Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 19, 1998


The South Grounds

1:28 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: I want to begin by saying how much I deplore the grenade attack earlier today on a bus station in Beersheba, Israel. No cause, no grievance justifies terror. This is another attempt to murder, plain and simple.

Now, I am convinced that reaching a secure, just, and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians is the best way to ensure that terrorism has no future in the Middle East. I'm now returning to the Middle East peace talks to encourage the Israelis and the Palestinians to make the hard decisions necessary to move this peace process forward.

As I said when we launched the talks last week, the United States will do everything we can to help, but ultimately, only the parties themselves can bridge their differences and put their people on a more hopeful course. The issues are difficult. The distrust is deep. The going has been tough. But the parties must consider the consequences of failure, and also the benefits of progress.

Finally, let me say just a few words about the flash flooding that has wreaked havoc in southeast Texas. Reportedly, 18 people have lost their lives; 5,000 evacuated from their homes; 1,200 in refuge in emergency shelters. The storms themselves have not yet abated. We offer our thoughts, our prayers, our resolve to help to those who have lost family members, those who have been uprooted.

A short while ago, I spoke to our FEMA Director, James Lee Witt. He is already working with the Texas officials to assess the damage, and the budget I am about to sign contains nearly $1 billion in additional resources to FEMA so that this vital agency will be even stronger as it works to address this and future disasters. For now, the nation stands ready to assist the people of Texas in their time of need.

Q Mr. President, will the Wye talks cancel your trip to California tomorrow in order to be available to continue the Middle East negotiations?

Q Can they still succeed at Wye?

THE PRESIDENT: I'm going back today to work on this. As you know, I got home at 3:00 a.m. last night. We're working hard through it. This incident in Israel is certainly a complicating factor. I have been briefed on the progress of events this morning, and we're going to work as hard as we can today and we'll have more to say about it as events unfold.

Thank you.

Q How long will you ask the parties to remain, sir? Is today the deadline?

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