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Remarks on the Israeli Elections and an Exchange With Reporters

May 30, 1996

The President. Good morning. My goodness, the sun is out. I'd like to make just a couple of brief comments about the election in Israel last night.

First of all, it was a cliffhanger. A lot of us were up late waiting for the returns, but I want to just make a couple of points. The United States—first, we don't know how—we don't have final returns. We have to wait for the postal ballots to be cast, counted.

Whatever the results, the United States will continue its policy of support for the people of Israel, for the democratic process there, and for the process of peace. And our policy will be the same. If Israel is prepared to take risks for peace, we are determined to do our best to reduce the risks and increase the security of those who do that.

I was especially encouraged in the closing days of the campaign that both parties and both candidates expressed, in different ways, but still a clear commitment to continue the peace process. So that is my hope; that's what I hope will come out of this election. And we'll all just have to sit now and wait until the final ballots are counted.

Q. Do you believe Mr. Netanyahu would not restart settlements in the West Bank, would not go ahead with negotiations with Syria? There's a dramatic difference in his approach.

The President. Well, there's been a difference in what they say their approaches are, but I was actually quite interested in the comments that he made about this, particularly in the last days of the election. I think we have to wait and see.

I would first of all say, let's wait until all the ballots are in, until we see who voted how and what the final outcome is. But the first big leg of the whole process of peace in the Middle East was completed by one of Mr. Netanyahu's Likud predecessors. So we just have to wait and see.

They certainly have a lively, interesting democracy. And they showed it again yesterday, and the rest of us should support that. And I would hope that we would have that kind of turnout in our country this November. I hope that percentage of our voters shows up. I think they had over two-thirds of the overall voters turn out. And I hope that—and maybe even higher.

They have made their decision. Now we have to wait for a while to see what it is. And then afterward they will have to chart a course, and then we'll see where we go from there.

Q. Do you want results that close?

The President. No. I hope they won't be that close, but I hope that we'll have that many people voting. I like the turnout. And I like the vigorous involvement. I like the debate. I thought it—you know, it was a very stimulating thing for them and, you know, it was a difficult, challenging election for the people of Israel and, you know, we'll see. I think all of us who watched the returns last night and watched the reports coming in were impressed by the vigor of the democracy and by the determination to participate. And now, you know, they have a very diverse society, and they're trying to find ways to integrate all the various elements of their society. It was very impressive to me what happened.

And so I'm going to wait for the votes to come in and a winner to be declared and the government to be announced, and then we'll see where we go from there.

Press Secretary Mike McCurry. Thank you, Mr. President.

The President. Thank you.

Q. Mr. President, does the closeness of the vote make it difficult for anyone to lead? What is the message?

The President. Let's wait a while. Let's see what the vote is, and we'll see what the message is. I don't want to be an instantaneous commentator, but I'll think some more about it and see if I can answer that question.

Q. How late were you up?

The President. Until I found out what all the counted votes were last night, about 1 o'clock.

NOTE: The President spoke at 8:20 a.m. on the South Lawn at the White House, prior to his departure for New Orleans, LA. In his remarks, he referred to Binyamin Netanyahu, Likud Party candidate for Prime Minister in Israel.

William J. Clinton, Remarks on the Israeli Elections and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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