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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > What the Secretary Has Been Saying > 2005 Secretary Rice's Remarks > November 2005: Secretary Rice's Remarks

Remarks at the Saban Forum Closing Session

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
November 13, 2005

Secretary Rice addresses the closing dinner of the Saban Forum in Jerusalem. State Department photo.SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Well, first of all, thank you, Haim, for that generous introduction and thank you to you and to Cheryl for what you do through this organization and through this forum to support and promote Israeli-American dialogue. I'd like to recognize Ambassador Indyk for his role in this. And to all of you who have participated in this dialogue, I only wish that I could have been to hear the fine panels that have taken place. But it is this kind of vision and leadership and generosity that are helping to make the Saban Center and this annual forum such a critical contribution to peace and understanding. The United States and Israel, of course, share history and share interests but most of all we share values and because we share values, our friendship will always be strong and deep and broad.


As I look out tonight at this audience, I see many businessmen and academics and statesmen and even a few journalists who are -- somehow made it on to the guest list -- (laughter) -- and I see that there's a depth of historic partnership that really does bridge -- as Prime Minister Sharon said, not just our governments but our people and that is what is represented here.

I am honored, too, by the many distinguished members of the Israeli Government who are here, including former Prime Minister Barak, Vice Premier Peres -- thank you very much for being here -- and of course, Prime Minister Sharon. Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, for your wonderful address but also for your leadership of this great country and for your friendship for America.

I would like to thank former Secretary of State James Baker who on behalf of President Bush -- 43, not President Bush 41 -- is leading our delegation here and it's a delegation to the events attending the 10th Anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin's assassination. It's a delegation that reflects every branch of the government. There are members of our Congress here, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is here. And I want to thank all of you and the many private citizens from the United States who have come as well.

I want to recognize one person, however, and his wife and that's Jim Wolfensohn and Elaine. Jim was planning was on a very nice retirement in Jackson Hole after his work at the World Bank and we said, well, we have another small task for you and he has been thoroughly and completely involved since then. Thank you very much, Jim.


When I first came to Israel, I said that it was like coming home to a place I had never been. And, indeed, I am always happy to return here to Jerusalem, which is an especially powerful place to be for someone like me who holds deep religious beliefs. This visit, of course, to Jerusalem is also marked by the memory of sorrow because tomorrow, along with many of you, I will attend the memorial service honoring Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was tragically assassinated a decade ago.

Yitzhak Rabin represented the pioneer spirit of the Israeli heartland -- the impatient optimism and rugged determination that helped Israel to turn its barren soil green and to build a new home in its native land and indeed to take up arms when it was necessary against all who denied this nationís right to exist. And when Israel needed to secure its independence and repel attackers along many fronts, Yitzhak Rabin distinguished himself on the field of battle. And when Israel needed leadership, they summoned him to serve democracy and he distinguished himself in the halls of government. And when Israel needed a vision of peace, Yitzhak Rabin distinguished himself at the negotiating table.

He was a man who was a pioneer and a warrior and a statesman and a peacemaker. And he approached all of his callings, especially that of peace, with tenacity, and aplomb and a gritty realism -- but also with hope and trust and an abiding idealism.

After risking death so many times in war, it was for the cause of peace that he ultimately gave his life. And despite the heroic efforts of many individuals since that time, the past decade has seen much pain and disappointment. Terrorists have claimed the lives of over one thousand innocent Israelis and injured thousands of others -- men and women and children who simply wanted to enjoy a pizza or catch a bus or celebrate Passover.

And the Palestinian people have suffered, too. They too have mourned the loss of innocent life. They too have been deprived of days that are normal, filled with peace and opportunity. And now, and for many years to come, they must work to overcome a legacy of corruption and violence and misrule by leaders who promised to fulfill their peopleís dreams, but instead preferred arbitrary power over democratic progress.

In the face of so much suffering, it is at times difficult to remain hopeful. But, ladies and gentlemen, I believe deeply when future observers are in a position to know the full history of this conflict, they may point back to this present moment as a time when peace became more likely, not less likely; when peace began to seem inevitable, not impossible -- for the last several years have seen deep changes in this region, changes conducive to real progress.

