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Press Availability en route Shannon, Ireland

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
en route Shannon, Ireland
May 5, 2008

SECRETARY RICE: Good morning -- they’re trying to wake me up I think. Thank you --okay, a very long day yesterday with multiple meetings, with multiple people. All that I can say is I think I'm getting a much better idea of both how the process is going, what it is they're trying to achieve, where they think they are making achievements. But again, they're doing it in a very quiet way and when you actually talk to the negotiators, they believe they're doing it in the right way. And so, we are going to respect that. We continue to talk to them and talk about how they're bridging gaps and processes for bridging gaps. But as to the substance of the issues, I think they're going to continue to do this in a quiet way and it probably is best because they have to deal with a lot of very sensitive issues.

On the Roadmap implementation, we also had a very good set of discussions. As I said yesterday in the press conference, which I think was after I'd had the trilateral with Barak and Salam Fayyad, we are going to start to look at not just the quantitative improvements that can be made in the lives of the Palestinian people, but also qualitatively, how is it really affecting the lives of people, and that means that our monitors -- get out among the communities, talk to people who are trying to get agricultural product to market, talk to people who are trying to get through checkpoints, and really get a sense for how the movement and access is working.

And then finally, we spent quite a lot of time on Jenin and the importance of really making that particular project work because it's the first time that we've tried this integrated approach with Palestinian security forces going in, with the movement and access being improved and it's been improved -- I learned also between Jenin and Nablus, for example. And then being able to put economic projects in, which is what Tony Blair is coming out, I think today or tomorrow, to discuss. So lots of work and, as I mentioned, it's quite labor intensive and quite detailed work. But I think it's very much worth doing.

QUESTION: Secretary Rice, yesterday you used the word -- or day before yesterday -- "supposedly" when you were talking about the barriers that the Israelis had committed or said they planned to remove when we were here in March. You've now had a chance to have a briefing, I'm sure, with General Fraser. Do you believe they actually removed them? Have they placed any additional barriers since then, as the Palestinians claim they have? And to whatever extent you judge they have removed them, have they actually had an effect or not?

SECRETARY RICE: I think I've gotten good explanations on what has happened in terms of the barriers, some that have apparently already been removed, so they added others to the list. I think they've made progress in quantitative terms on doing what they suggested they would do -- what they said they would do. I think the issue, and it's why I said we really have to look more at qualitatively what is the effect, is -- there’s an interaction between roadblocks and checkpoints and security and movement that is somewhat complex. And so, you really have to look at the effect on a particular population or a particular enterprise, like commercial enterprise in a particular place, and that’s really just more complicated work. And I think we’re going to really start to do that.

I don’t think there’s any bad faith here; I don’t. I do think that there’s not – it’s not undue caution to worry about the removal of obstacles that were put there for security reasons. But the question is: Is there some way, if you remove an obstacle or you don’t remove an obstacle, to still improve movement and access perhaps with concomitant efforts that you might make at the checkpoints to make them move more smoothly. So, there are a number of ways to go about this, but I don’t think there’s any bad faith here.

QUESTION: I know you said yesterday that the investigation against Prime Minister Olmert is an internal matter for Israel, but I wondered to what effect it -- the fact that it exists -- colored your discussions with him, whether the Palestinians raised it with you, how big a cloud did it cast over your talks and what do you think will be the effect going forward?

SECRETARY RICE: Anne, we’ll just keep working with the Israeli Government. It’s the Israeli Government, the Prime Minister and his ministers. And we’re going to continue, I’m going to continue working with him, as will our people. And as I said, the – you know, the investigation is proceeding as an internal matter and I really don’t have any further comment about it.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, on the settlements, did you receive the kind of answer you were expecting on the settlements and were you satisfied with the answer for Tzipi Livni yesterday afternoon on this question, the fact that she didn’t really commit the government to apply -- you know, to respect this Roadmap obligation right now?

SECRETARY RICE: I didn’t see any change from what Israelis have said, in what Tzipi Livni said. And frankly, I didn’t expect one standing there next to her. But we’re going to continue to press this issue. This is really an issue that, again, it has to do with the parties meeting their obligations and there are a host of obligations and we’re going to keep pressing on each and every one of them.

In this particular case, it is also a matter that it colors the environment for negotiations because there is a concern that the Israelis may be trying to create facts on the ground. Now what I did hear Tzipi Livni say is they’re not trying to create facts on the ground and that Israel understands that whatever happens in an agreement between the parties, that anything that has been done is subject to that agreement. And that is a point that we continue to emphasize. We believe that the – in accordance with the Roadmap obligations, the settlements ought to stop. But we also emphasize very strongly that nothing is going to prejudge a final status outcome and the United States will not consider anything that has been done to be prejudging a final status outcome.

QUESTION: Just as a follow-up, didn’t President Bush’s letter to Prime Minister Sharon acknowledge the facts on the ground as a --

SECRETARY RICE: It acknowledged the current realities as of 2000-- whatever that was, 2004 – subject to mutual agreement between the parties. And of course, there are – there are current realities and new realities since 1949 and 1967 for both sides. And all of those will have to be taken into account in an agreement. So what the President’s letter said is there are population realities. Look, those – some of those realities have been recognized in every agreement that never quite made it as well. So, this is nothing new, that those realities have been acknowledged.

