and why it is in the interest of Israel, her neighbors, the international community, and the Palestinians themselves to support the efforts by President Abbas, Prime Minister Fayyad and the Palestinian Authority to reach a negotiated peace with Israel and build the institutions that will be the foundations of a future Palestinian state.

The only people who benefit from continued conflict are those who traffic in hate and violence, who exploit and inflame old enmities to advance their own goals at the expense of real progress for the region. It gives strength to Iran’s anti-Semitic President and extremists like Hamas and Hizbollah.

At the same time, every step back from the peace table and every flare-up in violence undermines the positive players across the region who seek to turn the page and focus on building a more hopeful and prosperous Middle East. It undercuts the reformers attempting to develop functioning institutions and accountable governments, the entrepreneurs and economists trying to foster broad-based growth, and the civil society organizers and activists working for common ground and mutual understanding.

All of us have a stake in the outcome of this struggle between the builders and the destroyers. The goal of a comprehensive peace – and all of the benefits that would bring -- hangs in the balance. Because peace and progress must be driven from both above and below. They require leaders willing to take risks, populations that demand results, and institutions that can deliver tangible benefits for people’s lives. That is why the United States supports two tracks in the Middle East – negotiations between the parties aimed at reaching a two-state solution and also institution building that lays the necessary foundation for a future state. But none of these efforts will be successful if the extremists win the argument.

Hamas vs. the Palestinian Authority

This struggle plays out starkly among the Palestinians themselves.

For nearly 20 years, Fatah and Hamas have vied for the right to chart the future of the Palestinian people. Today they articulate opposing arguments for how best to realize Palestinians aspirations. To those disillusioned by a peace process that has delivered too little, Hamas peddles the false hope that a Palestinian state can somehow be achieved through violence and uncompromising resistance. Across the divide, President Abbas. Prime Minister Fayyad and the Palestinian Authority argue for the two-track approach of a political settlement and institution building.

Hamas claims any failure of the peace process as vindication of their rejectionist view. The PA has a harder job: to convince a skeptical people that peace is not just possible, but the surest route to bettering their lives and achieving their aspirations.

The results of these competing approaches can be seen every day in Palestinian streets and neighborhoods, sharpening the choice that confronts the Palestinian people and answering those who suggest there is little difference between the two.

In Gaza, Hamas presides over a crumbling enclave of terror and despair. It stockpiles rockets intended for Israeli cities while the people of Gaza fall deeper into poverty.

Unemployment runs as high as 38 percent – and even higher among young people -- yet Hamas impedes international assistance and the work of humanitarian NGOs, and does little to promote sustainable economic growth. Hamas has revealed itself uninterested in development, institution-building, or progress.

Hamas claims to seek peace, prosperity, and a state for its people, but it refuses to take the necessary first steps: renunciation of violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements. These are the building blocks for a viable, independent, and contiguous Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel – and we urge Hamas to embrace them. I will also repeat today what I have said many times before: Gilad Shalit must be released immediately and returned to his family.

Unfortunately, Hamas appears set on continued conflict with Israel with little regard for what that will mean for the Palestinian people. Only by exploiting the frustration and hostility created by the conflict can Hamas hope to distract its people from its failure to govern.

President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad have produced very different results.

The PLO has emerged as a credible partner for peace. It has rejected violence, improved security, made progress on combating incitement, and accepted Israel’s right to exist.

The Palestinian Authority’s two-year plan envisions a state that is based on pluralism, equality, religious tolerance, and the rule of law, created through a negotiated settlement with Israel, and capable of meeting the needs of its citizens and supporting a lasting peace with Israel. And under the leadership of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad, the PA is addressing a history of corruption and building transparent and accountable institutions that can provide the necessary foundation for that future state. The United States has partnered with the PA to improve the effectiveness of its security forces. Reforms have increased public confidence in the courts -- last year they handled 67 percent more cases than in 2008. The PA is building schools and hospitals and training teachers and medical staff, and even developing a national health insurance program.

Sound fiscal policies, support from the international community – including hundreds of millions of dollars this year alone from the United States – and improving security and rule of law have led to significant economic growth. More and more Palestinians in the West Bank are finding jobs, starting businesses, and lifting themselves and their families out of poverty and the economic stagnation that resulted from the Intifada. The number of new business licenses issued in the West Bank in the fourth quarter of 2009 was 50 percent higher than the same period in 2008. And three new venture capital funds are set to launch this spring with the support of American, Arab, and European investors.

Considerable work remains. The PA must redouble its efforts to put an end to incitement and violence, crack down on corruption, and ingrain a culture of peace and tolerance among Palestinians. The leadership should refrain from using international organizations, particularly the United Nations, as platforms for inflammatory rhetoric. And we strongly encourage President Abbas and his government to join negotiations with Israel. Israelis must see, too, that pursuing the path of progress and diplomacy can and will lead to peace and security. But there is no doubt that, so far, the progress we are seeing in the West Bank is positive and encouraging.

Last year I visited a classroom in Ramallah where Palestinian students were learning English through a U.S.-sponsored program that has taught thousands of Palestinian young people. They were studying Women’s History Month and Sally Ride, the first woman astronaut and a personal hero of mine. The students, especially the girls, were captivated by her story. When asked for a single word to describe Sally and her accomplishment, one student responded: “hopeful.”

