Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 13, 1998


Ben Gurion International Airport Tel Aviv, Israel

12:00 A.M. (L)

PRESIDENT WEIZMAN: Mr. President, on behalf of the people of Israel I wish to welcome you, Mr. President, Mrs. Clinton and Ms. Clinton: Bruchim Ha'baim.

This is your fourth visit to Israel as President of the United States of America. This proves the depth and the quality of the relations between Israel and the United States, as well as the concern and the involvement of the American people and its government in the security and welfare of the people of Israel. It also proves, Mr. President, your personal interest in the progress of the peace process. This became even more clear recently through your persevering efforts and those of the parties to the Wye agreement, which eventually led to Israel's signing.

Mr. President, the hour now is late, but it is the hour of truth. It is important for me to emphasize to you my decisive opinion, which also represents the aim for peace of the people of Israel. For 30 years, I fought in the wars of Israel. And for the past 20 years, I've been fighting for peace. The State of Israel in its jubilee year can claim outstanding achievements. However, the words of the prophet, "and they shall beat the swords into plowshares and the spears into pruning hooks" have not yet been fulfilled.

During your visit you will be able to ascertain that the people of Israel yearn for peace and security. Touring the country you will witness their eagerness for peace. We have gone a long way in the peace process, but there are still difficulties to be overcome. However, I believe that we will succeed in reaching a peaceful assessment because, in the words of one of our popular songs, we cannot stop in the middle of this melody.

Mr. President, we are very happy to have you with us and welcome you with open arms and with best wishes for the success in your undertaking. Welcome, Mr. President, Mrs. Clinton and Ms. Clinton.

Thank you. (Applause.)

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Mr. President, Sara and I want to welcome you, Hillary and Chelsea, as well as the Secretary of State with your entire delegation, to your visit to the State of Israel. It is an honor and a pleasure for all of us to host you in our country. And that this is your fourth visit to Israel is testament to your personal friendship and also for the warm feelings that the people of Israel share in return.

Your visit is also an affirmation of the special relationship between our two countries. I think it's a relationship with few equals in the history of nations. This was true in the first days of the State when the U.S. was the first power to recognize Israel. And it is very much true today, when your administration has undertaken to bolster security cooperation between our countries against new kinds of threats in our region and in our world. Our cooperation has been vital for Israel's pursuit of peace. Only an Israel certain of its security and certain of its strength can impress its neighbors with the futility of war and with the need for peace.

Mr. President, I don't believe I have to stress yet again that all the people of Israel want peace. The first great exponents of peace were the Hebrew prophets who lived and preached in our eternal capital, Jerusalem, and in many of the places that you will visit in the next three days. And this yearning for peace has been reflected in our Jewish tradition for centuries, and 50 years ago in our Declaration of Independence, which offered the hand of peace to all our neighbors.

That offer is extended very much today as well. We extend our hand to the Syrians and the Lebanese to revive the process that would bring an end to conflict. And we extend our hand to our Palestinian neighbors to complete a genuine peace with us. We are willing to carry out the agreements we have signed, but we must insist and ensure that the Palestinians carry out their part, as well. For if this century has taught us anything it is that peace agreements in themselves do not necessarily bring about peace. Sometimes the exact opposite can happen.

You, yourself, Mr. President, have wisely said that agreements without compliance are worthless. And this is a fundamental truth. Agreements not anchored in security, agreements which only serve to conceal belligerent aims, agreements brazenly flouted and violated with violence inevitably lead not to peace but to the continuation and intensification of conflict. And what we must ensure is a peace with full compliance, a peace which will endure for decades and not for the next newscast. It must enable Israelis and Palestinians to live in tranquility and security without the constant threat of new eruptions of violence. We must, therefore, seek compliance without letup. This means that our partners must honor the agreements with deeds and not only with promises that all too often prove empty; with implementation, not with signatures.

This also means that our partners must totally and permanently discard incitement, violence and terrorism. Above all, our partners must realize that genuine peace can only be achieved through negotiations, not through unilateral attempts to decide issues which can only be settled by mutual consent. Only by negotiating the issues at hand for as long as it takes to achieve agreement and by full consent to abide by the outcome of the negotiations can we get the kind of peace that we all want.

It must be honestly said, Mr. President, that in the last few weeks our partners have not kept these commitments and have reverted to past practices. It is my hope that a way will be found to get the Palestinians to permanently and swiftly comply with their commitments and thereby re-inject hope into our quest for peace.

With your permission, Mr. President, I would like to say a few sentences in Hebrew to the people of Israel.

(Translation to be provided.)

Mr. President, your visit here can contribute materially to the great change that is required to put peace back on track. We wish you with all our heart, as we wish ourselves, success in this vital effort to bring about a real peace, a genuine peace, a durable one -- the kind of peace our great prophets envisioned and for which the people of Israel have been yearning for so many years. Welcome, Mr. President and Mrs. Clinton, to Israel. (Applause.)

PRESIDENT CLINTON: President and Mrs. Weizman, Prime Minister and Mrs. Netanyahu, first of all, on behalf of my family and our entire delegation, I would like to thank you for coming out here at this very late hour to welcome us. Hillary and Chelsea and I and all the Americans have been looking forward to this trip. I am delighted to be back in Israel.

As President Weizman said, this is the fourth time I have come here as President to reaffirm America's unbreakable ties to Israel, to reaffirm our unshakable commitment to Israel's security; and this time to fulfill the pledge I made at the Wye talks to speak with the people of Israel and the Palestinians about the benefits of peace and to stand by you as you take risks for a just, lasting and secure peace. The United States will walk this road with Israel every step of the way.

Peacemaking has opened historic opportunities to Israel, but each step forward has been tempered with pain and understandable feelings of ambivalence when questions arise as to whether agreements are being implemented fully.

We share the conviction that without security the peace process always will be clouded for the vast majority of Israelis who seek only to live normal lives as a free people in their own country, and we are determined that Israel's just requirements for security be met. At the same time, we believe that for two peoples who are fated to share this land peace is not simply an option among many, but the only choice that can avert still more years of bloodshed, apprehension and sorrow.

That is why I am here. In the past few weeks, the people of Israel, through their government and Knesset have endorsed the Wye River agreement, recognizing the promise it holds for putting the peace process on track and creating a positive environment for dealing with the complex and difficult final status talks.

I want to, again, but for the first time in Israel, pay tribute to the Prime Minister and the representatives of his government for those long, arduous, difficult talks at Wye, often accompanied with sleepless nights. I believe it was the right thing to do. I believed it then. I believe it now.

But both sides now must face the challenge of implementing Wye. I will discuss that with the Prime Minster and his colleagues tomorrow and later in my meeting with Chairman Arafat. Then on Tuesday our family will have the chance to go to Bethlehem and Masada to explore more of this magnificent country and its sacred heritage.

Again, I thank you for welcoming us. I thank you for the struggles you have waged for freedom and for security. I thank you for the efforts you now make for peace. It is good to be back.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

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