But the President said subject to mutual agreement and I would remind that the President’s letter talked about realities at that time. And there are realities for both sides, which is why they need to draw a map and get it done.

QUESTION: You mentioned foreign monitors, that they’re going to – go out and talk to people to actually get a sense of what’s happening – I’m sorry, well, foreign --

SECRETARY RICE: Foreign (inaudible).

QUESTION: Yes, that’s right. Yeah, yeah, that’s right. Can you tell us what exactly their purpose would be in terms of the negotiations going on right now? And do you expect to get anything more out of this effort than you have before?

SECRETARY RICE: This is not in terms of the political negotiations. This is in terms of monitoring Roadmap implementation. It’s a --

QUESTION: It still ties in (inaudible).

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it ties in to the extent that we think these tracks need all to move. But I’ll give you an example, all right? When the roadblocks were removed, you can say there are 50 and you can just take that as a number sitting in Washington or sitting in Tel Aviv. Or you can go out and you can say, of that 50, which ones actually had an impact on movement and access, and for whom did it have an impact on movement and access. That’s what monitors do, because what you – what you want to do is to actually – given that all of these are hard for the sides to do, given security concerns and so forth, you’d like to put the energy into doing things that really matter.

And so monitors are able to do that and they’re able to actually talk to villagers and say, “Are you more easily able now to get your crop to market?” And if the answer to that is no, it’s not to say that somebody is acting in bad faith, but it’s to look to see if there’s another way to help villagers get that to market. And I just think it’s a much more systematic and, ultimately, much more helpful way of getting the movement and access issues dealt with.

When you – when they go to Jenin, we know what they’re trying to achieve in Jenin. Jenin is a huge governorate, and if you could actually have an effect on security, movement and access, governance and economy in Jenin, you would be making a big impact. So, this is a system of security measures and movement and access constraints that has grown up over a very long period of time, and it isn’t something that you can kind of wave a magic wand and move them away. That’s why you need people to go out on the ground and make determinations.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) about numbers?

SECRETARY RICE: Numbers of --

QUESTION: Monitors.

SECRETARY RICE: I – Will would have that. I’ll try to get it for you. We don’t use a lot of people because you don’t have to flood the area. You just have to make sure that somebody goes out and looks and talks.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I was wondering how much the two sides – I was wondering how much the two sides are sharing with you about their talks and how much progress they are making. Yesterday, the Egyptian Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit said that – you know, he called on both sides to reveal more about what was being discussed so that the international community and the Egyptians could support those – talks. And also, could you comment on comments made by Nabil Abu Rdainah, who said that the gulf was still very wide between the Israelis and the Palestinians?


QUESTION: Nabil Abu Rdainah, one of the spokespersons of the Palestinian Authority, I don’t know – that the gulf was still very wide between the Israelis and the Palestinians and that they didn’t even see eye to eye on what the end goal was. Like, what exactly are they trying to reach – a principle agreement or framework agreement, or he seemed to think --

SECRETARY RICE: With all due respect to spokesmen –

MR. MCCORMACK: Some are better than others. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY RICE: I’ve had extensive discussions with them and it has helped to build my confidence in what they’re doing. I would be the last to say that, you know, an agreement is going to pop forward tomorrow and, you know, they’ve got a lot of hard issues. But there is a – what they’re trying to balance – and we talked some about the perception that they’re just having endless talks. They simply don’t see it that way.

And I don’t know how much they’re communicating to how wide an audience that they see -- how they see their own talks. But they understand that there is – that the absence of a lot of activity and a lot of public activity, let me put it that way – makes people wonder whether anything is going on. They have to balance that against the fact that they’re trying to talk about some very, very sensitive issues where, not surprisingly, people don’t want to prejudice their positions by having a big public discussion of what they’re talking about.

You know, negotiations used to be done in a way that people could actually talk without it being expected that, every day, there was going to be a report on what they did or did not agree to. And I would just ask you to go back and look at some of the most successful negotiations between them. Oslo, for instance, was really not known to have been agreed until the last moment. It wasn’t really even known that they were meeting until the last moment.

And that may be a lesson that the more public exposure there is of what they’re talking about, how often they’re talking, how much progress they’re making -- which I fully understand that everybody would like to know because everybody’s got a big stake in the outcome – could ultimately harm the ability to actually get to an agreement. And I think they know precisely what they’re trying to do. They’re trying to get to an agreement by the end of the year that is going to resolve the core issues.

So, it is a dilemma how to satisfy the desire of the international community and interested parties to know that it’s making progress, not to mention interested parties like the Palestinians and the Israelis themselves, at the same time giving them the space to negotiate so that they don’t feel that they have to answer for every point of agreement or point of disagreement. So, I think that’s the dilemma, but we did have a long discussion about that, and all that I can tell you is that they’re serious people and they think they’re going about it in the right way.

QUESTION: Can you speak a little bit about what President Bush’s role is going to be beyond the pure ceremonial since it’s less than two weeks away now? And have you learned anything more about the Egyptian mediation role, what’s – what has that been achieving?

