It will be the policy of my administration to actively and
aggressively seek a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians,
as well as Israel and its Arab neighbors. To help us pursue these
goals, Secretary Clinton and I have asked George Mitchell to serve as
special envoy for Middle East peace.
George is renowned in this country and around the world for his
negotiating skill. He brings international stature and a lifetime of
service. His years in the Senate were marked by strong leadership and
bipartisan achievement. His efforts on behalf of peace in Northern
Ireland were indispensable in reconciling a painful and protracted
Time and again, in public service and private life, he has acted with
skill and acted with integrity. He will be fully empowered at the
negotiating table, and he will sustain our focus on the goal of peace.
No one doubts the difficulty of the road ahead, and George outlined
some of those difficulties. The tragic violence in Gaza and southern
Israel offers a sobering reminder of the challenges at hand and the
setbacks that will inevitably come.
It must also instill in us, though, a sense of urgency, as history
shows us that strong and sustained American engagement can bridge
divides and build the capacity that supports progress. And that is why
we will be sending George to the region as soon as possible to help
the parties ensure that the cease-fire that has been achieved is made
durable and sustainable.
Let me be clear: America is committed to Israel’s security. And we
will always support Israel’s right to defend itself against legitimate
For years, Hamas has launched thousands of rockets at innocent Israeli
citizens. No democracy can tolerate such danger to its people, nor
should the international community, and neither should the Palestinian
people themselves, whose interests are only set back by acts of
To be a genuine party to peace, the quartet has made it clear that
Hamas must meet clear conditions: recognize Israel’s right to exist;
renounce violence; and abide by past agreements.
Going forward, the outline for a durable cease-fire is clear: Hamas
must end its rocket fire; Israel will complete the withdrawal of its
forces from Gaza; the United States and our partners will support a
credible anti-smuggling and interdiction regime, so that Hamas cannot
Yesterday I spoke to President Mubarak and expressed my appreciation
for the important role that Egypt played in achieving a cease-fire.
And we look forward to Egypt’s continued leadership and partnership in
laying a foundation for a broader peace through a commitment to end
smuggling from within its borders.
Now, just as the terror of rocket fire aimed at innocent Israelis is
intolerable, so, too, is a future without hope for the Palestinians.
OBAMA: I was deeply concerned by the loss of Palestinian and Israeli
life in recent days and by the substantial suffering and humanitarian
needs in Gaza. Our hearts go out to Palestinian civilians who are in
need of immediate food, clean water, and basic medical care, and
who’ve faced suffocating poverty for far too long.
Now we must extend a hand of opportunity to those who seek peace. As
part of a lasting cease-fire, Gaza’s border crossings should be open
to allow the flow of aid and commerce, with an appropriate monitoring
regime, with the international and Palestinian Authority
Relief efforts must be able to reach innocent Palestinians who depend
on them. The United States will fully support an international donor’s
conference to seek short-term humanitarian assistance and long-term
reconstruction for the Palestinian economy. This assistance will be
provided to and guided by the Palestinian Authority.
Lasting peace requires more than a long cease-fire, and that’s why I
will sustain an active commitment to seek two states living side by
side in peace and security.
Senator Mitchell will carry forward this commitment, as well as the
effort to help Israel reach a broader peace with the Arab world that
recognizes its rightful place in the community of nations.
I should add that the Arab peace initiative contains constructive
elements that could help advance these efforts. Now is the time for
Arab states to act on the initiative’s promise by supporting the
Palestinian government under President Abbas and Prime Minister
Fayyad, taking steps towards normalizing relations with Israel, and by
standing up to extremism that threatens us all.
Jordan’s constructive role in training Palestinian security forces and
nurturing its relations with Israel provide a model for these efforts.
And going forward, we must make it clear to all countries in the
region that external support for terrorist organizations must stop.