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Signing Ceremony of the U.S.-Israel Memorandum of Understanding with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
January 16, 2009

MR. MARTINEZ: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Raymond Martinez. I am the U.S. Deputy Chief of Protocol.

The United States Secretary of State, the Honorable Condoleezza Rice, and her Excellency, the Foreign Minister of Israel Tzipi Livni, are here today signing a Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Israel regarding the prevention of supply of arms and related material to terrorist groups.

Please welcome the Secretary of State.

SECRETARY RICE: Welcome, Tzipi.

FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: I’m very glad to be here this morning to sign this Memorandum of Understanding with Israel, and with the Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister at my side.

We have worked together over the last years with a common commitment to bringing peace and security to Israel and its citizens, and to Israel’s Palestinian neighbors. I know how important it is to her and to the Israeli Government to see that Israel and all of its citizens achieve the security and peace that they so deserve. It is for this reason that the United States has been working so hard to bring an end to rocket attacks and threats directed against Israel from Gaza, and to stabilize and normalize life for both Israelis and Palestinians.

The current crisis in Gaza was instigated by Hamas, a terrorist group that has called for the destruction of Israel, and refused to extend the calm, and still holds Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier, who was captured.

The Israelis cannot be expected to live under daily threats, nor should Gazans be put at risk by Hamas’s reckless targeting of Israel or endure the brutality of life under Hamas. Hamas has presided over the degradation of safety and well-being of innocent Palestinians since it seized power in a violent coup against the legitimate Palestinian Authority 18 months ago.

We’ve said repeatedly that the continued supply of armaments to Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza, including by some in the region, is a direct cause of the current hostilities. It is, therefore, incumbent upon on us in the international community to prevent the rearmament of Hamas so that a ceasefire will be durable and fully respected. There must be an international consensus that Gaza can never again be used as a launching pad against Israeli cities.

This Memorandum of Understanding that we will sign today responds to that need. It provides a series of steps that the United States and Israel will take to stem the flow of weapons and explosives into Gaza. The United States is reaching out to its partners, as well. And together, the steps that we and other members of the international community can take will contribute to a durable ceasefire.

The United States remains deeply concerned, too, about the innocent Palestinians who are suffering in Gaza. A sustainable end to hostilities, rather than one that collapses in a few days or weeks, is crucial to ending the suffering. In the meantime, we are doing all that we can to respond to the humanitarian needs of the population of Gaza.

And Foreign Minister Livni and I have talked about the need to be responsive to the humanitarian organizations that are working there, including the United Nations and the International Committee for the Red Cross, as well as nongovernmental organizations with which we are working through USAID to relieve the suffering of innocent people there.

When this is done, we must all turn again back to the goals of UN Security Council Resolution 1850. That resolution noted that lasting peace can only be based on an enduring commitment to mutual recognition, freedom from violence, incitement, and terror, and the two-state solution, building upon previous agreements and obligations. The United States remains firmly committed to Israel’s security, to continued bilateral negotiations through the Annapolis process, toward a two-state solution, which is the only way, ultimately, to secure a future for Israelis and Palestinians alike over the last term -- long term. The sooner that these hostilities can be brought to an end, the sooner the real work of forging a permanent peace can resume.

President Bush and I have very much enjoyed and valued our work with you, Tzipi, and with the people of Israel, with Prime Minister Olmert, with Defense Minister Barak, and with others. Israel and the United States will and always will – are and always will remain friends. We share values and we share a common desire to see a Middle East that lives in peace and in freedom.

And so, I welcome you here today in these difficult circumstances, but I know that you, in your personal commitment to a better life for the people of Israel and for the people of the Middle East, as well as for the people of the world, will continue your endeavors well beyond this day. Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: Thank you. Okay, thank you.

Israel is fighting today against the Hamas terrorist organization that has taken Gaza hostage and continues to target the citizens of Israel. We are fighting Hamas that continues to hold Gilad Shalit and even denies him ICRC access.

I’ve said from the outset that ending the fighting in Gaza will not be achieved by agreements with terror, but with effective arrangements against it. This is what we are doing today. I’ve said from the outset that an end to the fighting will come – will not come through a simple call for a ceasefire, but through a determined, united and effective effort by the international community against terror groups such as Hamas, and this is what we are doing today.

Israel left Gaza Strip years ago. When we left, Hamas claimed that terror made us leave. But the truth is that it was the hopeful peace that made us leave Gaza, and terror that forced us, and forced our soldiers, to come and fight in Gaza today.

After years of restraint, Israel has shown that it will no longer tolerate attacks on our citizens, and that there will be high price for terror from Gaza against our citizens. We have also made clear, as have many international leaders, including President Bush and Secretary Rice, that for a cessation of hostilities to be durable, there must be an end to the smuggling of weapon into Gaza. That is why the MOU we sign today is so important as a vital component for the cessation of hostility.

It is true that even after the fighting ends, we reserve our right to act to defend ourselves against those activities in Gaza, including weapons smuggling and buildup of military capabilities. But this can be prevented by actions of the international community, according to this MOU. In this MOU, we have agreed on a series of actions with regional and international players in order to complement Egyptian actions and end the flow of weapon to Gaza.

I will not repeat the list of measures, but these are specific steps to end the flow of weapons along the supply routes by working with NATO and regional states, and by enhancing the effectiveness of measures against Iran, the main supplier of these weapons.

As I’ve said many times, our commitment to peace and the solution of two-states with two peoples requires not only genuine negotiations with our pragmatic partners, the legitimate Palestinian Government, as was decided in Annapolis; but also determined action against terrorists and enemies of peace.

It is this dual strategy that we are pursuing. And I believe that it is this strategy that will lead us to a more secure and peaceful future. I believe that this MOU, together with parallel understanding with Egypt and an end to attacks from Gaza, can create the basis for Israeli decisions on the future of the operation.

I would like to thank Secretary Rice and the entire Administration for their efforts to conclude this important, and, I think, historical MOU in record time. And I think that this MOU shows, once again, not only the strong strategic partnership between Israel and the U.S., but also the principled and determined stand of the United States against terror as the leader of the free world. We value this leadership under President Bush, and we are confident that it will continue under the new U.S. administration of President-elect Obama.

On a personal note, I would like to thank my friend and colleague, Condi Rice, not just for her efforts on this MOU, but for leadership, support, and friendship over the last years. Important work has been done over the last years to lay the foundation for a secure and stable Middle East, for the benefit of the people of Israel and the region as a whole. There are many challenges ahead, but I want to thank my friend Condi for her important contribution on our shared goals and shared values. And it is about values that we are talking about, determination to act according to your values. I know that you care. I know that in each and every decision that make, you were working according to your values and an understanding that we need to work together in order to create a better world.

Thank you.

(The Memorandum of Understanding was signed.)

2009/061


Released on January 16, 2009

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