Today hope is stirring in the West Bank because of strong leadership and hard work. People are seeing a difference in their daily lives. And parents can imagine a future for their children that holds more than conflict and humiliation.

But this progress is tenuous. Without increased support from the international community, including from the Arab states, without larger, steadier, and more predictable financial support, the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to build institutions and spur growth will run out of steam. If the PA cannot overcome corruption and smuggling, development will fall short. And if it fails to control violence, the progress will slow to a halt.

Sustaining and extending positive development also requires Israel to be a responsible partner. The Netanyahu Government has lifted roadblocks and eased movement throughout the West Bank. These are encouraging moves that will improve quality of life, but Israel can and should do more to support the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to build credible institutions and deliver results to their people. Both sides would benefit from a real partnership that fosters long-term growth and opportunity.

Ultimately the fate of these efforts hinges on the peace process. In contrast to Hamas, the Palestinian Authority has staked its credibility on a path of peaceful coexistence. Even more than economic opportunities, Palestinians yearn for a state to call their own, for the dignity that all people deserve, and the right to chart their own destiny. If Mahmoud Abbas cannot deliver on these aspirations, his support will fade and Palestinians will turn to alternatives – including Hamas. And that way leads only to more conflict.

Vindicating the Path of Peace

For Israel, that means accepting that concrete steps toward peace – both through the peace process and in the bottom-up institutions building I have described – are the best weapons against Hamas and other extremists. Prime Minister Netanyahu has embraced the vision of the two-state solution. But easing up on access and movement in the West Bank, in response to credible Palestinian security performance, is not sufficient to prove to the Palestinians that this embrace is sincere. We encourage Israel to continue building momentum toward a comprehensive peace by demonstrating respect for the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians, stopping settlement activity, and addressing the humanitarian needs in Gaza. And it should refrain from unilateral statements and actions, including in East Jerusalem, that could undermine trust or risk prejudicing the outcome of talks.

Israel has worked hard in recent years to improve security, and, along with the increased capacity and commitment of Palestinian security forces, the number of suicide bombings has – thankfully – dropped significantly. As a result, however, some have come to believe that Israelis, protected by walls and buoyed by a dynamic economy, can avoid the hard choices that peace requires.

But that would mean continuing an impasse that carries tragic human costs, denies Palestinians their legitimate aspirations, and threatens Israel’s long term future as a secure and democratic Jewish state. Israelis and Palestinians alike must confront the reality that the status quo has not produced long-term security or served their interests, and accept their share of responsibility for reaching a comprehensive peace that will benefit both sides.

So too must the Arab states, who worry about the destabilizing impact of extremists like Hamas but don’t do enough to bolster the efforts of the Palestinian Authority. It is in their interest to advance the Arab Peace Initiative with action, not just rhetoric, and make it easier for the Palestinians to pursue negotiations and achieve an agreement. If the Arab Peace Initiative is indeed the genuine offer it appears to be, we should not face threats by certain Arab states that it will be "taken off the table" each time there is a setback. We look forward to a deeper conversation about implementing the Initiative and the concrete results it would bring to the people of the region. And we are encouraged by the work of a number of NGO’s and civil society groups, including some who are represented here, to articulate a more complete vision of the benefits of peace.

For our part, the United States understands the need to support the reforms of the Palestinian Authority and continue efforts to restart substantive negotiations. We know that we cannot force a solution. The parties themselves must resolve their differences. But, we believe that through good-faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree to an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the ‘67 lines, with agreed swaps, and Israel’s goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israel’s security requirements.

This path is not easy. It will require all parties, including Israel, to make difficult but necessary choices. And it will take bold leadership. We have seen it before – old adversaries like Sadat and Begin extending the hand of peace because they knew it would make their people stronger – and it is called for once again today.

Reflecting on one of his many conversations with Egyptian President Mubarak, Danny Abraham observed that, “There is no question that… many of the leading figures in the Arab world know what benefits a full peace with Israel will bring to their countries, but they also know that in the prevailing political climate it is dangerous to state such a truth.”

Changing that climate will require mobilizing a broad constituency for peace that can provide a political counterweight to the forces of division and destruction. There is an ever-more pressing imperative to make the case for peace clearly and publicly. And the most compelling arguments will be the results people – Israelis, Palestinians, all the people of the region – see in their daily lives.

In Leah Rabin’s book, she writes about the thoughts that preoccupied her husband during his last day. He wondered how deep support for peace ran among his people. In the quiet moments around their kitchen tables or in coffee shops and busy markets, did they believe in peace? Because Rabin understood that agreements between leaders are the beginning, not the end. Whether peace takes hold depends upon it becoming a habit of the heart. In order for it to be real, people have to learn to live and work and go to school together. Peace must grow in our homes and in our communities. It must to be nurtured between and among human beings, and then passed on to our children.

Today, as Danny Abraham likes to say, peace is possible in the Middle East. The way forward is clear. All it requires is the political will – from the leaders, the people, and the partners – to choose peace, and to turn the promise of a safer, more secure, and more stable future into reality.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017