For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 30, 2006
Press Gaggle by Tony Snow
Aboard Air Force One
En route Miami, Florida
5:42 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: Just a couple small pieces of news. You've probably seen a little bit -- or maybe you haven't -- but the Israeli government has announced that there will be a 48-hour period in which they will limit aerial bombardments to targets, or to sites that are aimed directly, or targets that are aimed directly at Israel. There will also be a 24-hour period of safe passage --
Q Directly --
MR. SNOW: Where things are aimed directly at Israel -- to targets aimed directly at Israel. That's for 48 hours, and a 24-hour period of safe passage for humanitarian aid in Lebanon.
The President just got off the phone with Secretary Rice. She has held numerous meetings today -- I think she's met twice with the foreign minister of Israel; had a long session with the Prime Minister; she had also met earlier with the defense minister; she'll meet in the morning again with Defense Minister Peres and head home. She will meet with the President upon her return -- at least, that's what they intend to do.
And that's about all I've got.
Q How many times did they speak today?
MR. SNOW: Three. The President spoke three times today with Secretary Rice. He also had a phone call with Prime Minister Blair that lasted about 10 minutes. And was in fairly constant communication also with National Security Advisor Hadley.
Q The Israelis have told her -- according to what we're hearing both from U.S. officials there and Israeli officials -- that they think this could take another week -- 10 days, two weeks. Is that sustainable in the current political climate?
MR. SNOW: Well, our position is we are working with the United Nations toward a resolution for a sustainable peace. And we are not -- I'm not going to give you a direct response to that; I'll let Secretary Rice characterize what she said. She'll be doing a press avail, I believe, tomorrow morning in Israel. And I'd just rather let her characterize what her talks have been about.
Q Blair says that he wants the United States to speed things up a bit, you know, work harder, faster to get things going. Is --
MR. SNOW: That was not part of the conversation. He and the President were talking about -- well, let me put it this way. The President and the Prime Minister are talking about diplomatic moves and they are trying to get the proper conditions for a sustainable peace. So I don't want to respond to your characterization, but they have talked in some detail about how to move forward together.
Q Well, does this attack hasten the development of diplomacy?
MR. SNOW: No, because the diplomacy -- a lot of the things we're talking about, in terms of diplomacy, were underway before this -- I promise you -- so that there is still -- we have always thought that there was urgency in trying to get to the position where you can have sustainable peace precisely because innocent people, both in Lebanon and in Israel, have been affected by this and have been held hostage by the aggression of Hezbollah and we continue to urge restraint on the part of the Israelis.
Obviously, you just have to have the qualifier today about the civilian deaths in Lebanon, it's something that is -- something for which everybody feels compassion. The President made that clear when he was out on the South Lawn. But it doesn't accelerate the efforts because the efforts really were going forward in a very aggressive and pretty comprehensive way throughout, and they continue to do so.
Now, I think it is safe to say that as a result of what happened today the Secretary of State did cancel her trip back to Beirut, did stay in Israel. And rather than, again, trying to interpret that, I'll direct you back to her statement earlier in the day and also forward to what she has to say about it tomorrow.
Q How quickly do you think she'll head back to the region after she comes back here?
MR. SNOW: I don't have any idea.
Q Has the President spoken to Siniora at all, directly?
MR. SNOW: No, Secretary Rice spoke today with Siniora. The only foreign leader call today was to Prime Minister Blair.
Q Is the President going to have any more words on this today?
MR. SNOW: No. We'll have comment on it tomorrow.
Q Can you describe his mood or how he's taking this or what his --
MR. SNOW: Well, again, I hate to be repetitious, but it's the same thing -- you look at it and, obviously, it's a terrible tragedy for the people involved. But the President is also determined to try to put together conditions to make sure that this is not a regular feature, that the threat of this kind of action does not become or does not continue to be a regular feature of life in Lebanon.
What he wants to do is to make sure the people in Lebanon have the ability to live in peace and security where their own government is in control of their own land. He still believes in the framework he laid out, and he's pursuing it.
Q Obviously, there's a lot of people in the international community who don't think that we're moving fast enough, you know, that we're dragging our feet.