SECRETARY RICE: Again, I’ll let the Egyptians speak to their diplomacy. When it comes to President Bush’s role, first of all, he’s going to come and celebrate the anniversary of Israel’s founding. And he’s going to pay full attention to that because I think it’s very important that we do that with strong allies. He also will have an opportunity to talk to the key Arabs about support for the process. And I’m quite sure he’ll talk to the parties as well about the progress that they’re making.

But there’s a meeting today between Olmert and Abbas. There are more meetings between Livni and Abu Ala between now and then, so I think it’s a little early to tell what the President may or may not be asked to do.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I’ve just a few questions about this. What prompted the need for the breakfast meeting with Olmert this morning, and was there anything in particular? And when you talk about the roadblocks and the examination and having monitors talk to villagers, hasn’t that already been underway? Isn’t that what prompted this concern in the first place? It almost sounds like a study that could just go on forever and stretches out the time.

And just one other, is that, on the Egyptian and Israeli-Palestinian talks, there was that statement in the Quartet statement encouraging them to come up with new approaches on Gaza. Did they have anything in particular in mind, any ideas on that?

SECRETARY RICE: First, to the Quartet statement, there was really nothing new in the Quartet statement. It was encouraging the Egyptians to take up – the Egyptians, the Israelis and the Palestinians to take up ideas that the Quartet has referred to before, for instance, doing something about the humanitarian situation, doing something about the crossings in a more sustained manner. I think in the last Quartet statement, we had referred to the idea Salam Fayyad has had about getting back to the November 2005 agreement with Palestinians at the crossings. But there -- this was really a kind of summary statement that said, you know, we need a more sustainable answer for Gaza. That’s what that was referring to.

As to the breakfast meeting with the Prime Minister, I had intended to do it all along. I very often find that it’s useful after I’ve had discussions. On occasion, I’ve also gone back to Abu Mazen, but because the two of them are meeting there, it really isn’t time to do that. So I found it useful to go back and forth a little bit, not to just do one meeting and have that be the end. But I did that, I think, the last time as well.

And as to the monitors, actually, no, we haven’t had a system like this before. The Annapolis agreement said that the United States should be the judge for Roadmap implementation. What we’re doing is that we are taking data from whoever can give it to us. The Europeans feed in data, others feed in data, and also going out and trying to collect data on the ground. But it’s not a study. It’s something you go out and you look at something and you say, well, that’s really not working the way it should or that had less effect than it was intended to. And then I was able, as a result of that, to go back to the Israelis and say, look, these don’t seem to have made a difference; is there some other way to make a difference for that population.

So that’s the purpose of the monitors. It’s not to do a big study. It’s to actually check implementation so you can act on implementation. And actually, somebody asked me a question yesterday. I think you did about the Palestinians and you know, this is another example. The Palestinians’ principal obligations relate to security, security forces and rebuilding their security forces and fighting the infrastructure of terror. That’s the core of their obligations, as well as building reliable state structures. But I think people are pretty confident that on things like financial management and so forth, they’re doing really rather well.

On issues, for instance, of the justice system, the Palestinians have obligations to open a certain number of police stations, because they can’t carry out security obligations if they don’t have police on the ground. They have obligations to unify their forces and give them a real planning function. They can’t carry out their obligations on fighting terror unless they do that. And so right alongside the Israeli obligations that are or are not yet being met, there is a listing of things -- and I went over those with Salam Fayyad – of things that have not yet been done on the Palestinian side as well.

So it works really, I think, for both sides. It is – you may think to yourself, what in the world am I doing spending time on these things? But I can tell you that these have been the kinds of issues that have prevented the Roadmap implementation from moving forward and it’s always been a system in which one side had a view and the other side had a – if not 180 degrees opposite view, pretty close to it. And the reason that they both agreed there should be an impartial U.S. role was that they can accept if the United States is saying here are the obligations you need to meet and here are the obligations you need to meet, and you have or have not met them. Okay?

QUESTION: Who are these (inaudible)? Who are they?

SECRETARY RICE: They are people who work for us, basically, as embassy personnel.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

SECRETARY RICE: I don’t know.

QUESTION: Are these really open to looking at other ways to speed up checkpoints, you know, adding people to process them faster and so on? And would you, again, look at the question or address the question of how the Palestinians feel about the anniversary? Not that there’s anything improper at all about the President going to celebrate it with the Israelis, but whether he – whether you think it’s appropriate for the United States to acknowledge that this is an event that has also led to the dispossession of significant numbers of Palestinians who have a very different view on what is, for the Israelis, a celebration.

SECRETARY RICE: I think, Arshad, I said yesterday that one can be fully aware of the consequences of 1948 and 1967 and at the same time, be proud for, celebratory with the Israelis for the remarkable state that they have created. You know, out of a terrible history on difficult land in a hostile neighborhood, this is a remarkable place and they are extraordinary people and they have been really good allies. And you know, you can be cognizant of the consequences and still want to celebrate that fact and, as I said, also want to be able to celebrate the founding of a Palestinian state as soon as possible.


Released on May 6, 2008

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