The Middle East
Following is the text of President George W. Bush’s historic
speech on the Palestinian / Israeli conflict. I will save my
personal comments for the “Week in Review” column.
June 24, 2002
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
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
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, multiparty local elections by the end of the year
with national elections to follow.
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
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
Today, Palestinian authorities are encouraging, not opposing
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 their
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 is 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
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
(prove this) 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, Israel forces need to
withdraw fully to positions they held prior to Sept. 28, 2000.
And consistent with the recommendations of the Mitchell
committee, Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories
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 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 institution building.
Ultimately, Israelis and Palestinian 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
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
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 distant, 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
Hott Spotts will be off for the Fourth. We return July 11th.