WASHINGTON, June 24, 2002
U.S. President George W. Bush's
Middle East speech
For too long, the citizens of the Middle East have lived in the midst of death
and fear. The hatred of a few holds the hopes of many hostage. The forces of
extremism and terror are attempting to kill progress and peace by killing the
innocent. And this casts a dark shadow over an entire region. For the sake of
all humanity, things must change in the Middle East.
It is untenable for Israeli citizens to live in terror. It is untenable for
Palestinians to live in squalor and occupation. And the current situation offers
no prospect that life will improve. Israeli citizens will continue to be victimized
by terrorists, and so Israel will continue to defend herself, and the situation
of the Palestinian people will grow more and more miserable.
My vision is two states, living side by side, in peace and security. There
is simply no way to achieve that peace until all parties fight terror. Yet at
this critical moment, if all parties will break with the past and set out on
a new path, we can overcome the darkness with the light of hope.
Peace requires a new and different Palestinian leadership, so that a Palestinian
state can be born. I call on the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders
not compromised by terror. I call upon them to build a practicing democracy
based on tolerance and liberty. If the Palestinian people actively pursue these
goals, America and the world will actively support their efforts. If the Palestinian
people meet these goals, they will be able to reach agreement with Israel and
Egypt and Jordan on security and other arrangements for independence. And when
the Palestinian people have new leaders, new institutions and new security arrangements
with their neighbors, the United States of America will support the creation
of a Palestinian state, whose borders and certain aspects of its sovereignty
will be provisional until resolved as part of a final settlement in the Middle
East. In the work ahead, we all have responsibilities.
The Palestinian people are gifted and capable and I'm confident they can achieve
a new birth for their nation. A Palestinian state will never be created by terror.
It will be built through reform. And reform must be more than cosmetic change
or a veiled attempt to preserve the status quo. True reform will require entirely
new political and economic institutions based on democracy, market economics
and action against terrorism.
Today the elected Palestinian legislature has no authority and power is concentrated
in the hands of an unaccountable few. A Palestinian state can only serve its
citizens with a new constitution which separates the powers of government. The
Palestinian parliament should have the full authority of a legislative body.
Local officials and government ministers need authority of their own and the
independence to govern effectively.
The United States, along with the European Union and Arab states, will work
with Palestinian leaders to create a new constitutional framework and a working
democracy for the Palestinian people. And the United States, along with others
in the international community, will help the Palestinians organize and monitor
fair, multi-party local elections by the end of the year with national elections
Today, the Palestinian people live in economic stagnation, made worse by official
corruption. A Palestinian state will require a vibrant economy, where honest
enterprise is encouraged by honest government. The United States, the international
donor community and the World Bank stand ready to work with Palestinians on
a major project of economic reform and development. The United States, the EU,
the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are willing to oversee reforms
in Palestinian finances, encouraging transparency and independent auditing.
And the United States, along with our partners in the developed world, will
increase our humanitarian assistance to relieve Palestinian suffering.
Today, the Palestinian people lack effective courts of law and have no means
to defend and vindicate their rights. A Palestinian state will require a system
of reliable justice to punish those who prey on the innocent. The United States
and members of the international community stand ready to work with Palestinian
leaders to establish, finance and monitor a truly independent judiciary. Today,
Palestinian authorities are encouraging, not opposing terrorism. This is unacceptable.
And the United States will not support the establishment of a Palestinian state
until its leaders engage in a sustained fight against the terrorists and dismantle
This will require an externally supervised effort to rebuild and reform the
Palestinian security services. The security system must have clear lines of
authority and accountability, and a unified chain of command. America's pursuing
this reform along with key regional states.
The world is prepared to help, yet ultimately these steps toward statehood
depend on the Palestinian people and their leaders. If they energetically take
the path of reform, the rewards can come quickly. If Palestinians embrace democracy,
confront corruption and firmly reject terror, they can count on American support
for the creation of a provisional state of Palestine.
With a dedicated effort, this state could rise rapidly, as it comes to terms
with Israel, Egypt and Jordan on practical issues such as security. The final
borders, the capital and other aspects of this state's sovereignty will be negotiated
between the parties as part of a final settlement.
Arab states have offered their help in this process, and their help is needed.
