U.S. Department of State, James P. Rubin, Assistant Secretary, Press Briefing at Chesapeake College, Wye Mills, October 19, 1998

MR. RUBIN:  Let me start by reading a joint statement which Prime Minister
Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat agreed that the United States would issue on their

Today's terrorist attack in Beersheva demonstrates the critical importance and
urgency of fighting terror and pursuing peace.  We are determined to do
everything possible to fight terror.  We pledge to cooperate against the threat
of terrorism and recognize that fighting terror is a vital interest for both

Freedom from terror and violence is an essential condition of a durable peace.
At the same time we agree not to give into the efforts of extremists to destroy
the hope for peace and security for both our peoples.  We both agree today to
intensify our efforts to achieve agreement that will lead to a secure and
lasting peace.

That again is a statement that the Prime Minister and Chairman Arafat agreed the
United States would make on their behalf.  With that, let me go to your

Q  That doesn't seem to represent--I know you have the two people together to
have the statement, but it isn't in sync with the things the Israelis have been
saying to us.

MR. RUBIN:  Well I don't know what exactly the Israelis have been saying to you.
What I can tell you is that this was something that the two sides agreed to and
agreed to have issued by the United States on their behalf.

Q  Whose idea was it to get them to sign on to such an agreement?  It originally
was either the delegation or did it originate with an American mediator perhaps?

MR. RUBIN:  I think there was a general feeling that this was an event that
occurred today that was tragic, that was cowardly by those who committed it, and
that as the statement itself indicates, there was a desire to make clear the
importance of terrorism, the importance of fighting terrorism, and the fact
that--not to let this event give into the extremists and to intensify the

Q  (Inaudible) where does this take us now?

MR. RUBIN:  Let me say that clearly events of this nature, tragic and cowardly
acts by those who commit these acts are a complicating factor.  We'll have to
see what we can do in light of this, but clearly, it's a complicating factor.

Q  Can I ask you whether the Americans are willing to go along and whether the
Palestinians, if you know, are willing to go along with the Israeli insistence
that they will suspend all discussions on all other topics involved in the
interim accord except the issue of security?

MR. RUBIN:  Well I don't know about the Palestinians.  I think we would expect
that at the appropriate time one could continue the work on the committees.  I
think we would expect to see informal contacts between the sides continue as
they have occurred.

But with respect to the formal Israeli position on the committees, let me say
that it is not unprecedented when terrorist acts have occurred in the past for
it to have a temporary effect on discussions.  I think that goes far back as the
discussions that were occurring during the previous Israeli governments.  So
that is not a new situation.

Q  How long is it acceptable for the United States to have a temporary
suspension on these other matters--focusing solely on security.  Is a day
temporary?  Or hours?

MR. RUBIN:  We will have to see how the day unfolds.  The Secretary had a
lengthy meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu this morning.  The President is
expected to arrive shortly.  She will brief him on those discussions and other
discussions that have been going on during the course of the morning.  Then we
will decide what's the best next step.

I think I can say that our view is that there is a lot of work to do, that we
have to bear in mind that the clock is ticking for the peoples of the Middle
East, that we're rapidly approaching a dangerous period, that is the end of the
interim period in several months.  We, therefore, feel a sense of urgency with
or without the tragic events of today.  So we will be discussing with them how
best to proceed.

As I indicated earlier, I think it would be simply not correct to suggest that
this isn't a complicating factor.  It is a complicating factor and it could
affect how we proceed.  The President will arrive shortly and further
discussions will ensue about where to go next.

Q  Would you call this crisis?

MR. RUBIN:  I think the Middle East peace process has been in a dangerous state
for some time.  What we have said is that it can only get more dangerous with
the rapid passing of time and the rapid approaching of the May interim period
when--the end of the interim period--when all the issues, all the key issues:
Jerusalem, the territory, refugees, water, all these issues were supposed to be
resolved.  Various parties have made various statements about what they might or
might not do.

