[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1997, Book I)] [March 3, 1997] [Pages 227-228] [From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]
Remarks Prior to Discussions With Chairman Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority and an Exchange With Reporters March 3, 1997 President Clinton. Good morning. I'm glad to welcome Chairman Arafat here. This is our sixth meeting, and I'm hopeful that it will be as productive as our previous ones have. You will remember the last time he was here, last fall, we were facing a very difficult situation with regard to Hebron, and because of the efforts that he made in working with the Israelis, an agreement was reached, a timetable was established, and we're moving forward. And I'm hopeful that we can keep doing that. This is also a difficult moment, but I think we can work through it and go forward, and I appreciate his coming to see me. Middle East Peace Process Q. Mr. Chairman, are the new settlements designed by the Israelis to make the annexation a fait accompli of East Jerusalem? Chairman Arafat. Not only for Jerusalem but also for Bethlehem, because their target is to squeeze and to isolate Jerusalem but, at the same time, to build the settlements at the entrance of Bethlehem, to replace Har Homa, our capital--in the city of Bethlehem during the 2,000 years of our celebration for our Jesus Christ. Q. What are you going to do about it? Chairman Arafat. I am sure that His Excellency will push for--to prevent it. Q. Mr. President, what do you think about the settlement? President Clinton. Well, what I think about the settlement is what I think about all these issues. You know, the important thing is for these people on both sides to be building confidence and working together. And so I would prefer the decision not have been made, because I don't think it builds confidence, I think it builds mistrust. And I wish that it had not been made. Q. Mr. President, the Jerusalem Embassy Act declares that the United States should recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Is Jerusalem Israel's capital, and does Israel have the right to build within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem? President Clinton. Well, you know, I've been asked that question a lot, and I'm going to give you the same answer I always give. I do not believe, now that the parties have reached the agreement they reached in 1993 and they have made this the final status issue, that the United States can serve any useful purpose by saying, or especially by doing, anything which seems to prejudge what should be a final status issue between the parties. I think that would be a big mistake. 1996 Campaign Financing Q. Vice President Gore, did you solicit money in the White House, Mr. Gore, during the campaign? Vice President Gore. I'll talk with you all later, not during this. President Clinton. Nice tie, Ron [Ron Fournier, Associated Press]. Q. Thank you. Got that in Arkansas. Storms in Arkansas Q. Do you want to say anything about the storms? Q. Are you going to Arkansas? President Clinton. I'm going down tomorrow. I'm very concerned about it. I talked over the weekend to--I talked to the Governor twice and the mayor of Little Rock and Representative Malone in Arkadelphia. You know, it's a bad situation. More people were killed in 18 hours than in the 12 years I was Governor, I believe, combined, in the tornadoes. Q. Did you know anybody that was hurt or killed? President Clinton. Not to my knowledge, although I did recognize a couple of people on television last night who had lost their homes. One man said--did you see that--where he had given away a couch to the Goodwill Industries, and whoever got the couch had their home destroyed and the couch was blown back into his house. [Laughter] Q. You're going down---- President Clinton. I recognized three or four people on television. But I'm going down there. I'll see tomorrow. Chelsea Clinton's Birthday Q. You had a good birthday celebration? [[Page 228]] President Clinton. Wonderful. Chelsea had a good birthday. New York was good. Note: The President spoke at 10:12 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas; Mayor Jim Dailey of Little Rock, AR; and State Representative Percy Malone. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.