For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 26, 2001
Remarks by the President
And Prime Minister of Israel Ariel Sharon
in Photo Opportunity
the Oval Office
3:25 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: It's my honor to
welcome back to the Oval Office Prime Minister Sharon. He is
a leader who has faced extraordinary circumstances in the Middle
East. I believe he's shown patience and is willing to lead.
I understand the pressures he is under.
Today it's my opportunity to once again look
him in the eye and tell him he's got no better friend than the United
States; and as well, tell him that we all must work to break the cycle
of violence so that we can begin the process of implementing the
Mitchell agreement. Our fervent hope in this nation is that
there is peace in the Middle East.
And I'm so honored you came back, Mr. Prime
Minister, and I look forward to having the discussion with you that --
it will be an add-on to the great discussion we had the last time you
were here. Welcome.
PRIME MINISTER SHARON: Thank you,
Mr. President. I'm very glad to be here
again. Israel is committed to peace, will make every effort
to reach peace. Peace should be peace for generations and
peace should provide security to the Israeli citizens.
The Jewish people are having one tiny, small
country, that is Israel -- (inaudible) -- would have the right and the
capability to defend themselves by themselves. And that, of
course, we have to preserve and we have to thank God for that every
We are committed to the Mitchell report in its
sequence, according to sequence. We adopted the Mitchell
report and we received Tenet document, Tenet plan. And we'll
be willing to continue. The one thing that we are looking
for is, first of all, it would be full cessation of hostilities, of
terror and incitement. If that would happen, I am fully
convinced that the day will come and we'll have peace in the Middle
I would like to thank Mr. President again for
coming here. We regard your administration to be a very
friendly one. And we would like to thank you for that.
THE PRESIDENT: And as you know, Mr.
Prime Minister, our Secretary of State leaves tonight for the Middle
East. And our fervent hope is to advance the process for
making sure there's peace in that part of the world.
We'll be glad to answer a question apiece.
Q Mr. President, do you
expect Prime Minister Sharon -- do you expect Prime Minister Sharon to
negotiate under fire, Mr. President?
WHITE HOUSE AIDE: Mr. Fournier of
the Associated Press.
Q Mr. President, the
same question to both of you. Do you think it is possible,
do you think it's appropriate to move to the next step in the Mitchell
report? They call for a cooling-off period even before
there's a full cessation of violence.
THE PRESIDENT: I think that there
has to be -- the cycle of violence must be broken. I look
forward to discussing with the Prime Minister about what's realistic
and what's possible. But we both believe that it is possible
if there's a strong effort made by both parties to break the cycle of
Mitchell says it's a sequential
process. Step one is to break the cycle. And we
have been on the phone with all parties, all the time it seems like,
urging the cycle of violence to be broken. And progress is
being made. I am here to tell the Prime Minister, I know
there's a level of frustration, but there is progress being
made. And for that progress, we are grateful.
The Prime Minister has shown a lot of patience
in the midst of a lot of -- in the midst of casualty. But
progress is being made. Is it as fast as we'd
like? No, it's not. But the fundamental question
my administration makes is, are we making progress; is peace closer
today than it was yesterday. We believe the answer is, yes.
And, therefore, the Secretary of State leaves
tonight to try to advance the process, to make peace more
real. And he's going to meet not only with the Israelis,
he'll be meeting with the Palestinians, as well -- urging -- urging the
cycle of violence to be broken.
Q The question to both
of you, though, is can we move to step two now, even though there is
not a complete end to violence?
THE PRESIDENT: We're going to
discuss all opportunities today, in the meeting today. If I
didn't think progress is being made, I would not be sending the
Secretary of State to the Middle East. We believe we have a
further opportunity to advance the peace process. This is an
important statement of the progress that's being made. So
the Secretary of State leaves tonight to continue working hard to break
the cycle of violence.
Both parties will understand when the level of
violence has gotten down to the point where there can be some
progress. We just want to make sure that there's a realistic
assessment of what is possible on the ground. And we believe that at
some point in time we can start the process of Mitchell.
PRIME MINISTER SHARON: Thank
you. First of all, I would like to wish to Secretary of
State Colin Powell success in his trip to the Middle East. I know that
he, like the President, makes a major effort to bring security and
peace in the Middle East.