So we are concerned that the danger that now exists from the peace process being
off track can only get worse in the coming weeks and months.

Q  Has the Secretary invited Netanyahu and Arafat to lunch?   And I have a part
B to that.

MR. RUBIN:  As far as the next steps, I wouldn't rule that out.  I would say
that the President will arrive.  The Secretary will brief him on where things
stand.  They will talk about what is the best next event.  That has been the
pattern all along.  It's been very hard for me to tell you what the next event
is because we've been taking it one meeting at a time.  But as soon as the
President arrives and a decision is made, a final decision on that, we will try
to get that to you.

Q  Would you say that in addition to complicating the situation that the grenade
attack and the ensuing statements we've heard this morning makes it more likely
that you will come out of here with no agreement?

MR. RUBIN:  Well it's hard to--again, I said yesterday it was an open question.
It remains an open question as to what the results will be.  I can say that this
complication certainly has an effect on those results and what is possible to
achieve in a short period of time.

Q  King Hussein, has he been asked to take a role in the talks here?  Has he
been asked to consult with the President in Washington?  Has he been asked to be
on call to take a role in this?

MR. RUBIN:  Well let me say this.  King Hussein has always played a very
constructive, very helpful role in the peace process.  That has been something
he has done for a long time and he has been one of the players that has helped
us move the ball forward when we've been able to do so.

I understand he is going to be heading this way; that is, towards Washington.
What role we foresee and he foresees and others would like to see, has not been
finally decided.

Q  There seems to be a big difference between the statement that you just read
and what the Israelis members of the official party were saying outside to us
about an hour ago.  They said the Israelis will insist on discussing only
security issues and will discuss it until they have a security plan from the
Palestinians on security for Israel.  And nothing was discussed in the official
statement put out by the Prime Minister.  It also said that any talk about the
airport, for example, would be postponed because the security issues are

Your statement seems to be the conference is going to continue some how.  Theirs
is exactly the opposite.  How do you join up those two?

MR. RUBIN:  Well the statement I read had made no mention of what the next steps
procedurally would be, so I couldn't agree with your characterization.  But I
have answered the question earlier and I'll repeat it that we do believe that
informal contacts between the sides will continue.  It is certainly our hope and
expectation that at the appropriate time, committee meetings will continue.
Thirdly, that it is not unprecedented for an act of this nature, a tragic and
cowardly act of this nature, to have some temporary affect on discussions.

But we do believe we need to intensify our efforts as a result of this and not
walk away from them.

Q  Until now you have been making collective statements for the summit.  It
strikes me, except for the original statement you made, you seem to be--indeed,
aren't you speaking for the U.S. Government?

MR. RUBIN:  Well, Barry--

Q  (Inaudible) a temporary matter that this happened before and we'll get on
with it.

MR. RUBIN:  That's not what I said.

Q  The Israelis are talking with outrage and despair and saying they can't
continue except to get security dealt with.  Sort of what Jim is saying.

I can put the two up together if its your statement as an American spokesman and
of course, Bar-Ilan and Dore Gold were speaking as Israeli spokesmen.  Is that


Q  You're the summit spokesman.

MR. RUBIN:  If you'll let me explain, I'll be happy to do so.  Prior to now
there was an agreement that I would speak in order to try to communicate to you
as best as I could, from the American perspective, what has been going on
procedurally.  I have tried to avoid discussions of substance and focused on
procedure.  But I was doing so as the American host of this event, not as a
joint three-way spokesman for the three.

But pursuant to a decision that was made this morning, the Chairman and the
Prime Minister agreed that on behalf of them I would read and present to you
this joint statement.  After I read the joint statement and you asked me a
series of questions, I tried to answer them as best as I could from the
perspective of the United States.

