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Joint Press Availability With Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
March 30, 2008

FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: (In progress) enlightening meeting, talking about Annapolis process about peace negotiations about changes that are needed on the ground its important to say that in Annapolis, Israel and the Palestinians decided to launch peace negotiations based on the idea of two states living side by side in peace and security. Simultaneously, we decided to change reality on the ground. No less important to say that these are two different tracks. I mean when negotiations are taking place, and as the chief negotiator on the Israeli side, we have meetings with the Palestinians on a regular basis trying to reach a peace treaty as part of our own interest, dream and goal; and simultaneously, we want to give hope for the peoples and to change reality on the ground because in Annapolis we decided that any understanding between us and the Palestinians is subject to the implementation of the Roadmap, and we also decided to do it simultaneously. So I think that we can share all this information, idea and prospect for the future with Secretary Rice. Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much for again hosting me here, and I look very much forward to a series of meetings that I will have. I just want to reiterate that the Annapolis peace process has three tracks, as you said: the Roadmap implementation; improving the situation on the ground; and of course, the political negotiations. I believe that the sides are serious about achieving a two-state solution, serious about ending their conflict, and it is the role of the United States to help facilitate that in any way that we can.

I also look forward to meetings later to talk about how we might make progress on the ground. There have been a number of meetings prior to mine on that matter. I know that Defense Minister Barak and Prime Minister Fayyad met a couple of days ago, and I look forward to talking with them about how they see the issues. But first, I'm going to have breakfast with the Foreign Minister, with the chief negotiator, and I very much look forward to being enlightened about the progress you're making and also what I can do to help.

MR. MCCORMACK: The first question goes to Sylvie Lanteaume from AFP.

QUESTION: I have a question for both of you. Madame Secretary, for improving the situation on the ground, can you be more specific on what you expect from the Israelis?

And Madame Minister, could you tell us what you are prepared to do to improve the situation? Do you think that some checkpoints could be removed? And also on the peace process, did you reach a document or some piece of paper you are ready to share with the Secretary?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, on the issue of what can be done on the ground, I think there's no secret that there's an issue of the economic improvement of the lives of the Palestinian people, and that requires the ability to have greater movement and access. I think there are a number of ways to go about that. But as I mentioned, one of the things that we're trying to do is become more concrete about what might be done in various areas in order to allow certain economic projects and economic progress to go forward. And so I expect to have discussions about those matters.

FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: Basically, talking about the situation on the ground, the idea is to ease the life of the Palestinians and, as Secretary Rice said, to help as far as we can. We know that it would improve their lives to advance and to have progress with some of the economic projects that the international community is also involved in. And like always, the formula is to do whatever we can as long as it doesn't affect our own security, because the other responsibility is to find the way to give security to the Israeli people. But I believe that Israel and the Palestinians understand both that the Palestinians' economy is part of our interest, and Israel's security is part of the Palestinian interest; so based on this understanding, I hope to find a formula to do it in a way that can give some hope for the people and more trust in the process itself.

When it comes to your question about a paper and a timeline, basically, in Annapolis we decided to make all the efforts to reach a treaty until the end of '08. Clearly, it is our own interest. Time is of the essence. Stagnation and stalemate is not the Israeli Government policy. It doesn't serve our own interest. Because we believe that we need to find this way to reach an understanding and to find a way to peace with our partners, with the pragmatic leaders in the Palestinian side: the President Abu Mazen, Abu Ala; and Salam Fayyad, as the more pragmatic leaders, in contrary to the extremists headed by Hamas and their own -- and the other leaders.

Now, clearly, the idea is not just to reach a piece of paper. I mean it's a matter of substance. We need to reflect in the future paper the mutual interest of Israel and the Palestinians, those who want to live in peace with Israel, and we decided to address all these issues in order to represent these interests in the future -- in the future treaty. The idea is to find a way to have a package, in a way, that the Israelis can live with in an understanding that this is a way towards peace: on one hand, territorial compromises and concessions on peace; and on the other hand, of course, security to Israel. I believe that this is the basic understanding also of the Palestinians because the idea is to give them the answer in the territory of their own for their own national aspiration.

Now, we have a kind of a conflict because, on one hand, we decided to reduce the expectations. We learned from past experience what happened when we faced high expectations and a failure in 2000, something that led to violence, and that this is something that we cannot afford again. On the other hand, I know that in doing so in the most discreet way and the (inaudible) decision of Abu Ala and myself was not to share the public what is going on in the negotiations, from sometimes it can lead to lack of trust in the process itself. So try to find the way to combine these two interests: on one hand, to gain the trust of the people; on the other hand, to have it in a low profile and not raise expectations when it's too early to do so. And just to remind you, we are just at the beginning of '08.

MODERATOR: We'll now take a question from the Israeli media, Ilil Shachar.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, are you satisfied with the gesture that the Minister of Defense is willing to take in order to ease the Palestinian life, if it's enough to remove some roadblocks?

(Question repeated in Hebrew.)

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, first of all, I would not characterize, though, what we need or what I expect to hear as gestures. I really do think that what we need to do is to have meaningful progress toward a better life for the Palestinian people, for the economic viability for Palestinians, even as we move toward the establishment of a state. And that's why, as the Foreign Minister said, we've tried to do this in a simultaneous fashion. And there's a shared responsibility here for an atmosphere and a reality that can lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state based on security for Israelis and Palestinians alike, and economic viability for Palestinians. And so that is what I'm looking to see if we can do. I understand the security considerations, and so I would hope and I expect that we're going to be able to do some things, or that Israel and the Palestinians together will be able to do some things that are meaningful both for security and for economic viability. And it really does have to be shared responsibility for them.

FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: I was asked about compensating settlers who wants to leave the West Bank, and I was asked in Hebrew so I'll say a few words in Hebrew on this.

QUESTION: Do you support the proposed law that would compensate settlers for voluntary relocation?

FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: In principle, as someone who has experienced the whole disengagement process and understands the need to assist those being relocated, I believe that it is only fair to address this as early as possible. Whoever has settled in a location from which he wants to leave and so long as it is in accordance with the priorities of the State of Israel, the government should provide assistance. However, it seems to me that it is still too early we have not yet reached a point in negotiations as the future borders have not yet been defined. I think that it is difficult, at this stage, to transform this idea into a more detailed plan and legislate it as a law. However, these are my views upon principles according to which I am considering this.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much.


Released on March 30, 2008

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