THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release October 28, 1994
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT CLINTON TO THE ISRAELI KNESSET
October 27, 1994
9:25 p.m. (L)
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister, Mr.
Speaker, Mr. Netanyahu, ladies and gentlemen of the Knesset:
Let me begin by thanking the Prime Minister and the people of
Israel for welcoming me to your wonderful country, and thanking
all of you for giving me the opportunity to address this great
democratic body where, clearly, people of all different views
are welcome to express their convictions. I feel right at home.
(Laughter and applause.)
Yesterday Israel took a great stride toward fulfilling the
ancient dream of the Jewish people -- the patriarch's dream of a strong
and plentiful people living freely in their own land, enjoying the
fruits of peace with their neighbors. Nearly 17 years after President
Sadat came to this chamber to seek peace, and Prime Minister Begin
reached out in reconciliation. And just over a year after Israel and
the PLO declared a pathway to peace on the South Lawn of the White
House, Israel and Jordan have now written a new chapter.
Tonight we praise the courage of the leaders who have given life
to this treaty, Prime Minister Rabin and Foreign Minister Peres. They
have shown the vision and the tenacity of other leaders of Israel's past
whose names will be remembered always for their devotion to your cause
and your people -- Ben Gurion, Maier, Begin.
In your life, Prime Minister, we see the life of your country.
As a youth, you wished to fulfill the commandment to farm the land of
Israel, but instead you had to answer the call to defend the people of
Israel. You have devoted your life to cultivating strength so that
others could till the soil in safety. You have fought many battles and
won many victories in war. Now, in strength, you are fighting and
winning battles for peace. Indeed, you have shown your people that they
can free themselves from siege; that for the first time, they can make
real a peace for the generations.
For the American people, too, this peace is a blessing. For
decades, as Israel has struggled to survive, we have rejoiced in your
triumphs and shared in your agonies. In the years since Israel was
founded, Americans of every faith have admired and supported you. Like
your country, ours is a land that welcomes exiles -- a nation of hope; a
nation of refuge. From the Orient and Europe, and now from the former
Soviet Union, your people have come, Ashkenazim and Sephardim, Yemenites
and Ethiopians -- all of you committed to living free, to building a
One of nearly four of the citizens of this country is an Arab,
something very few people know beyond your borders. Even without the
blessings of secure borders, you have secured from your own people the
blessings of democracy. With all of its turmoil and debate, it is still
the best of all systems.
In times of war and times of peace, every President of the
United States since Harry Truman, and every Congress has understood the
importance of Israel. The survival of Israel is important not only to
our interests, but to every single value we hold dear as a people. Our
role in war has been to help you defend yourself by yourself. That is
what you have asked. Now that you are taking risks for peace, our role
is to help you minimize the risks of peace.
I am committed to working with our Congress to maintain the
current levels of military and economic assistance. We have taken
concrete steps to strengthen Israel's qualitative edge. The U.S.-Israel
Science and Technology Commission unprecedented Israeli access to the
U.S. high-technology market, and acquisition of advanced computers --
all these keep Israel in the forefront of global advances and
competitive and global markets.
I have also taken steps to enhance Israel's military and your
capacity to address possible threats not only to yourselves, but to the
region. F-15 aircraft are being provided, and F-16s transferred out of
U.S. stocks. We work closely with you to develop the Arrow missile, to
protect against the threat of ballistic missiles.
As we help to overcome the risks of peace, we also are helping
to build a peace that will bring with it the safety and security Israel
deserves. That peace must be real, based on treaty commitments arrived
at directly by the parties, not imposed from outside. It must be
secure. Israel must always be able to defend itself by itself. And it
must be comprehensive. We have worked hard to end the Arab boycott, and
we've had some success. But we will not stop until it is completely
There is a treaty with Jordan and an agreement with the PLO.
But we must keep going until Syria and Lebanon close the circle of
states entering into peace, and the other nations of the Arab world
normalize their relations with Israel.
This morning in Damascus I discussed peace with President Assad.
He repeated at our press conference what he had earlier said to his own
Parliament, Syria has made a strategic choice for peace with Israel. He
also explained that Syria is ready to commit itself to the requirements
of peace through the establishment of normal peaceful relations with
Israel. His hope, as he articulated it, is to transform the region from
a state of war to a state of peace that enables both Arabs and Israelis
to live in security, stability and prosperity.
We have been urging President Assad to speak to you in a
language of peace that you can understand. Today he began to do so. Of
course, it would take more than words -- much more than words. Yet I
believe something is changing in Syria. Its leaders understand that it
is time to make peace. There will still be a good deal of hard
bargaining before a breakthrough, but they are serious about proceeding.
Just as we have worked with you from Camp David to Wadi Araba to
bring peace with security to your people, so, too, we will walk with you
on the road to Damascus for peace with security.