Q  One of the points that the Israelis made out in the driveway--speaking on the
record was that the Palestinians have not been forthcoming with a specific
security plan, and that what has been presented to them is insufficient on a
number of aspects. What is your reaction to that?  Is that true?  Have the
Palestinians been holding back--as part of their negotiations--on providing the
kind of detailed security commitments that you say must also be a part of this--
of this accord?

MR. RUBIN:  I wouldn't agree with the characterization as described by the
people you mentioned.  I would disagree with that. Let me say that the United
States for many months now has put into its initiative a comprehensive package
to fight terrorism that goes directly at all the core issues, all the issues
that need to be part of a comprehensive system and a comprehensive
infrastructure to fight terrorism.  That is what the American initiative is
about, in addition to the withdrawal of Israeli control from certain

So we have had--we, the United States, have had part and parcel of our
initiative a comprehensive, systematic package to fight terrorism. That is the
American initiative. If we can get agreement on the American initiative, that
obviously, we think, would advance the cause of fighting terrorism.  So that is
what we have been doing.

As far as what they are saying to each other and what we regard as sufficient or
insufficient, I can't agree with that.  With respect to whether we are going to
judge the Palestinian plan--it would require me to get into a substantive level
that I'm not prepared to get into at this point.

Q  Let me follow it up and ask it in a different way.  You've presented this
package, has the either side yet agreed to this package as you've presented it?

MR. RUBIN:  I understand your question.  Although some felt the need to talk
about what progress we have or haven't made at Wye, here, I don't think it would
be appropriate to do so.

I think prior to Wye, I made very clear that we made substantial and significant
progress on the security component of the American ideas and that still holds.

Q  Jamie, is it still unacceptable to the United States that the summit end with
a partial agreement?  Is the United States still saying that in order for the
summit to be a success, there must be a comprehensive agreement and deal?

MR. RUBIN:  Let me say that the tragic and cowardly act that was committed this
morning clearly is a complicating factor, and it does complicate the results
that we were seeking to achieve.  I don't know what the ultimate outcome will
be. I don't think anyone can know that.  But it certainly makes it more
difficult to achieve what we had been seeking to achieve.

Q  (Inaudible) partial agreement that would come out of this summit?

MR. RUBIN:  No, I would rather not speculate on what will come out.  I'm
prepared to characterize the consequences of this attack.  But I don't want to
speculate on that.

Q  One of the security issues is extradition.  And various Israeli officials
have been saying that they have rejected the American proposal on that.  Can you
confirm that?

MR. RUBIN:  I don't want to get into the security details that are being
conducted by the security experts.

Q  You had said that back-to-back meetings between the two leaders weren't
necessary.  Yesterday you had suggested that.

MR. RUBIN:  Continuous back-to-back meetings, yes.

Q  But David Bar-Ilan this morning outside here suggested that since Prime
Minister Netanyahu needs to officially open the Knesset, he'll return to Israel
and committees will continue to meet here.  Is that acceptable?

MR. RUBIN:  Well, that's David Bar-Ilan's opinion, and it doesn't resemble
anything that I've heard.

Q  Is some sort of solution like that acceptable to the United States that some
people will continue working--

MR. RUBIN:  The President is going to be arriving shortly. Secretary Albright
will be meeting with him to discuss what we think is best.  We have now heard
what David Bar-Ilan thinks is best, and we'll try to decide what we think is

Q  Two things.  The Israelis made a statement that this incident will not be the
turning point.  It simply illustrates or demonstrates how the Palestinians are
not forthcoming in fulfilling their security commitment.  How do you comment on
that?  And, B, they also said that because of the terrorist attack, the shackles
on them--as far as the media blackout--are off.

MR. RUBIN:  I think there was a temporary blip in the media blackout, which I'm
sure was good for you but not good for peace.  The short answer to your
question--could you pose the first question again, please?

Q  The question is whether the attack buttresses the Israeli claims that not
only on the security plan but on the security performance, the Palestinians are

MR. RUBIN:  We think there has been an improvement in recent months of the
Palestinian cooperation on this issue.  But we do not think that--the President
is going to go on, so I'm going to let the President--

(Statement of President Clinton)

MR. RUBIN: It's good to see that I'm in sync.  I'll still be here when the
President arrives.

