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Interview With Israel Radio One

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
August 12, 2006

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thank you very much for talking to the Israeli Broadcasting Authority. I'm sure you're exhausted and tired after the last few weeks.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, no. But thank you for having me on your show.

QUESTION: When do you expect, Madame Secretary, the cease-fire to take effect on the ground?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the first step is that the Lebanese cabinet must approve and then the Israeli cabinet must approve, as I understand it, on Sunday. And then Secretary General Annan is working with the parties to establish a timetable for the cease-fire. But I would hope that within no more than a day or so of that, that there would be a cessation of the hostilities on the ground, and the hostilities that have been most difficult for civilians, both Israeli and Lebanese.

I do need to warn, there will continue to be, I'm sure, some skirmishes. That always happens in a cessation of hostilities. But hopefully the large-scale violence can stop.

QUESTION: Meanwhile, Israel accelerates and expands the military operation. What is your comment, Madame Secretary?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I understand that this is going on. My understanding is that this is a part of the normal operations that were contemplated. But that when the cease-fire, the cessation of hostilities comes into being, Israel will stop. And that will be a very good thing for, I think, all civilians. But Israel's cabinet still has to approve the cessation of hostilities. I know that Prime Minister Olmert and the defense minister and the foreign minister are going to recommend it to the cabinet.

I believe that this is a resolution that really does enhance Israel's security. Because, for the first time in really a very long time, there is an opportunity to extend the authority of the Lebanese government and army with an international force that will be a substantial force, into the south of the country and to keep Hezbollah away from the border.

QUESTION: Maybe it just does postpone the conflict?

SECRETARY RICE: If we do our work right, this will be an enduring cease-fire. One reason that, as much as we wanted an immediate stop to the hostilities, that the United States refused to just call for an immediate stop to the hostilities, was that we thought we needed to have in place some conditions that might give us a chance to have an enduring cease-fire. I'm quite certain now that there will be an international force that will have a robust mandate. It will have real troops in it.

Even though it's called UNIFIL, this is not the same force; this is going to be a very different force. And that force of more than 15,000 Lebanese soldiers and about 15,000 international forces should make the south a very different place, a safer place, and a place to which Hezbollah cannot return to the kinds of activities that led it to, without the knowledge of the Lebanese government, attack Israel.

QUESTION: But the Hezbollah will still be able to operate from the Litani River?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the plan is that, as soon as this force is in, of course the Lebanese government has an obligation to start the disarmament of Hezbollah. And I think there will now be pressure for them to do that because nobody, including the Lebanese government, wants to have a state within a state.

I also believe that Israel -- I'm not privy obviously to the information -- but the Israeli defense forces believe that they have weakened Hezbollah's command and control, some of their more extensive networks. And so they will hopefully not be able to build those again. And perhaps most importantly, we will now have an international embargo and we would hope that states would respect that embargo. But, of course, if Syria and Iran continue to supply Hezbollah, they will be violating an international embargo. And that's the first time that we've had that embargo.

QUESTION: The Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese administration, Madame Secretary. So how could we expect the Lebanese government to disarm the Hezbollah?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, Hezbollah and the Lebanese have to make a choice. You cannot have one foot in terror and one foot in politics. And that's really what caused this problem. Hezbollah has candidates who have run for office, they serve as cabinet ministers. But they have an armed militia, and that's just not acceptable. The only arms have to be and must be in the hands of the Lebanese army and the Lebanese state.

And there are several international agreements that require Lebanon to carry out this disarmament and Hezbollah will have to make a choice. If they want to be a political party, I believe the Lebanese will welcome that. But they cannot be both a political party and an armed militia.

QUESTION: The resolution talks explicitly about the unconditional release of the abducted Israeli soldiers. Who will be responsible for the release of the two soldiers?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, ultimately, those who hold them have to release them. But I was very pleased that this statement was in the resolution. As you might imagine, not everyone wanted to have this statement in the resolution, and it was extremely important that these soldiers be remembered, that their unconditional release be called for. And it's important to remember, too, something else that this resolution says, that this began when Hezbollah, acting as a state within a state, crossed the blue line, captured these soldiers, and attacked Israel. And so I thought that the language on this was very strong in the resolution and it was an important acknowledgement of how this war began.

