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Exchange With Reporters Prior to Discussions With Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of Israel

July 09, 1996

Prime Minister's Visit

Q. Mr. President, do you think it's a good idea for Prime Minister Netanyahu to sit down with Yasser Arafat personally and try to work out the problems between the Israelis and the Palestinians?

The President. Well, I think it's a good idea for him to sit down with me. And we're looking forward to it. We'll be able to—we'll answer your questions later. I think we should wait until after we have a chance to visit to answer questions.

Terrorist Attack in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia

Q. Has there been any progress in determining who was responsible for the terrorist action in Saudi Arabia?

The President. Well, I got an update yesterday. I think the investigation is progressing. I don't know how to—I don't want to answer your question specifically. I feel confident that the investigation is being handled in the proper way and it is progressing.

Q. If it is state-sponsored, though, is there going to be U.S. retaliation if you can conclude that a state was responsible for this action?

The President. Let me—let's do the investigation first.

Prime Minister's Visit

Q. Mr. Prime Minister, are you bringing the President information about Palestinian violations of the accord, sir?

Prime Minister Netanyahu. First of all, I'm bringing with me to the President a lot of good will from the people of Israel to the people of the United States and from the leadership of Israel to the leadership of the United States. I'm sure we'll have a productive discussion, and I'm sure you'll bear with us until we do.

Terrorist Attack in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia

Q. Mr. Prime Minister, do you think there are any Syrian links to the bombing in Saudi Arabia?

Prime Minister Netanyahu. Well, I thought that the President's suggestion of first investigating and then declaring may be not that frequent among political leaders, but I think it's wise. It's a wise suggestion in which I'll follow.

Q. Do you have any evidence of Syrian involvement? Do you?

The President. Thank you. We'll answer more later. Thank you.

Secretary of Defense William Perry

Q. Mr. President, Secretary Perry seems to be getting a pretty tough grilling right now up on the Hill. Do you still have confidence in Secretary Perry?

The President. Oh, absolutely. He's been a very good Defense Secretary. This is a tough issue. That's why I appointed General Downing to look at it all, to get the facts, and to evaluate the security situation there and elsewhere where our people might be at risk. And we will do a good job of that. But I think the American people recognize that, on balance, our military people have done a good job and that he's been quite a good and effective Defense Secretary. I have full confidence in him. And I believe that every fairminded person, when they look at his record, will feel the same way.

[At this point, one group of reporters left the room, and another group entered.]

Prime Minister's Visit

The President. Let's get everyone in first.

Prime Minister Netanyahu. This is the most genteel press of all, the Israeli press. They're all pussycats here.

The President. Let me, first of all, say I'm delighted to have the Prime Minister here. I've looked forward to having a chance to have this conversation. He and his family arrived late last night, and I'm glad to see him looking so brighteyed this morning. And I think that I should defer answering any substantive questions until we have a chance to visit. When we have a chance to visit, we're going to make ourselves available to you, and I'll answer whatever substantive questions you have then.

Q. Mr. President, will you promise the Prime Minister that in the second Clinton administration the Embassy will move to West Jerusalem as the law of the land says?

The President. I'll promise the Prime Minister to answer questions after we have a chance to visit.

Q. Mr. President, are you going to change your policy towards Syria?

The President. I'll talk about all this after we have a chance to visit. I want to visit with the Prime Minister first.

Q. Mr. President, are you expecting to get any specific answers from the Prime Minister regarding Hebron, as an example?

The President. I expect we'll have a good conversation.

Q. [Inaudible]—the chemistry between you two is important to you, Mr. President?

The President. I have always thought it was pretty good. I read the Prime Minister's—one of his books a long time before I even ran for President before, and I've always been very interested and admiring of his understanding of the problem of terrorism, which I think he explained to the world in advance of many other people focusing on it. And I just read his most recent book. And we've always had a cordial relationship. So I'm looking forward to renewing it and working with him.

NOTE: The exchange began at 11:10 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. In his remarks, the President referred to Gen. Wayne A. Downing, USA (Ret.), Director, Downing Assessment Task Force. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this exchange.

William J. Clinton, Exchange With Reporters Prior to Discussions With Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of Israel Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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