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Open Letter to the Palestinian People

January 19, 2001

Open Letter to the Palestinian People:

On Saturday, January 20th at the stroke of noon, I will step down as President of the United States. As I look back upon my eight years in office, the experiences I have had and the lessons I have learned, one will stand out: my visit to Gaza, the first ever by a U.S. President. I will never forget what it taught me about your suffering, your history of dispossession and dispersal, but also about your resilience and courage. I said at the time that the Palestinian people should be able to determine their own future on their own land and I believe that as strongly now as I did then.

These past eight years have not been easy ones for you. You face daily humiliations; you must struggle simply to find a job; worst of all, you continue to see too many children grow up in poverty. Peace, it is true, has not yet born its fruits. And so I understand the disillusionment, the frustration, even the anger.

But do not lose sight of what you have achieved: The ability to govern yourselves, to elect your leaders, to build your institutions. As one who has seen you and Chairman Arafat work so hard to achieve your goals, allow me to say this: now is not the time to heed the voices of revenge and desperation, for they produce only bloodshed and death. Nothing you have accomplished has been accomplished through violence and nothing will be. It will only be accomplished through peace and negotiations. Now, more than ever, is the time for courageous leadership.

For courage is not only, or even mainly, measured in struggle. It is measured in the ability to seize historic opportunities. Today, it is that other form of courage that is being tested. Never have you been as close to achieving your goals—regaining your land, establishing a state, building a prosperous future for your children. There will always be those sitting comfortably on the outside urging you to hold out for the impossible more. But they are not the ones whose refugees will continue to languish in crowded camps. You are. They are not the ones whose children will grow up in poverty. You are. They are not the ones who will pay the price of missing a historic opportunity. You are. At Oslo, your leaders—and principally Chairman Arafat—demonstrated the courage needed to take the first historic step toward peace. By taking the final one, you will be able to fully realize your God-given potential and to pass on even brighter possibilities to your children.

For my part, I remain convinced that despite these difficult and often tragic days, both you and your Israeli partners will find a way to move from the logic of war and confrontation to the logic of peace and cooperation. And that, together, you will bring peace to this Holy land, sacred to Moslems, Jews, and Christians alike.


NOTE: An original was not available for verification of the content of this letter.

William J. Clinton, Open Letter to the Palestinian People Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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