Today, we have hope for peace because the international community is united in its historic struggle against terrorism. People in the Middle East are also speaking more clearly against terrorism. And they are rejecting the bankrupt belief that national struggles or religious teachings legitimize the intentional killing of innocents.

As we have seen in the aftermath of the vicious attacks in Jordan -- and let me join the Prime Minister in extending our condolences to the people of Jordan -- an attack in which dozens of people were killed and wounded and many more harmed because their personal lives were turned upside down by this attack. Fortunately, now, leaders and clerics and private citizens are stepping forward and taking to the streets and calling this evil by its name. This is a profound change and there are others.

We have hope for peace today because people no longer accept that despotism is the eternal political condition of the Middle East. More and more individuals are demanding their freedom and their dignity. Mothers and fathers are saying that they want their children to be engineers, not suicide bombers; that they want their children, daughters as well as sons, to be voting citizens, not docile subjects. There is now growing agreement that democracy is the only path to stability, to real legitimacy and to lasting peace.

Of course, many skeptics still question whether freedom will truly lead to more peace in this region. I believe that it will. We have seen that when authoritarian governments cannot ensure justice and security and prosperity for their people, they look for false legitimacy and they blame their failures on modernity or on America or on the Jews.

We have also seen that when people are denied freedom to express themselves, when they cannot advance their interests and redress their grievances through an open political process, they retreat into shadows of alienation to be preyed upon by fanatical men with violent designs. We are not naÔve about the pace or the difficulty of democratic change. But we know that the longing for democratic change is deep and urgently felt.

And when we look at a nation like Iran, we see an educated and sophisticated people who are the bearers of a great civilization. And we also see that as Iran's Government has grown more divorced from the will of its citizens, it has become more threatening, not less threatening. No civilized nation should have a leader who wishes, or hopes, or desires, or considers it a matter of policy to express that another country should be pushed into the sea. It is simply unacceptable in the international system.


Now, it's given real freedom to hold their government accountable. It is doubtful that the majority of Iranian people would choose to deepen their country's international isolation through these incendiary statements and threatening policies. But more than anything, ladies and gentlemen, we have hope for peace because these moral and philosophical changes in the Middle East are leading to democratic progress in the region itself. Men and women are standing up for their fundamental freedoms. They are pressuring states with long habits of authoritarian rule to open their political systems.

One decade after Yitzhak Rabinís murder, it is clear that the strategic context of the Middle East has changed dramatically and this is a hopeful development that can make Israel more secure, peace more possible, and America more secure.

During this time, really only in the last two years -- the blink of an eyelash in history -- the Government of Libya has made a fundamental choice to give up its weapons of mass destruction and to rejoin the community of nations. Egypt has had a presidential election and parliamentary elections under new constitutional rules. Saudi Arabia has taken initial steps toward political openness. And Kuwait has granted its women citizens the right to vote. The people of Lebanon have reclaimed their country after three decades of Syrian military occupation. They have held free elections. They are pursuing democratic reforms. And the international community is united in our defense of Lebanonís rights as an independent, sovereign nation.

The Government of Syria has increasingly isolated itself from the international community through its support for terrorism, its interference in the affairs of its neighbors, its destabilizing behavior in the region, and its possible role in the murder of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. And the recent speech by President Asad only reflects and reinforces the Syrian Governmentís current isolation. And the United Nations is now holding Syria to account for its disturbing behavior.

And we have hope for peace because Saddam Hussein is no longer terrorizing his people, threatening his region and paying the families of suicide bombers.


Instead, Saddam Hussein is sitting in an Iraqi prison, awaiting trial for his many crimes. The Iraqi people, after decades of tyranny, are now attempting to govern themselves through compromise, not conflict. They have freely voted twice. They have written and ratified a constitution. And the vast majority of Iraqis are now working through the democratic process to avert the very civil war that terrorists like Zarqawi wish to ignite.

But perhaps the most extraordinary and hopeful change of recent years has been the growing consensus, led by the United States, that we must support the chorus of reform now resounding throughout the Middle East.