There are those who see peace still as all too distant. Surely,
they include the families of those burned in the rubble of the community
center in Buenos Aires; those in the basement of New York's World Trade
Center; the loved ones of the passengers on bus No. 5; and of course,
two people who, as been noted, are in the chamber with us tonight -- and
we honor their parents -- the parents of Corporal Nachsan Waxman, a son
of your nation and, I proudly say, a citizen of ours. (Applause.)
We grieve with the families of those who are lost and with all
the people of Israel. So long as Jews are murdered just because they
are Jews, or just because they are citizens of Israel the plaque of
anti-Semitism lives, and we must stand against it. We must stand
against terror as strongly as we stand for peace, for without an end to
terror there can be no peace.
The forces of terror and extremism still threaten us all.
Sometimes they pretend to act in the name of God and country. But their
deeds violate their own religious faith and make a mockery of any notion
of honorable patriotism.
As I said last night to the Parliament in Jordan, we respect
Islam. Millions of Americans citizens every day answer the Moslem call
to prayer. But we know that the real fight is not about religion or
culture. It is about a worldwide conflict between those who believe in
peace and those who believe in terror; those who believe in hope and
those who believe in fear.
Those who stoke the fires of violence and seek to destroy the
peace, make no mistake about it, have one great goal. Their goal is to
make the people of Israel, who have defeated all odds on the field of
battle, to give up inside on the peace by giving into the doubts that
terror brings to every one of us. But having come so far, you cannot
give up or give in. Your future must lie in the words of a survivor of
the carnage of Bus No. 5 who said, I want the peace process to continue;
I want to live in peace; I want my children to live in peace.
So let us say to the merchants of terror once again, you cannot
succeed; you must not succeed; you will not succeed. You are the past,
not the future; the peacemakers are the future. (Applause.)
I say to you, my friends, in spite of all the dangers and
difficulties that still surround you, the circle of your enemies is
shrinking. Their time has passed. Their increasing isolation is
reflected in the desperation of their disgusting deeds.
Once in this area, you were shunned. Now, more and more, you
are embraced. As you share the waters of the River Jordan and work with
your neighbors, new crops will emerge where the soil is now barren. As
you join together to mine the Dead Sea for its minerals, you will bring
prosperity to all your people. As you roll up the barbed wire and cross
the desert of Araba, the sands will yield new life to you. As you dock
in each other's ports along the Gulf of Aqaba, more and more people will
have the chance to experience give wonders of both your lands, and more
and more children will share the joys of youth, not the dread of war.
This is the great promise of peace. It is the promise of making
sure that all those who have sacrificed their lives did not die in vain;
the promise of a Sabbath afternoon, not violated by gunfight; a drive
across the plains to the mountains of Moab where Moses died and Ruth was
born; A Yom Kippur of pure prayer without the rumble of tanks, voices of
fear or rumors of war. After all the bloodshed and all your tears, you
are now far closer to the day when the clash of arms is heard no more
and all the children of Abraham, the children of Isaac, the children of
Israel will live side by side in peace. (Applause.)
This was, after all, the message the prophet Mohammed himself
brought to peoples of other faiths when he said, "There is no argument
between us and you. God will bring us together, and unto Him is the
homecoming." And this was the message Moses spoke to the children of
Israel when, for the last time, he spoke to them as they gathered across
the River Jordan into the Promised Land when he said, "I have set before
you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and
your descendants may live."
This week, once again, the people of Israel made a homecoming.
Once again, you choose life. Once again, America was proud to walk with
The Prime Minister mentioned a story in his remarks that he
never asked me about. Wouldn't it be embarrassing if it weren't true?
(Laughter.) The truth is that the only time my wife and I ever came to
Israel before today was 13 years ago with my pastor on a religious
mission. I was then out of office. I was the youngest former governor
in the history of the United States. (Laughter.) No one thought I
would ever be here -- perhaps my mother; no one else. (Laughter.)
We visited the holy sites. I relived the history of the Bible,
of your Scriptures and mine. And I formed a bond with my pastor.
Later, when he became desperately ill, he said I thought I might one day
become President. And he said, more bluntly than the Prime Minister
did, "If you abandon Israel, God will never forgive you." (Applause.)
He said it is God's will that Israel, the biblical home of the people of
Israel, continue forever and ever. (Applause.)
So I say to you tonight, my friends, one of our Presidents, John
Kennedy, reminded us that here on Earth, God's will must truly be our
own. It is for us to make the homecoming; for us to chose life; for us
to work for peace. But until we achieve a comprehensive peace in the
Middle East and then after we achieve comprehensive peace in the Middle
East, know this -- your journey is our journey, and America will stand
with you now and always.
Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)
9:43 p.m. (L)
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