Israel's position is that we can negotiate
only, and we would like to negotiate only when it will be full
cessation of hostilities, terror, violence and
incitement. Otherwise, I don't think we'd be able to reach a
peace which will really make all of us committed to.
One must understand that if last week we had
five dead, it's like the United States, Mr. President, having 250
killed, or maybe even 300 people killed by terror. And that
is saying that one should not compromise with terror. And,
therefore, I believe that if we stick to what we have been saying for
so many times, such a long time, that it should be full cessation of
terror before we move to the other phase, then our neighbors will
understand that they have to do it.
Q Mr. Prime Minister --
also ready for a full freeze of settlements?
Q Mr. President, how
can we --
Q Mr. Prime Minister,
do you see any signs that Yasser Arafat stopped the violence and is
willing to go to peace with Israel?
Q -- peace timetable
Q Mr. Prime Minister,
do you see any progress on Arafat's side?
EMBASSY SPOKESMAN: Israeli
Q Mr. President, you
said that we --
PRESIDENT: Whew. Man. (Laughter.) I
don't know if they wore you out, but I'm certainly worn
out. (Laughter.) Go on.
PRIME MINISTER SHARON: -- asked by
American television --
THE PRESIDENT: I don't know, but
Gregory looks like he's got one on the tip of your
tongue. That's right. (Laughter.)
Q Mr. President, you
said that we should be realistic. Don't you think it's a
price for terrorists, for terrorism, if right now the United States
will force Israel to begin the cooling-off period? We see
that in the field the hostilities continue.
THE PRESIDENT: Any terror is too
much terror. Any death is too much death. We
recognize that. And we recognize the pressure that the Prime
Minister is under. And we condemn terror. We
condemn violence. We condemn death.
We also believe progress is being
made. If you look at -- yes, there's violence; yes, there's
terror, but it's being isolated, it's beginning to --
contained. Can the parties do
more? Absolutely. And that's what the Secretary
of State is going to do, is to urge Mr. Arafat to do more, to take
better control of his security forces.
We're going to talk to the Prime Minister
about his attitudes. We're friends, and I believe that
what's important from this perspective is not to let the progress
that's been made so far to break apart. We cannot let
violence take hold.
And so that's why I've said I admire the Prime
Minister's restraint and his patience. I understand the
difficulties and the pressures. As he just said, five
Israeli lives lost is equivalent of 250 -- five is too
many. But nevertheless, progress is being
made. And it's essential that we continue the process and
continue the progress that's being made. We're gaining by
inches, I recognize. Progress is in inches, not in
miles. But, nevertheless, an inch is better than nothing.
And so, therefore, this administration is
committed to working with the parties. We urge people in the
Q -- the decision --
THE PRESIDENT: -- we urge people in
the region to stop the violence. And that's first and
foremost. You know, it's -- either you're an optimist in
life, or not. And I'm optimistic that we can get -- start
the process of Mitchell at some point in time.
Q But, Mr. Prime
PRIME MINISTER SHARON: I would like
to answer to the Israeli Radio. Yesterday we had 16 terror attacks,
and that included multi-fire, it included side bombs, it included
shooting and sniping. We had 10 wounded. So all together,
generally speaking, maybe there are less, but still terror is going
on. And by now, though I would like very much to hear that
Chairman Arafat instructed to re-arrest those terrorists which are
planning and sending and mobilizing those suiciders, he has not done it
yet. He has not instructed to arrest them and they were not
arrested. And beside that, he has not instructed yet to stop
incitement. And that, of course, he could do -- I would say
he could have done it immediately because he controlled the --
(inaudible) -- completely.
Q But will you
negotiate under fire, Mr. Prime Minister? Will you negotiate
PRIME MINISTER SHARON: I've said it
very clearly. Israel will not negotiate under fire and under
terror. We said it because if we do that we'll never reach
peace. That is the point. It's not -- what I'm
saying is not an obstacle, not a barrier against peace. On
the contrary. If we will be very strict, then the
Palestinians will understand they cannot gain anything by
terror. Therefore, we have to be very strict in order to
reach peace, which all of us would like to have.
Q Can we just clarify
one point? If Mr. Bush asks you to move forward to a
cooling-off period, will your answer be yes or no?
Q Thank you.
END 3:36 P.M. EDT