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  2005-02-06-Rice—en route to Israel
Harrison Weblog

2005 blog


America sees itself more in the background
as Mideast parties themselves shape peace
,  Feb. 6, 2005

As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice traveled from Poland to Turkey to Israel, she filled in some pieces of the puzzle concerning how the United States is viewing its role—and that of other nations— in the developing Middle East peace dynamic

For example, in Warsaw, following a Feb. 5 meeting with Poland's Prime Minister Marek Bela she mentioned that "Poland, as a country that has good relations with both parties, will be able to play a constructive role in helping in the capacity building of the new Palestinian state in that area."

Rice amplified on this during a Feb. 6 flight between Warsaw and Ankara, saying: "I thought the Polish discussion of what they might be able to do in terms of the building of new institutions, even in the Palestinian territories was…it was important, and something I’d not heard before, that they were interested in doing that."

Asked on the plane to define the American role, given that Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority will meet on their own on Tuesday, Feb. 8, in Sharm el Sheikh, Rice replied that the U.S. has several roles:

"First of all, I think we’ve helped to set the context  for what the parties are doing by, with our partners, having, of course, a Road Map to which we hope everyone can return," she said.  "But it’s also the U.S. support that has been there for the Israeli disengagement plan, which has been very forthright and very strong."  She then listed some of the other roles: 

• "The support for, obviously, the Palestinian elections, and for what we can do to help the Palestinians begin to develop the institutions that will become the basis of statehood. That really is, in many ways, what I hope to accomplish here, which is to work with the parties to look ahead a little bit as they go through what are really now very crucial steps to getting back on the Road Map. What can we do in terms of developing those Palestinian states? How can we be helpful? And I think we will be very critical in the reform and re-training of Palestinian security forces. 

• "What can we do to encourage the parties to have coordinating meetings and mechanisms for the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza? Prime Minister Sharon has talked about the willingness to coordinate that withdrawal. We think that’s extremely important. 

• "What can we do to help the parties to develop means by which they can talk and solve the kind of crises that are inevitably going to come up as they go along this road? We know 
that the rejectionists and the tyrannist terrorists are going to continue to try to make 
statements, sometimes violent statements, that they are unreconciled to a process of reconciliation 
and forward movement between the Palestinians and the Israelis. 

"So, the United States wants very much for this to be a process that is the parties’ process, that 
is owned by the parties, that’s owned by the regional state. That’s why what Egypt is doing is a 
very, very welcome development. We have no doubt that we are very involved with all of them at this point and that when our involvement needs to take on a different character, that we’ll do precisely that. 

"But, I would hope that we would all get into a mindset that says if the parties are able to 
continue to move on their own, that’s the very best outcome that one could possibly have. The 
United States will continue to set the context, to be there to help, to provide whatever assistance 
we can. But a process in which the parties are moving ahead is really favorable from our point of 

The Secretary of State returned to that latter point in a Feb. 6 interview in Ankara with Andrea Koppel of CNN:

During previous U.S. initiatives to promote peace in the Middle East, Rice said, "the Arab world, I think, was not as vested in the process. They were concerned that the process take place, but perhaps not as active in it. There are very good signs in this regard. The decision of each to invite the Palestinians and the Israelis to Sharm el-Sheik this coming week is an example of the Arabs, I think, taking responsibility and stepping forward in the peace process. Egypt and Jordan have been very – and Jordan will of course be there- Egypt and Jordan have been active on the security front, and that’s very good." 

Koppel questioned Rice about the likely effect on the peacemaking process of Hamas having swept the municipal elections in Gaza.

"I would note that these were municipal elections not national elections," Rice responded. "If you look at what happened in the national elections Mahmoud Abbas won a very sizable majority because I think that the Palestinian people do not accept a plan and a program that they recognize would simply result in the continuation of violence. 

"The reason that Mahmoud Abbas I believe was popularly elected is that he has said that there should not be an armed intifada, that in fact they need a peaceful road. I can’t believe that Palestinian mothers want a world in which people strap suicide belts onto young girls and young men so that they blow up other young girls and young men. And so a program that appeals to that, I simply don’t believe is going to be successful. And the Palestinian authority for its part will have to show that it is able to do some of the things that the people were voting for in municipal elections- like run orphanages, deal with the social welfare of the people and fight corruption." 

With President Bush having announced in his State of the Union message that the United States planned to contribute $350 million to the Palestinians, Rice told Koppel, "there’s no doubt that we cannot be in a position of giving aid where there is not transparency. All of American development assistance in recent years, like the Millennium Challenge account for instance, insists on good governance as one of the prerequisites for the granting of American assistance. And so I would think that we would also expect good governance in the Palestinian territories if American aid is going to be flowing there. 

"But I have to say that I’ve been encouraged by some of the things that the president has done, President Abbas has done, but also his finance minister, Sam Fiyad, who has gone a long way in putting controls- economic controls- and has gone a long way to transparency, publishing for instance the Palestinian Authority budget on the internet. And so, there’s a lot to work with here, and I’m quite certain that we can manage this. "    

On departure from Turkey, en route to Israel, the Secretary of State and Turkey's Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul were asked about anti-Semitic material that can be found in the Palestinian and Arab press.

Rice responded that at previous meetings with Arab leaders including King Abdullah of Jordan; Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia; President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt;  Sheik Hamad, the king of Bahrain, and Palestinian President Mahmoud  Abbas, it was agreed that "the key in many ways to progress is to change the perceptions of each other and the realities of each other if indeed there is going to be a lasting peace in the Middle East.

"Israel deserves to live in peace in the Middle East and the Jewish people deserve the respect of their neighbors," she said. "We have been very clear that incitement cannot be countenanced; it cannot be ignored, that it is not possible simultaneously to say that you want a peace between the Israelis and the Palestinian that is lasting, and at the same time ignore or countenance some of the most horrific caricatures of Israelis or anti-Semitism in any form. 

"Both sides need to make certain that they are representing positive images of each other, of their cultures. These are great civilizations. Both Arab and Islamic civilizations, and, of course, the Jewish civilization, are great civilizations that have contributed greatly to human progress, and continue to contribute to human progress. And that needs to be the message that underlies the desire for the states to live in peace. And so, it is indeed a very important message. 

"I think that President Abbas himself has spoken out from time to time about the need to end incitement, and we would expect all parties -- Arab, Israeli, Palestinian -- to do what they can with their populations to prepare the ground for the peaceful establishment of two states living side by side."

Foreign Minister Gal noted that he had recently visited both Israel and the Palestinian Authority. "And as I have seen there as well, there is still an optimistic climate. And I believe that if the suicide attacks by the Palestinians and the killings by the Israelis come to an end, then I believe it will be possible for a mutual understanding on the issue by both sides, and already there is such an understanding.

"As the peace process is realized, I believe that when it becomes obvious that the Palestinians and Israelis can live side by side, then I believe such negative impressions and feelings will come to and end, as well," Gal continued. 

In what apparently was a reference to times long prior to the establishment  of Israel, Turkey's foreign minister added: " It had been a fact throughout history that the Jews and Muslims in fact never had wars against each other. And I believe that when both the Israelis and the Palestine people do have their own governments, then it will be possible to see security in the region and then a new understanding will emerge, and therefore we should all be contributing positively to this process."    —Donald H. Harrison