Q  He started, "we think there has been improvement"?

MR. RUBIN:  Right.  If we can get agreements to the American ideas, the American
initiative which includes a comprehensive, systematic approach to fighting
terror, we think we can lock in a process that would constitute 100 percent
effort.  That doesn't mean -- and this is a partial answer to your question--
that even 100 percent effort can yield 100 percent success.

Q  Okay, you were evaluating the Palestinian, I think, effort until now.  And
you thought there was--and you stopped in mid-sentence because of the
television--that we think there has been an improvement.  Because I thought you
were--we thought you were saying the Palestinians were doing a better job

MR. RUBIN:  In months--in recent months--in recent months.  That has been our
assessment over several months.  Then I wanted to transition to what would
happen with--if there was an agreement.  And if there were an agreement pursuant
to the American initiative, there would be a comprehensive, systematic
infrastructure to fight terror which we believe if it worked, or if it was
agreed to and was implemented would constitute 100% effort.  But again which is
a partial answer to your question of this incident and any incident, that 100%
effort doesn't always yield 100% results.  But as the President indicated, that
is very important not to let the extremists carry the day.

Q  When you say if we can get an agreement pursuant to the American initiative
we think we can lock in a process, don't you mean we can lock in a deal?

MR. RUBIN:  No, no, a process to fight terrorism.

Q  That it would also be part of the deal?

MR. RUBIN:  The other parts, as well.  I was just trying to answer the terrorism

Q  Can you talk a little bit more about King Hussein's arrival?  Has he had
discussions with the President about coming here, and whose idea was it that he
came?  The King's?

MR. RUBIN:  I believe the Secretary has spoken to him a couple of times in
recent days.  The question of what role he would play has not been determined
yet, and I don't know how it originated.  I can just tell you that we regard him
as a very constructive influence.  During the Hebron accords and during previous
accords, we believe the King played a constructive role.  Since our goal is to
try to get an agreement or move in that direction, then we would certainly want
to see the King play whatever role we think is best.  But I don't think we've
determined specifically that yet.

Q  Are these blackouts still on?  The people who were out here--I'm serious.
Did they come out here with State Department permission as it were or have they

MR. RUBIN:  I think in light of the tragic and cowardly act that occurred this
morning, there was a desire on the part of Chairman Arafat, as you know, earlier
to put out a statement condemning the act, and obviously that provoked some
statements on the other side.

I think this joint statement reflects the views of the leaders as opposed to
others.  One certainly hopes that the two parties recognize that the less we
discuss matters through the media, the more time and effort can be focused and
concentrated on the work that needs to be done.  Let's see if there's someone
who hasn't asked.

Q  In the past these attacks have been aimed to derail the process.

MR. RUBIN:  Right.

Q  Could you share with us a little bit what thinking there was at the State
Department or in the  Administration as to how you would deal with such an
eventuality since I'm sure--

MR. RUBIN:  Well there's no way to predict the unpredictable, and terrorism is,
by its nature, unpredictable.  We certainly have a lot of experience
unfortunately, and sadly, with dealing with terrorist acts.

I think this morning Secretary Albright, upon learning of this, had an
opportunity to talk about it with the Prime Minister.  One way we dealt with it
was--as you saw in this joint statement on behalf of the two leaders that I
read--with respect to what it holds for the future, we, I think the President
said very clearly that this is a complicating factor and we'll have to see how
complicating it is in the coming sessions.

Q  On Sunday you had set a deadline for the talks to come to some sort of
conclusion, but it was extended until today.  How long can these talks continue?
Can they continue for weeks or do you see a practical deadline of a couple of
days?  Do you see a practical deadline of tomorrow?

