[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[September 28, 1998]
[Pages 1698-1699]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 1698]]

Remarks Following Discussions With Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of 
Israel and Chairman Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority and an 
Exchange With Reporters
September 28, 1998

    President Clinton. First of all, I would like to publicly welcome 
Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat. We have had a very, very 
good meeting today, following the one-on-one meeting that the Prime 
Minister and the Chairman had last night, their first face-to-face 
meeting in a year.
    I believe that we all agree that we have made progress on the path 
to peace. There has been a significant narrowing of the gaps between the 
two parties across a wide range of issues that were in the American 
initiative that we've been working on for months. I think also, to be 
candid, there's still a substantial amount of work to be done until a 
comprehensive agreement can be reached. And because I'm convinced that 
the two leaders and the people they represent want an agreement, I have 
asked them to come back to the United States in mid-October with their 
teams to do the intensive work necessary to see if we can conclude this.
    Meanwhile, I've asked the Secretary of State and Ambassador Ross to 
go back to the region in early October to try to see how much 
preparatory work can be done to narrow the differences further and to 
agree on at least the modalities for what we will do here in mid-
    So, all told, it was a good day. And again I want to thank both 
these men for the open, candid, respectful way in which they worked, and 
we worked, together. And we're going to work at this now to see if we 
can get it done.
    Q. What are the major sticking----
    Q. Mr. President, there was----
    President Clinton. Wait, wait. One, two, three. We'll do them all.
    Go ahead.

Palestinian State

    Q. Mr. President, do you support the Palestinian state in principle, 
and do you think the Palestinians have the right to have a state made 
for--or in principle, and self-determination for them?
    President Clinton. In the Oslo accords, that question was left for 
the final status negotiations. Because of the heavy involvement of the 
United States in the peace process, I believe it would be in error for 
me to comment on that. I think the important thing is, that has to be 
resolved in the final status negotiations as provided for in the Oslo 
accords. As long as the peace process is going forward, whatever the 
United States says on that publicly will be unhelpful to the ultimate 
    Q. Mr. President, the First Lady commented on this in public----
    Q. Mr. President, is it your assumption----
    President Clinton. She did, but she's not the President, and she's 
not trying to manage this peace process. That's a different thing. But 
I'm telling you the--we gave our word, when we agreed to try to be an 
honest broker, to respect the Oslo process. And therefore--I have to 
tell you, when I'm in Israel or when I'm with American Jewish groups, 
they also try to get me to say things that I said before I was the 
President and the broker of the process, that I can no longer say. So 
it's a different--I gave my word that I would be faithful to the process 
that these two parties set out for the resolution of their agreement, 
and I have to try to do that.

Middle East Peace Process

    Q. Mr. President, are you saying that the deadline is mid-October 
when you expect both Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu to 
come back to the United States for a settlement?
    President Clinton. Well, let me say this. In the end, whether there 
will be this agreement depends upon how badly they want it, how much we 
can work together, how much trust can be built and sustained, what kind 
of process for ensuring the agreement can be agreed upon by the two 
parties. So I think what I'm telling you is that they have made a very 
unusual commitment; they have committed several days, and not only their 
own time but the time of their appropriate administration and staff 
people, to try to resolve the remaining gaps.

[[Page 1699]]

    I can also tell you that I personally was very impressed by the way, 
the manner, and the substance of their conversation today with me. And 
so we all said we needed to continue to change the dynamics of the 
process to try to increase the likelihood of completion. We made 
significant progress on the path to peace, and I think we could finish 
it in mid-October, and I certainly hope we do.
    Q. Mr. President----
    Q. You promised me the question. Please. There was today--Mr. 
    Q. Could we hear from Chairman Arafat and Mr. Netanyahu----
    Q. Mr. President, today there was a terror attack in Hebron, a 
shooting, and an Israeli woman was injured. The Israelis are saying that 
Arafat, Mr. President, Arafat is not fighting terrorism. Did you get any 
answers from Mr. Arafat concerning the implementation of the reciprocity 
principle? Is Mr. Arafat willing to stick to his commitments according 
to the Hebron accords and Oslo accords to fight terrorism?
    President Clinton. Perhaps I should let him answer that. But he 
certainly affirmed that to us. And keep in mind, that's a part of the 
whole peace process, those kinds of agreements, and that's one of the 
things that the Prime Minister, representing the people of Israel, would 
raise, and something that has to be talked through.
    But if either one of these gentlemen want to say----
    Q. Chairman Arafat, what's your assessment of the talks today?
    Chairman Arafat. What he has mentioned is covering everything--and 
instead of saying the same thing----
    Q. ----Palestinian state today in----
    Q. Mr. President, where has there been progress in the peace 
    Q. ----Mr. President.
    Q. Chairman Arafat, are you convinced----
    President Clinton. I believe there's been progress in all major 
areas. I think we're closer together on virtually--on every major issue 
that either Chairman Arafat has mentioned to me or that Prime Minister 
Netanyahu has mentioned to me than there was before. But we have an 
operating agreement here that we will all say that nothing has been 
agreed to until everything has been agreed to. I think that is a good 
operating agreement. If they ever decide to change it, then I will honor 
their decision. Otherwise, our position is that you cannot conclude that 
anything has been agreed to until everything has been agreed to.
    Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:45 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White 
House. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these