I've said in the past that nations are either with us or against us in the war
on terror. To be counted on the side of peace, nations must act. Every leader
actually committed to peace will end incitement to violence in official media
and publicly denounce homicide bombings. Every nation actually committed to
peace will stop the flow of money, equipment and recruits to terrorist groups
seeking the destruction of Israel, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah.
Every nation actually committed to peace must block the shipment of Iranian
supplies to these groups and oppose regimes that promote terror, like Iraq.
And Syria must choose the right side in the war on terror by closing terrorist
camps and expelling terrorist organizations. Leaders who want to be included
in the peace process must show by their deeds and undivided support for peace.
And as we move toward a peaceful solution, Arab states will be expected to
build closer ties of diplomacy and commerce with Israel, leading to full normalization
of relations between Israel and the entire Arab world. Israel also has a large
stake in the success of a democratic Palestine. Permanent occupation threatens
Israel's identity and democracy.
A stable, peaceful Palestinian state is necessary to achieve the security that
Israel longs for. So I challenge Israel to take concrete steps to support the
emergence of a viable, credible Palestinian state. As we make progress toward
security, Israeli forces need to withdraw fully to positions they held prior
to September 28th, 2000. And consistent with the recommendations of the Mitchell
committee, Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories must stop.
The Palestinian economy must be allowed to develop. As violence subsides, freedom
of movement should be restored, permitting innocent Palestinians to resume work
and normal life. Palestinian legislators and officials, humanitarian and international
workers, must be allowed to go about the business of building a better future.
And Israel should release frozen Palestinian revenues into honest, accountable
hands. I've asked Secretary (of State Colin) Powell to work intensively with
Middle Eastern and international leaders to realize the vision of a Palestinian
state, focusing them on a comprehensive plan to support Palestinian reform and
Ultimately, Israelis and Palestinians must address the core issues that divide
them if there is to be a real peace, resolving all claims and ending the conflict
between them. This means that the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 will
be ended through a settlement negotiated between the parties, based on U.N.
Resolutions 242 and 338, with Israeli withdrawal to secure and recognized borders.
We must also resolve questions concerning Jerusalem, the plight and future
of Palestinian refugees, and a final peace between Israel and Lebanon, and Israel
and a Syria that supports peace and fights terror. All who are familiar with
the history of the Middle East realize that there may be setbacks in this process.
Trained and determined killers, as we have seen, want to stop it. Yet the Egyptian
and Jordanian peace treaties with Israel remind us that, with determined and
responsible leadership, progress can come quickly.
As new Palestinian institutions and new leaders emerge, demonstrating real
performance on security and reform, I expect Israel to respond and work toward
a final status agreement. With intensive effort by all of us, agreement could
be reached within three years from now. And I and my country will actively lead
toward that goal. I can understand the deep anger and anguish of the Israeli
people. You've lived too long with fear and funerals, having to avoid markets
and public transportation, and forced to put armed guards in kindergarten classrooms.
The Palestinian Authority has rejected your offered hand and trafficked with
terrorists. You have a right to a normal life. You have a right to security.
And I deeply believe that you need a reformed, responsible Palestinian partner
to achieve that security. I can understand the deep anger and despair of the
Palestinian people. For decades you've been treated as pawns in the Middle East
conflict. Your interests have been held hostage to a comprehensive peace agreement
that never seems to come, as your lives get worse year by year. You deserve
democracy and the rule of law. You deserve an open society and a thriving economy.
You deserve a life of hope for your children. An end to occupation and a peaceful
democratic Palestinian state may seem distance, but America and our partners
throughout the world stand ready to help, help you make them possible as soon
If liberty can blossom in the rocky soil of the West Bank in Gaza, it will
inspire millions of men and women around the globe, who are equally weary of
poverty and oppression, equally entitled to the benefits of democratic government.
I have a hope for the people of Muslim countries. Your commitments to morality
and learning and tolerance lead to great historical achievements, and those
values are alive in the Islamic world today. You have a rich culture, and you
share the aspirations of men and women in every culture.
Prosperity and freedom and dignity are not just American hopes or Western hopes,
they are universal human hopes. And even in the violence and turmoil of the
Middle East, America believes those hopes have the power to transform lives
and nations. This moment is both an opportunity and a test for all parties in
the Middle East; an opportunity to lay the foundations for future peace, a test
to show who's serious about peace and who is not. The choice here is stark and
simple, the Bible says, "I have set before you life and death, therefore choose
life." The time has arrived for everyone in this conflict to choose peace and
hope and life.
Thank you very much.