Monday, June 16, 2008

Condi Goes Robust Again

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, Linda Gradstein.


QUESTION: So you said that they may reach an agreement, they may not reach an agreement by the end of the year. Salam Fayyad said a few days ago it doesn’t look like they will reach an agreement. What if they don’t? What happens then?

SECRETARY RICE: I don’t speculate on those sorts of – on what might not happen. Let’s, though, review what they’ve already achieved. It has been seven years since there was a peace process underway. And despite the very determined efforts of everybody at Camp David, they didn’t get there. And despite the very determined efforts of everybody after Camp David, they went through a very, very bad time. And nobody wants to repeat that experience.

They have a, I think, more robust way of going about this for a couple of reasons now. We’ve learned some lessons from before. The first is that we’re trying to proceed on multiple tracks, not just have negotiations out there as the only track. Because I believe, and I think the parties believe that the improvements on the ground have to reinforce the negotiations and vice versa, and that the Roadmap obligations -- which there was no Roadmap in 2000 – that the Roadmap obligations will need to be met in any circumstance before – if one could imagine a Palestinian state coming into being, which is why the agreement is subject to the Roadmap.

So you’ve got three interlocking, but somewhat discrete tracks that we’re working on. And I think they’re making progress on all of them, not fast enough for me, but progress on all of them; for instance, on the conditions on the ground, what’s going on in Jenin or in Nabulus, and the ability, then, to link that to movement and access improvements, and to then bring in quick economic projects and, ultimately, longer-term economic progress of the kind that Tony Blair has. And it will improve conditions on the ground and their sort of – their thinking about once they’ve figured out – once Jenin is well underway, what do they do next.

And you can imagine this as a series of these throughout the West Bank that has the advantage of giving the Palestinians greater responsibility for security control, improving the capabilities of the Palestinians for security in doing so. They’re talking about a rule of law component to that, so jails and courts and the like. And then, movement and access that is linked to that rather than just trying to say, all right, let’s fix movement and access. You’re actually fixing it in a very concrete way and that, then, permits economic activity to really flourish.

So that’s a model that is not completely isolated from the negotiations, but it is going on, whatever the state of the negotiations. As I said, Roadmap obligations, we’re working on and is – in a rather more systematic way that I talked about. So I think there’s more of an infrastructure around the final status negotiations this time.

The other piece is the international support mechanism here, which has resulted in the various donor conferences as well as the Bethlehem conference, and the Arab support, which the Arabs have been a part of the process from the beginning rather than being left to the end. So I think it’s structured in a way that they will be able to keep pushing toward the establishment of a Palestinian state on whatever timeline.

Now, that said, I still think that they’ve got a very good chance that this can happen – within the Middle East (inaudible), that they’ve got a chance of getting an agreement before the end of the year. But we shouldn’t underestimate all of the things that are going on as a part of the Annapolis process and just isolate on the final status issues. That’s why Annapolis was structured the way it was. It was structured not just to have the final status negotiations be the only part, because the rest of this has to work as well.


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