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Open Letter to the People of Israel

January 19, 2001

Open Letter to the People of Israel:

On Saturday, January 20th, at the stroke of noon, I will step down as President of the United States. This will bring to a close eight eventful years during which I have dealt with problems large and small, domestic and foreign, full of pain and full of joy. Of all, none has meant more to me than the future of your region and of your country.

You live in a dangerous world, and every day brings reminders of that reality. I have expanded our special strategic relationship and helped protect and enhance your security. As part of that continuing effort, I am recommending that when our most advanced fighter aircraft, the F-22, becomes available for sale, Israel, if it so chooses, will be among the first, if not the first, foreign customer. And we have just concluded a memorandum of understanding regarding bilateral security assistance to give practical expression to our long-term commitment to modernize the IDF.

I also have done my best to pursue the path of peace, for I am convinced there is no better route to securing Israel's existence. For eight years, from Yitzhak Rabin to Ehud Barak, I have worked with your leaders as they took calculated risks for peace. We have journeyed together through times of great triumph—like that unforgettable handshake between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn—and times of dark tragedy—like the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the untimely death of King Hussein, and today's violence. Together, we experienced moments of doubt, as terror and violence stalked us every step of the way. But we also achieved historic successes—agreements with the Palestinians in which both sides took steps toward mutual recognition, a peace treaty with Jordan, and, last summer, your withdrawal from Lebanon in fulfillment of United Nations Security Council 425.

I know that the violence of the past three months has brought you great pain, that it has shattered your confidence in the peace process and raised questions about whether you and the Palestinians ever could coexist peacefully sideby-side. But do not draw the wrong lessons from this tragic chapter. The violence does not demonstrate that the quest for peace has gone too far—but that it has not gone far enough. And it points not to the failure of negotiations— but to the futility of violence and force. The alternative to a peaceful settlement never has been clearer; it is being played out before our very eyes.

For my part, I remain convinced of this simple truth: whenever you and your Arab neighbors seek to resolve your remaining differences—today or several years hence; before or after more heartbreak and bloodshed—the fundamental issues will be the same. You will face the same history, the same geography, the same demography, the same passions and hatreds and the same difficult decisions that are required for a comprehensive peace. Compromise is often difficult and always painful. But the people and leaders of the region must understand that to seek a peace without compromise is not to seek peace at all.

Ahead of you are difficult days and heartwrenching nights. I do not envy the difficult decisions you will be called upon to make to reach a lasting peace—and you alone should make them. All anyone can ask is that as you make them with a heavy heart, you do so as well with wide-open eyes that look to a better future for your children.

To you who have returned to an ancient homeland after 2,000 years, whose hopes and dreams almost vanished in the Holocaust, who have hardly had one day of peace and quiet since the state of Israel was created, allow me this parting thought: You are closer today than ever before to ending your 100 year long struggle for peace and normalcy. Don't give up on the pursuit of peace. Not now when it is almost within reach. For that day will surely come, and when it does, though I no longer will be President, I will be standing with you as strong and faithful a friend as I am today. And it will be Israel's finest hour yet.

Shalom al Yisrael.


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

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

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