MR. SNOW: We're not dragging our feet. As a matter of fact, we've been leading the coalition from the beginning. I'll direct you to what I've said before: We were the first with humanitarian aid; Secretary Rice was the one who was pushing and worked with the Israelis to set up humanitarian corridors. I think it's safe to say that in terms of trying to develop international consensus on this and move forward so that we can support the government of Prime Minister Siniora, that we have not been on a sidelines. We have been in there and we have been in the lead.
And we are working as quickly as we can. The President has said repeatedly that he would love to have a cease-fire immediately, but you have to have conditions under which it is a cease-fire that will lead to peace and not a cease-fire that will simply provide a brief cessation to the hostilities. He wants to create conditions where there really is a possibility of a lasting peace. The Lebanese people deserve it.
Q Can you talk about the trip?
MR. SNOW: About the trip tomorrow? This trip?
Q Yes. I was asking Josh if he thought it was ill-timed because, I mean, now that it's kind of being overtaken by the events over there.
MR. SNOW: Look, it's interesting because the President still has a full agenda as President of the United States. He has domestic and foreign responsibilities. In the Port of Miami tomorrow he will be talking in some length about the situation in the Middle East and the way ahead. So we will certainly address that. But there is ongoing concern around the country -- as many of you have reported -- about people's desires to make sure that we've got a growing economy that's going to have opportunities for them and their kids. He's going to talk about that, too.
He'll talk about it in the context of ensuring that the economy continues to grow, as well as working on international trade. Miami has a big and important port. He will make reference to the role of trade and free trade agreements have had in making that port even more prosperous and bustling. He'll talk about port security and a whole series of related issues.
Q Who's he eating with tonight?
MR. SNOW: There's a dinner with local folks.
MR. SNOW: Local, l-o-c-a-l. (Laughter.)
Q Do you know the names of these local folks?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. I'll find out. I'll come back and see if I'm at liberty --
Q Anybody we know?
MR. SNOW: Yes, there will be a few you know.
Q Have you guys had any chance to look at the draft by the French?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q Any immediate reaction? Or initial reaction?
MR. SNOW: I'll let the diplomats handle the reaction business. But I think it's safe to say that we're working on something that we think is consistent with the goals and the language the President has used from the beginning. And we're working with numerous parties. We're also looking forward to what we think will be constructive action on the part of the U.N. Secretary Council. How's that? I sort of danced around it, but, you know. I'm just not going to fight the French from here.
Q You made it clear that what happened, the attack doesn't change the goals that the President has. But does it change the strategy and how you're going to go about getting the resolution that you want?
MR. SNOW: No. Again, the strategy is to lay out the vision for what Lebanon deserves, in terms of peace and security; to work at the same time on a parallel track with the so-called commitment talks, which I gather will be taking place Tuesday and Wednesday -- at least, that's the most recent schedule -- so that a Security Council resolution is accompanied also by clear plans on where you go next, so that it's not merely a resolution that says "we hope Lebanon will be able to gain control over its borders," but also points a way forward to making that possible; to support the government of Prime Minister Siniora and also the Lebanese armed forces.
So I think the general strategy is the same. Again, an event like today is the sort that makes everyone grieve; there's just no way around it.
Q Does it make the diplomacy even harder?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. I don't know how to characterize it. What's interesting is you go back to the original incursion, the comments the President made -- I think originally on the 12th, in a press conference with Chancellor Merkel -- and everybody has agreed, the G8 statement, the statement in Rome -- people understand generally what the long-term problem is and also where you can put together a long-term solution. And I think -- if you want to put it this way, this I think helps dramatize the urgency of getting an agreement that will allow the people of Lebanon -- men, women and children; innocent people who have gotten caught in harm's way -- will permit them to live in peace and security.
Q Does he have any reaction to Kofi Annan's comment today, about "gee, I wish everybody would listen to me and have an immediate cease-fire"?
MR. SNOW: I'm not aware of any. He has spent more of his time -- I know that he's keeping tabs on what's been going on at the U.N., and, as you know, the meetings, as far as I know, are still going on at this hour. But the most important thing is to get a Security Council resolution where everybody is working together to help out the people of Lebanon and create the conditions so you'll have democracies in Lebanon, Israel and, eventually, also for the Palestinians.
Thank you, Deb, for providing the questions for today's press briefing. (Laughter.)
Q We drew straws -- she got the short one. (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: Anything else? All right.
Q Thank you for coming back.
END 5:53 P.M. EDT