MR. RUBIN:  Well I'd be happy to answer the question with one minor quibble
which is the word deadline.  I certainly did not use that word.  I said that we
wanted to finish the work, and we weren't going to speculate on what would
happen if we didn't.

Then I indicated last night that there were going to be meetings today.  As far
as how long this can go on, all I can tell you is we're taking one meeting at a
time, one day at a time, and at the end of each day or at the end of each
meeting, we're trying to give you an update as quickly as we can.  Obviously it
can't go on indefinitely.

Q  Are there any practical deadlines?

MR. RUBIN:  There are certain travel needs of the parties, but I wouldn't care
to speculate on them right now.

Q  Two questions.  Did the President present Chairman Arafat with a proposal
last evening and was it rejected.  And also, is there consideration given to the
possibility that you've gone beyond the usefulness of Wye as the setting for
these talks?

MR. RUBIN:  On the second, I have not heard that.  On the first, I wouldn't be
able to get into that kind of substantive detail.

Q  It's well understood you've said many times what you would like to see
happen; more security, more effort.  If I could get you to elaborate a little
bit more on the U.S. analysis because you have been cooperating, collaborating
with both sides for some time now.  The U.S. hasn't just jumped into the
security problem.  Bar-Ilan says this is the 10th in a series of attacks over
seven weeks and in most instances, the Palestinian Housing Authority hasn't done
much about it.

Is it the U.S. assessment that the--what is the U.S. assessment to date about
how hard or not hard the Palestinian authority is operating to catch--he said a
BMW was seen driving away.  They could have arrested the guy, and they haven't
arrested him.  Is that appraisal fair?

MR. RUBIN:  I wouldn't know.  I'd have to check.

Q  (Inaudible).  You're talking security to these guys.  You're talking security
and planning security for years.

MR. RUBIN:  I've given you what I think is the most expansive form of our
assessment of the Palestinians' fight against security that I can.  There may be
some that want to focus on specific incidents and make specific claims, which I
don't know whether they're true or not.

Q  Kosovo question.  Can you bring us up to date?  There's reports that the
Serbs have sent troops back into Kosovo; that they've been shelling villages and
that people are being, far from returning to their villages, or maybe some are
but others are leaving villages.

MR. RUBIN:  The compliance is certainly a mixed bag in Kosovo and let's bear in
mind that NATO's trigger remains cocked and the use of force remains a very live
possibility if President Milosevic doesn't comply.  Our observer mission sent
three teams into the field today to visit towns throughout Western, Central and
Southern Kosovo.  The teams did report hearing shelling, but none of the reports
have been confirmed.

Three teams report seeing heavily armed columns, including tanks, moving
apparently from assembly areas into the field.  A specific report of shelling in
Podejevo is being checked out this afternoon.  A team visiting Istok reports a
considerably more hostile attitude being exhibited by FRY personnel manning
check points.  They also note for the first time check points being manned by
both army and police units.

We have no confirmation of continued shelling.  We are concerned, however, about
increased skirmishing between the KLA and Serbian forces, which we have observed
in recent days.  It is not clear to us who is at fault, but it does appear that
in some cases the KLA fired first.  It is unacceptable to us whether KLA or
Serbian forces started skirmishes.

During the negotiations, Ambassador Holbrooke made clear to the Kosovar Albanian
side the importance of abiding by a cease-fire.  Continued fighting is

With regard to the broader question, of compliance, I don't have any new
information as far as the IDP's are concerned.  I'm trying to give you accurate
information as it is provided to me.  Clearly, it's a mixed bag.  As I've
indicated before--and perhaps I haven't indicated it as clearly as I should
have--roughly half of the Yugoslav national army that moved into Kosovo earlier
this year, had moved out in the time between passage of UN Security Council
Resolution 1199 and this past weekend.  Nevertheless, General Clark is heading
for Belgrade.  He is going to be providing a very detailed list of units that
are not out of Kosovo or in garrison as they should be.  Some of the units that
he provided referenced earlier last week have moved out.  But some have not.  So
it's clearly a mixed bag.  We are very much cognizant of the fact that President
Milosevic has not yet fully complied.  We are trying to encourage the verifiers
to get in there and be able to do their work.  We had the first set of over-
flights over the weekend, which will help us verify information that can be
sketchy.  That is what we will continue to do in the coming days.

