Remarks At the American Red Cross Humanitarian Prize CeremonySecretary Condoleezza Rice
American Red Cross
November 19, 2008
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much. Well, thank you for that very kind introduction, Bonnie. It’s really great to be here at the American Red Cross. The American Red Cross is simply an inspiration to Americans. The American Red Cross is always there, always there in times of need, always there in times of want, always there in times of hurt. And because of that, it reminds us always of our humanity and the desire to overcome wounds and differences, and that that desire to overcome those wounds and differences is perhaps most often seen when people are in trouble.
Because we all know that when we are in trouble, we need help. And so perhaps it is that most basic of instincts, human instincts, to reach out when a brother – even if that person has not been a brother in the past – when a brother or a sister is in trouble. And that’s what the American [Red] Cross stands for.
And I just want to thank its Chairman and our former Ambassador to Finland, that force of nature that is Bonnie McElveen-Hunter. Thank you, Bonnie, for your great work. (Applause.) I’d also like to thank the President and CEO of the Red Cross, Gail McGovern. You’re doing a terrific job, Gail. (Applause.) And a special welcome to someone whose courage I have admired greatly, and that is Dr. Judea Pearl, the father of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. And your family showed great courage and great dignity through that ordeal, and Danny Pearl’s sacrifice will never be forgotten. Thank you. (Applause.)
I am really honored to be a part of this momentous occasion. I am honored because of the terrific people who are receiving this first Humanitarian Prize. Younis Al-Khatib, the president of the Palestinian Red Crescent, and Dr. Noam Yifrach, the chairman of Magen David Adom, you have shown great courage in determination in being absolutely certain that this would come about. There were tremendous obstacles to work through in order to help Palestinians and Israelis in need of assistance. And I am pleased that the United States Government was able to facilitate the admission of both societies into the International Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement. It’s a monumental achievement. It is a dream achieved. And I congratulate you both for your work and your persistence, and you certainly deserve this honor today. (Applause.)
These extraordinary men are examples of how cooperation at the grassroots level can lead to greater understanding and collaboration at the national level. Their joint efforts to put aside the longstanding differences of the region and to say it does not matter that there are differences, we must still provide lifesaving services, that underscores why they are receiving this inaugural American Red Cross Humanitarian Award. Indeed, their work is an example and lays a foundation for cooperation that we hope will flourish throughout the region.
The United States has been long committed to finding a lasting and permanent peace between Israelis and Palestinians. And that work will go on. We are extremely concerned that places like Gaza – where the people of Gaza are cut off from the international community – and the humanitarian difficulties that are there, but we are committed to them as well as to the people of the West Bank, because all Palestinians and all Israelis and people of the Middle East deserve a better life than they have now.
But one has to note that so much has happened in recent years to raise hopes that, indeed, that a better life of peace is indeed coming. When we first came to office eight years ago, the region was in great turmoil. The collapse of negotiations at Camp David had been followed by bloody violence of the Second Intifada, including horrific suicide bombings in Israel, and large-scale military operations in the Palestinian territories. Hope for a peaceful resolution to the long-standing conflict between Palestinians and Israelis was in short supply and people of good will on both sides were losing their ability to envision a brighter future. Many, many innocent Palestinians and Israelis lost their lives in that time.
But today, I do think that a sense of hope is being restored. Incidents of violence have decreased. Abu Mazen and Salam Fayyad are providing leadership in the Palestinian Authority. And serious and substantive bilateral negotiations have been going on since Annapolis last November. Annapolis brought together 50 countries from all continents, including the 14 leading Arab states. And while peace has not yet been achieved, we can proudly say that the distance to peace has certainly narrowed.
At that conference, efforts were launched along four tracks: to support bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations; to build the institutions of a Palestinian state; to improve conditions on the ground; and to bring international support for negotiations. And we are seeing advances along all of those tracks.
In a demonstration of the durability of that work, I just attended a conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, a meeting of the Quartet. And there, Quartet representatives, the Quartet – the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia – heard from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. And they reaffirmed in the most vivid terms their commitment, as stated in the Annapolis joint understanding, to vigorous and ongoing and continuous negotiations until they conclude a peace treaty that resolves all outstanding issues, without exception.
I was recently in the region, and I had the pleasure and the honor to travel to the Palestinian town of Jenin. It is a town that just a little while ago was considered a center, an epicenter, a hub for terrorism. It was a town that suffered greatly in 2002, during military operations there, and when many innocent Palestinians died. It was a town whose very name evoked a sense of chaos and fear.
But I’m happy to say that today, Jenin is a very different place. The Jenin I saw is a place of hope, it’s a place of inspiration, and it is a place that says what is possible and that indeed, in places like this, the Palestinian state is already springing forth, because the Palestinian Security Forces, which the United States helped to train and equip, have deployed to Jenin to provide a secure environment for the Palestinian people.
And there I toured the Khalil Sulaiman Hospital, where the United States information – the United States AID has been able to upgrade three of the hospital’s floors. And as if to say here is the future, I visited with mothers with their newborn babies. That is the future of Palestine, and in it that if the future of a better and more peaceful Middle East.
The vision that President Bush laid out of a sovereign and democratic Palestinian state at peace with Israel and its neighbors will not come in a single dramatic moment, but it will come. And when it comes, it’s going to come because the Palestinian people and the Israeli people refuse to waver from their commitment and from their hope for peace between them. It will come, too, because of small acts of kindness – Palestinian to Israeli, Israeli to Palestinian. It will come because of the vision and the commitment of people like our two honorees today. It will come, of course, in the halls of state. It will come with peace treaties signed. It will come with a new flag raised for a democratic Palestine to live side by side in peace with Israel. It will come as Arab states welcome Israel into the neighborhood for good. Because Israel is there to stay.
But it will come, too, because we have seen so many circumstances that at one time seemed impossible turn very quickly, and the next day it just seems inevitable. And that day is coming. The day is coming when this democratic Palestine will finally be a place where the great dignity of the Palestinian people can fully be expressed.
I can tell you that one of my great joys as Secretary of State has been to get to know the Palestinian and the Israeli people better. I’ve gotten to know the great courage, the great toughness, the great commitment of the Israeli people to their Jewish democratic state, which finally has fulfilled the dreams of the Jewish people for a safe place in the land of their ancestors. And I’ve gotten to know, too, the great perseverance, the great dignity, the great and incredible perseverance of the Palestinian people, who long for a state that will answer their national aspirations.
And when that two-state solution is finally in place, the Middle East will be a much safer and a much more just place, because it will finally bring together these two great populations who have exhibited that they are among the world’s most determined people, that they are among the world’s most courageous people.
Their partnership is growing these days in ways that was unimaginable just a few years ago. Their partnership is growing in ways that was unimaginable just a year ago when Annapolis took place. And their partnership is growing step by step on the ground through the efforts and through the commitment of people like our honorees today.
Noam, Younis, thank you for your vision, thank you for your courage, and thank you for showing us a little glimpse of what the future looks like for the people of Palestine and the people of Israel. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
Released on November 19, 2008