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Remarks Announcing the White House Middle East Summit and an Exchange With Reporters

September 29, 1996

The President. Good morning. The loss of life and the tragedy of the violence in the Middle East this week have been a terrible development for the Israeli and the Palestinian people, a blow to all those who work for a lasting peace, an encouragement to those who oppose a lasting peace.

Earlier this week I called on Israelis and Palestinians to end the cycle of violence, to restore calm, to recommit themselves to the hard work of building peace through negotiations. There has been some progress since then toward ending the confrontation but not enough. Therefore, after consulting with Secretary Christopher, who has literally been working around the clock with the regional leaders to resolve this problem, I have invited Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat to come to Washington as soon as possible. They have accepted my invitation, as has King Hussein of Jordan. I've also invited President Mubarak of Egypt; he is seeing whether it is possible for him to attend. I expect the meetings to take place early this week.

The United States has often played a pivotal role in bringing Arabs and Israelis together to work out their differences in peace. It is our responsibility to do whatever we can to protect the peace process and to help move it forward. This is such a moment.

The events of this week are all the more shocking because the Israelis and the Palestinians have taken so many giant steps toward peace in the last couple of years. They have shown the world that they want peace. They know they must make hard choices to achieve that goal.

I'm prepared to do everything in my power to help the Israelis and the Palestinians end the violence and begin the peace process again in earnest. We have to return to the path of peace along which they have already traveled so far.

Q. Mr. President, do you think that Israel is ready to abide by its promise to keep previous peace agreements made by other governments?

The President. Well, President—excuse me— Prime Minister Netanyahu says that he will abide by all previous agreements and that is an understanding that he has reached with Chairman Arafat. We will be discussing the relevant issues here to the recent violence and what can be done to really get the peace process back on track when they come here.

Q. What do you think made them decide to come to Washington? They seem so adamantly opposed before.

The President. I believe that—I think they're both concerned about the way events spun out of control, about the loss of life, the injury, the eruption of old tensions and bitterness. And I believe they want to try to get beyond that and go back to moving toward the path of peace. I don't think they would be coming here if they didn't.

Q. What would you ask them to do?

The President. Well, I firmly believe that one of the reasons for the success we have had in the last 3 years is that the United States has not presumed to speak publicly for either one of them and we have been very careful about what we say, particularly in advance of these meetings. I'm going to do everything I can to facilitate a resolution of this, and I don't want to say anything before they get here that would complicate that.

Q. Thank you.

The President. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 8:50 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of Israel, Chairman Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority, King Hussein I of Jordan, and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.

William J. Clinton, Remarks Announcing the White House Middle East Summit and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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