Q  There are reports of forces moving into Kosovo in last 24 hours.

MR. RUBIN:  Well, you know, in and out are words that--it's very hard to know
unless you have a very comprehensive view of where forces are located and where
they came from, where they are normally stationed.  I indicated to you that the
observers had seen forces out of garrison, out of assembly areas.  That's one
thing.  But when you use the term "out of" you have to distinguish between
whether they were units that were there prior to February-March, or units that
were brought in during the crisis, we believe units that were brought in during
the crisis should move out of Kosovo.  We believe that units that remain ought
to be in garrison.

Q  So General Clark is making a second trip to Belgrade with the new list?

MR. RUBIN:  He's (inaudible) tomorrow--tomorrow.

Q  Tomorrow?

MR. RUBIN:  Yeah.

Q  Have you all communicated recently directly to the KLA about--there are
reports that some KLA fighters are moving to sort of fill in the vacuum left
where Serb forces have left.  Are you all telling them to cool it?

MR. RUBIN:  Well, Ambassador Hill is in the region.  I believe he is talking to
both sides, and he would certainly be indicating to the KLA that they should not
take advantage of the very real threat of NATO air strikes against President
Milosevic to provoke clashes and consider the NATO its air force.  That will not
be tolerated by the United States.  But if President Milosevic doesn't comply
and we can judge that, then the reality of force is there.

Q  Is President Milosevic's not justifying--are his troops not justifying
defending themselves from attack by the KLA?

MR. RUBIN:  We can distinguish between people defending themselves and people
using provocations to conduct offensives.  That's what the monitors and
verifiers are for.  So there's a difference.

Q  Do you have anything more to say today on Pinochet?

MR. RUBIN:  Yes and no.  Pinochet's status while in the U.K. and his possible
involvement in crimes being investigated by the Spanish judiciary are matters
for the governments and courts of the countries concerned and it would be
inappropriate for us to comment further.

Q  We had part of that.

MR. RUBIN:  Well, I had, you know, a couple words I didn't give you yesterday.
But I think the no overwhelmed the yes.

Q  May I just verify something out of your earlier briefing.  I didn't quite
understand--the Israelis have said that they want the discussions only on
security issues.  I'm not understanding what you're saying what will actually
take place.

MR. RUBIN:  Well, clearly if the Israelis don't show up for committee meetings
there won't be committee meetings.  But what I'm suggesting to you is that the
setting is such that informal discussions have been going on all along, and I
would expect them to continue.

Q  On other issues like the airport?

MR. RUBIN:  I would rather not be more specific than that.  The airport
committee if they don't show up, won't meet.  I would only say that we hope that
it can meet soon.

Q  The setting is informal, but how is the mood?  Is it tense?  Not tense?

MR. RUBIN:  Well, clearly this terrorist act--this cowardly and tragic act has
made it--the mood different here.  But we don't think that in the end the
extremists should be allowed to gain.  So we're going to try to intensify our

Q  Which word would you use to characterize what has happened today?  Would you
say that these working groups--the discussions have been--on matters other than
security--have been postponed or suspended?

MR. RUBIN:  Suspended, postponed, either is fine.

Q  How close were you to clinching the deal what you were seeking to clinch
before this complicating factor entered?

MR. RUBIN:  I don't want to give you an answer to that question because it would
be a characterization of how much progress we've made. Although some seem
compelled to do that, let me say that those who have said--from either side--
that there is wide gaps or no progress are spinning you.  Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 1:35 p.m.)

Return to Vinnie's Home Page

Return to Clinton Administration Page

Return to Israeli-Palestinian Page