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Remarks Prior to Discussions With Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of Israel and an Exchange With Reporters

February 13, 1997

President Clinton. Let me say two things. First of all, I'm delighted to have the Prime Minister back in Washington, and I applaud the terrific effort that he and Chairman Arafat made to resolve the issues relating to Hebron. And I'm looking forward to the next steps.

The second thing I'd like to say is, we are going to have a press conference after this is over, and because we have a lot of things to discuss and a limited amount of time to discuss them, I would prefer if we would defer all questions until the press conference. I will give you an extended opportunity to ask questions related to this, and I know you have some other questions on other things, but I'd rather answer them at the press conference.

Q. And I'll obey you for a change. [Laughter]

Q. Sir, I like your tie.

President Clinton. Thank you. Pamela Harriman gave me that the last time I was in Paris. That's why I wore it today. Her last gift to me was this tie. That's why I wore it today.

[At this point, one group of reporters left the room, and another group entered.]

President Clinton. Let me make a brief statement, if I might. First of all, I am very, very pleased that the Prime Minister is back in Washington. I'm looking forward to our meeting. I want, once again, to congratulate him for the agreement that was made with Chairman Arafat over Hebron. It was a brave and wise thing to do. Obviously, the United States wants to make whatever contribution we can to the continuation of a peace process.

The second thing I would like to say is that we have a lot of things to discuss here, as you might imagine, and a limited time in which to discuss them. I will be happy to take your questions, but I would like to defer it until our press conference. And at least I and I think the Prime Minister will be willing to stay for a reasonable period of time to get virtually all the questions out. But we need to get on with our meeting now.

Q. Mr. President, are you willing to take— [inaudible]—the Hamas member, to Israel——

President Clinton. I'll answer the questions at the press conference.

Prime Minister Netanyahu. This is the Israeli press, Mr. President.

President Clinton. No, it's okay.

Q. What's wrong with the Israeli press?

Prime Minister Netanyahu. A very good press.

President Clinton. Nothing. [Laughter] Wait, wait, wait. The Prime Minister wants to make a statement.

Prime Minister Netanyahu. It's a very brief statement, but I think it says a lot. I'm very, very happy to be here with President Clinton again. We have seen him personally and his staff make a tremendous contribution for peace. I think their contribution for the Hebron agreement was decisive, and it reflects and reaffirms the leadership for peace that President Clinton has shown throughout his term of office.

I think we've taken bold steps for peace. It's time that we see such steps from our partners as well. And if we have this mutuality, we will have, I think, a great future, a different future and hope for our children and our grandchildren.

Q. Mr. President, can you take one question?

President Clinton. At the press conference. I will answer at the press conference. And I promise, if he doesn't call on you, I will.

NOTE: The President spoke at 1:12 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Chairman Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

William J. Clinton, Remarks Prior to Discussions With Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of Israel and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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