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2005-01-18-Rice-Mideast Peace Process

Harrison Weblog

2005 blog


Rice says she will be “personally” involved

As Secretary of State in Mideast peace process,  Jan. 18, 2005

(see later Jan. 18 story)      (see Jan. 19 committee vote story)

President George Bush’s nominee for Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee considering her confirmation today (Tuesday, Jan. 18) that she expects to be “personally” involved in the Middle East peace process.

“I look forward to personally working with the Palestinian and Israeli leaders, and bringing American diplomacy to bear on this difficult but crucial issue,” Rice said in her opening comments at the hearing which is expected to take at least two full days. “Peace can come if all parties choose to do the difficult work, and choose to meet their responsibilities.  And the time to choose peace is now.”

Rice laid out what expectations the Bush administration has for both Israel and for the Arab states when negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians resume.

“Israel must do its part to improve the conditions under which Palestinians live and seek to build a better future,” she said.  “Arab states must join to help—and deny any help or solace to those who take the path of violence.  

She also said that the Bush administration takes “great encouragement from the elections just held for a new Palestinian leader…America seeks justice and dignity and a viable, independent and democratic state for the Palestinian people. We seek security and peace for the State of Israel.” 

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif,) introducing Rice at today’s hearing, said because of Rice’s close relationship to President Bush. leaders around the world will know that she speaks for him.

”My sense is that the President trusts her implicitly,” Feinstein told the committee. “When Dr. Rice meets with Hu Jintao, or Ariel Sharon, or Vladimir Putin, there will no doubt that she speaks for and on behalf of the President.”

Noting twice in prepared remarks that Rice came to government from Stanford University — Feinstein’s own alma mater—the senior senator from California said:

“American foreign policy today is at a crossroads. In Iraq, across the Middle East, in North Korea, in our relations with China, and in so many other places, we face major challenges. I would submit that Dr. Rice has the skill, judgment, and poise to lead in these difficult times. If confirmed, she will have the deep, personal trust and confidence of the President. Dr. Rice has been by his side for every crucial national security decision in the last four years.

Furthermore, said the Democratic senator, “the problems we face abroad are complex and sizable. If Dr. Rice’s past performance is any indication, though, we can rest easy. It is difficult to know ahead of time how anyone will perform as Secretary of State. Time and events test vision, facile thinking, and resolute problem solving. But this is a remarkable woman.”

The 18-member committee is chaired by Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind) with Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del) serving as the ranking member. Members of the Jewish community who serve on the committee are Democrats Russell Feingold of Wisconsin and Barbara Boxer of California and Republican Norm Coleman of Minnesota.

In his opening statement, Lugar said the Bush administration and the next Secretary of State not only will have to deal with the problems of global terrorism and Iraq, but “also must devote themselves to achieving a settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict; to coming to grips with the nuclear proliferation problems in Iran and North Korea; to continuing urgent humanitarian efforts in the Sudan, the Indian Ocean region and elsewhere; to maintaining our commitment to the global fight against AIDS and other infectious diseases; to advancing democracy in Afghanistan, Ukraine and elsewhere; to repairing alliances with longstanding friends in Europe; to reinvigorating our economic and security relationships in our own hemisphere, and to engaging with rapidly changing national powers, especially China, India and Russia.”

Rice, in her opening statement, said there are three great tasks for American diplomacy. “First, we will unite the community of democracies in building an international system that is based on our shared values and the rule of law.  Second, we will strengthen the community of democracies to fight the threats to our common security and alleviate the hopelessness that feeds terror. And third, we will spread freedom and democracy throughout the globe.”

The nominee told the committee that the United States “must remain united in insisting that Iran and North Korea abandon their nuclear weapons ambitions, and chose instead the path of peace. New forums that emerge from the Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative offer the ideal venues to encourage economic, social and democratic reform in the Islamic world.  Implementing the Doha Development Agenda and reducing trade barriers will create jobs and reduce poverty in dozens of nations. And by standing with the free peoples of Iraaq and Afghanistan, we will continue to bring hope to millions, and democracy to apart of the world where it is sorely lacking.”

Concerning the initiative “to spread democracy and freedom throughout the world,” Rice took notes of elections in Malaysia, Indonesia, Afghanistan, and Ukrain, and added, “We have watched as the people of the Palestinian Territories turned out to vote in an orderly and fair election. And soon the people of Iraq will exercise the right to choose their leaders, and to set the course of their nation’s future.

To judge how democratic countries are, said Rice, the world should apply “the town square test” once suggested by former Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet dissident who now is a minister in Israel’s government: “If a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment or physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society, not a free society.  We cannot rest until every person living in a ‘fear society’ has finally won their freedom.”

Turning specifically to Middle Eastern affairs, Rice contended that “President Bush has broken with six decades of excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the hope of purchasing stability at the price of liberty.  The stakes could not be higher. As long as the broader Middle East remains a region of tyranny and despair and anger, it will produce extremists and movements that threaten the safety of Americans and our friends.”

Rice said “the establishment of a Palestinian democracy will help to bring an end to the conflict in the Holy Land. Much has changed since June 24th, 2002, when President Bush outlined a new approach for America in the quest for peace in the Middle East, and spoke the truth about what will be required to end this conflict.”                       —Donald H. Harrison