QUESTION: But the Hezbollah might say -- Hezbollah might say that they will refuse to release them unless there is a deal with Israel.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, nothing in this resolution talks about any kind of deals, any kind of exchange or anything of the sort. Everybody recognizes the Lebanese have said that there are issues concerning prisoners. But if you read this resolution, you will see that there is no suggestion that there be an exchange of prisoners.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, what is your opinion about the future of Shaba Farms? Is there any written commitment from the U.S. administration to Israel about the Shaba Farms?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, all this resolution says is that the Secretary General should put forward proposals that will allow -- that will allow dealing with Lebanon's -- the parts of Lebanese territory, the borders, which are disputed. And Shaba Farms is a disputed territory. But interestingly, it's disputed with Syria. Because the international community has recognized Shaba Farms as Syrian. There will have to be a delineation of the border between Syria and Lebanon. If indeed the international community decides that it is Lebanese, then I assume Lebanon and Israel can settle the matter. But there is nothing in this document that says Israel has to give up territory.

QUESTION: In the broader aspect, Syria is not part of the agreement. Do you see, Madame Secretary, any time soon that you would like to talk to the Syrians in high level? Maybe there is a way to pull them out of the Iranian embrace?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, I'm very pleased Syria is not a party to this document because, after all, Syria occupied Lebanon for 30 years, caused all kinds of instability and violence and the idea that Syria would somehow have contributed to stabilizing Lebanon, I think, was just not in the cards. And so it's a good thing that Syria is not a party to this agreement.

As to whether Syria can be made to understand that it should make a strategic choice for peace, that it should abandon this quasi alliance that it has with Iran which is, after all, the greatest state sponsor of terrorism, I don't know. I hope Syria would make that choice.

I just want to be clear: it's not that we have not talked to Syria. Colin Powell went to Syria. Former Assistant Secretary of State Bill Burns went to Syria. Deputy Secretary of State Rich Armitage went to Syria. The problem hasn't been talking to Syria; the problem is that Syria has not been acting. And so we would hope that Syria would make a better strategic choice than it's made thus far.

QUESTION: Aren't you troubled that the next round of violence in the Middle East is near?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the Middle East has unfortunately had a history of these spasms of violence. But President Bush has had a very clear-eyed policy about the Middle East, that it is important that we recognize terrorism and recognize that it has no justification. There is no political justification for terrorism. Secondly, that we try and recognize that the growth of democratic movements in the Middle East would be, in fact, a positive development. Because part of the problem has been, as you have only authoritarian regimes with the exception of Israel, as you have only authoritarian regimes, there is no legitimate channel for political dissent, and that has helped to feed extremism of the kind that we see in the Middle East. And, third, the President has had a very clear view that peace can only be really based on a rejection of terror and embrace of democratic values.

So we think we have a good basis for helping the Middle East to be a different Middle East than it has been. But, of course, it's going through a very turbulent time. And whenever you have big, historic changes, you have turbulence.

I can say that I'm very pleased that we have, in these turbulent times, had a good friend in Israel. I think that the leadership of first Prime Minister Sharon, who really helped to change the nature of politics in the Middle East, and then now with Prime Minister Olmert, with whom we have excellent relations. We've had a good friend in Israel and a good democratic friend in Israel. And it's extremely important when you're going through turbulent times to have friends with whom you share values.

QUESTION: Didn't you have any disappointments during the last month from Israel?

SECRETARY RICE: Israel has been fighting an enemy that hides among civilians, that fires rockets from civilians, a state within a state in Lebanon. Probably more than we did before, we understand, America understands how hard it is to fight a counterterrorist, counterinsurgency war, when you're not really facing a marching army but you're facing people who hide among civilian populations. So this is hard, this is not easy.

And we have had very good communication with Israel during this period of time. And I'm just pleased that we have been able to get an agreement that I think will advance peace in the region, that helps to protect Israel's interests and Israel's security, that helps to protect the Lebanese people's security, and gives everybody a chance now to build a foundation for a better future.

QUESTION: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, I appreciate your words. Thank you very much for taking the time to talk with us. And also may I hope that sometime in the future we'll be able to talk for the TV, too. I have another year here in Washington and I would be more than pleased to make a TV interview for the Israeli television news, sometime during the year.

SECRETARY RICE: I look forward to it.

QUESTION: Thank you very much, Madame Secretary.

SECRETARY RICE: Okay, take care.


Released on August 12, 2006

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