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Exchange With Reporters Prior to Discussions With Prime Minister Ehud Barak of Israel

April 11, 2000

Middle East Peace Process

Q. Mr. President, why did you call Mr. Barak so urgently to come to Washington? What was the urgency in the matter?

President Clinton. Well, we wanted to talk to each other. It was as much his idea as mine. I think that he wants to continue to energize the peace process, move forward with the Palestinians and with his withdrawal from Lebanon, and I strongly support that, and we're going to talk about it.

Q. Mr. President, what is the United States going to do to prevent an outburst of violence in Lebanon when Israel pulls out in only 3 months?

President Clinton. Well, if Israel pulls out in accordance with the United Nations resolution, what justification will anyone have for violence? They've been asking for this for years—years and years and years.

Q. Justification or not, there is a warning that there could be a real violent——

Q. That doesn't stop Hezbollah from doing its——

President Clinton. We'll talk about that.

Q. Is there anything the U.S. can do for Israel to make the withdrawal serene, to make it peaceful?

President Clinton. Well, "serene" is a word not normally used in the context of the Middle East these days, but we'll do what we can to help, and we're going to talk about it.

Q. Mr. President, are things as bleak on the Syrian track as it seems to us?

President Clinton. Excuse me?

Q. Are things as bleak as they seem to us, on the Syrian track?

President Clinton. Well, I got an answer back from President Asad to several of the points that I raised when I met with him in Switzerland. And there are still differences, if that's what—but that's no bleaker than it was before we met. And so I think what we've got to do is figure out where we go from there. But I think there's a lot of hope for more rapid movement on the Palestinian front, and that's what we're going to talk about.

Q. Is the door still open? Is the door still open on Syrian track? Is the door still open?

President Clinton. You should be asking him, but I think so. But there's got to be a willingness. So we've got to bridge some of these divides, and so we need to make progress where we can.

Q. Are you going to discuss a new proposal on the Syrian front?

President Clinton. Today we're going to discuss, I think, mostly the Palestinian track and Lebanon.

Q. Are you satisfied with the pace of Israel's withdrawal on the Palestinian track?

President Clinton. I think you should wait and see what happens in the next few weeks before we talk about that.

Q. Well, the——

President Clinton. We're going to talk about what's going to happen from here on in.

Israeli Weapon Sales to China

Q. [Inaudible]—Israel's view of China? Can you talk about that issue, when you come back from the Prime Minister, Israel's sale of weaponry to China? Is that going to affect things?

President Clinton. We're going to talk about that. I'm concerned about it; you know I am, and we'll talk about it.

Q. [Inaudible]—on the Palestinian track today?

Prime Minister Barak. We have a variety of ideas to discuss about how to move to give new momentum and energy to the Palestinian track in order to live up to the timeline that we have set together with Chairman Arafat.

Q. And what are you going to tell the President about China, selling arms to China?

Prime Minister Barak. We'll discuss it.

NOTE: The exchange began at 6:33 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his remarks, the President referred to President Hafiz al-Asad of Syria. Prime Minister Barak referred to Chairman Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority. 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 Ehud Barak of Israel Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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