Exchange With Reporters Prior to Discussions With Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel
Middle East Peace Process
Q. Mr. Prime Minister, do you think this agreement today will be a step toward a Palestinian state?
Prime Minister Rabin. I'll answer questions later. We came to visit with the President. After the signing he will be able to ask questions. I prefer not to answer—not to respond to them at this stage.
Q. Maybe the President will be less shy. Mr. President, U.S. policy has been against Palestinian statehood. But you appear to be moving in that direction. Has U.S. policy shifted?
The President. We're not moving anywhere. We're moving with the parties to help make a peace. The parties are making the peace. Every agreement along the way is an agreement between the parties. We are supporting the peace process, and that's all we're doing, and that's all we will continue to do.
Q. [Inaudible]—need their own state, Mr. President?
Prime Minister Rabin. Allow me not to answer you on specifics. I would like to thank the President for the way that he encouraged, assisted, and helped the peace process in the last almost 3 years. I believe that the approach that was taken by the President, the way that he just said so, is to encourage the parties to the conflict to be the parties for peace. The responsibility, the main responsibility of the peacemaking process lies with the parties to the conflict. We appreciate and are thankful to the President for his assistance and encouragement to reach agreements, the kind that we have reached—started 2 years ago almost in signing the DOP, then the Washington Declaration with Jordan, then the peace treaty with Jordan, hopefully today, the second phase of the implementation of the DOP after the Cairo agreement to the whole West Bank. And I believe what has happened in the last over 2 years is a remarkable progress with tranquility, stability, and peace in the region.
Q. Mr. Rabin, progress on the Syrian front hasn't been very swift. Do you have any thoughts about whether this will provide impetus for agreement on another front?
Prime Minister Rabin. Be patient.
[At this point, one group of reporters left the room, and another group entered.]
Q. Mr. President, is there a chance to see President Asad sitting in this room next to you and the Prime Minister?
The President. Well, we would like to see a peace, a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, but that's up to the parties involved. We'll keep working, and we'll just keep working at it.
Q. Mr. President, how do you see the chances of implementation, this current Oslo B agreement between Israel and the Palestinians? Do you perceive that this—that there are fair chances that it will be implemented correctly, positively?
The President. Yes, I believe that if the parties make a good-faith effort, I will do what I can to see that it's properly implemented and to get the necessary support from around the world.
You know, a lot of people have been cheering this process on, and those who cheer need to support it. And the United States will do what we can to support it. And I will encourage a bipartisan support within the United States and around the world. I think the parties will do their part. And those of us who support peace should do ours.
Q. Do you mean political or economically?
Q. Mr. President, do you think Israel should release all the Palestinian prisoners when the agreement is signed?
The President. Excuse me?
Q. Do you think Israel should release all the Palestinian prisoners now when the agreement is signed?
The President. I think that the United States will take the position we have always taken. The parties are working these matters out, and the parties will continue to do it, and we will support the peace process.
NOTE: The exchange began at 9:28 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. A reporter referred to President Hafiz al-Asad of Syria. 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 Yitzhak Rabin of Israel Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/219629