On Saturday, I was in Bahrain for the second meeting of the Forum for the Future, a partnership for political, economic, and social reform between the G-8 nations and members of government and civil society in the broader Middle East.

We had a conversation about political participation and womenís rights and the rule of law -- a conversation unthinkable just a few years ago -- and a conversation that must soon include Israel.

The changes of the past decade are quite remarkable, then, in the strategic context of the Middle East. And those changes are also transforming the debate about the Israeli-Palestinian issue. In 2002, President Bush recognized that the Palestinian leadership at the time was an obstacle to peace, not a force for peace; and he encouraged the Palestinian people to begin opening their political system. The President laid out an historic vision of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security and he made it the policy of the United States.

Now, the Palestinian people are finally undertaking the democratic and economic reforms that have long been denied to them. They have elected a president, Mahmoud Abbas, who openly calls for peace with Israel. And for our part, we are helping them, providing $350 million to help them build the institutions of a democratic future. This movement toward democracy in the Palestinian territories and across the Middle East has also changed the debate here, in Israel, about the sources of security.

Because this nation no longer lives in fear of enemy tanks attacking from the east, we now hear it said, among most Israelis, that a peaceful and democratic Palestinian state is essential to Israelís security. And this new thinking led to new action in August when Israel chose to disengage from Gaza and the northern West Bank.

Prime Minister Sharon: President Bush and I admire your personal courage, your leadership and the crucial contribution to peace that you are making.


Disengagement was a testament to the character and the strength of Israeli society, especially to the men and women of the Israeli Defense Forces and the police service, whose noble conduct during this painful event set a standard to which all democratic nations should aspire. And the effective cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians was both impressive and inspiring.

Disengagement can be a great step forward on the path to a different Middle East. It creates an opportunity for the Palestinians to secure their liberty and build a democratic state. At the same time, the changing nature of the Middle East can reinforce the democratic aspirations of the Palestinian people and deny the enemies of reform their favorite excuse for coercive rule and unconscionable violence. These positive developments will not jeopardize Israelís security; they will enhance it. After all, true peace is that which exists between peoples, not just between leaders.

Now, if Palestinians fight terrorism and lawless violence and advance democratic reforms -- and if Israel takes no actions that prejudge a final settlement and works to improve the daily lives of the Palestinian people -- the possibility of peace is both hopeful and realistic. Greater freedom of movement is a key for Palestinians, from shopkeepers to farmers to restaurant owners and for all seeking early easier access to their economic livelihood.

And let us be very clear about one other matter: Dismantling the infrastructure of terrorism is essential for peace because in the final analysis, no democratic government can tolerate armed parties with one foot in the realm of politics and one foot in the camp of terrorism.


This is the vision before us in the roadmap. And I look forward to our engagement to move it forward. But there are other responsibilities, too. Israelís neighbors must demonstrate their concern for peace not only with rhetoric but with action. We encourage them -- Egypt to enhance its cooperation with Israel on basic security issues. And we call on all Arab states to end incitement in their media, cut off all funding for terrorism, stop their support for extremist education, and establish normal relations with Israel.


We look to Arab states also to help revitalize the Palestinian economy because the Palestinians are a talented and well-educated people with great potential for prosperity. They cite greater economic opportunity as their most urgent desire. They deserve a chance to have it.

And so the responsibilities of peace, like the benefits of peace, will be shared among all parties. And peace must be more than a mere process if it is to summon our strength and demand our sacrifice. Peace must be a calling that stirs our very souls, a vision that is not only local but regional as well; a vision in which the sons and daughters of Israel are secure in their homeland and at peace with their neighbors.

The world saw a passing glimpse of this vision ten years ago when unprecedented numbers of Arab leaders journeyed here to see Yitzhak Rabin laid to rest in the land of the prophets. And today, we want to continue advancing that vision.

It should be a Middle East where democracy flourishes and the non-negotiable demands of human dignity form the foundations of citizenship. We envision a Middle East where all men and women are secure in their persons and in their property, with equal opportunities for prosperity and justice. And we will continue to envision and work toward a future when all the people of the Middle East may gather in this great ancient city, not to mourn a fallen hero, but to build a common future.

Thank you very much.




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