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TRANSCRIPT: RUBIN REPORT ON MIDDLE EAST PEACE AGREEMENT(Agreement constitutes all aspects of American initiative)
Wye Mills, Maryland -- Following is the transcript of State Department Spokesman James P. Rubin's October 23, 1:30 p.m, telephone readout to the press on the status of the Middle East peace agreement:
Office of the Spokesman
(Wye Mills, Maryland)
October 23, 1998
Readout by Telephone to the Press
By James P. Rubin, Spokesman
RUBIN: Alright, I'm just going to power through it. Where do we stand? During the course of the evening and the early morning hours, we did reach agreement on all aspects of the text and all the components of the American initiative. Obviously, we've hit a snag, and let me say we are surprised that there is uncertainty as to whether the Israeli Government will agree to this agreement that was struck last night and early this morning.
We are surprised because the agreement appears to manifestly meet the needs and the stated objectives of the Israeli Government in three critical categories. First of all, it provides a comprehensive security component that will end the revolving door where suspects are arrested and then released, it will provide for the confiscation of illegal Palestinian weapons, and we believe that it is a credible and comprehensive approach to fighting terrorism. That is a view that is the judgment of the professionals in this business.
Secondly, we believe that the agreement fulfills Israel's request to have Palestinian institutions meet formally to affirm the annulment of the Palestinian Charter's specified provisions. It is an objective that previous Israeli governments were unable to achieve and therefore is a significant achievement.
And thirdly, it ensures that land is not provided or turned over to the Palestinians or partial control provided unless and until there is credible implementation of the security arrangements. So in these three critical areas the stated objectives of the Israeli side have been met, and that's why we're surprised about the uncertainty with respect to the signing of this agreement.
QUESTION: Jamie, before I question you about why you are putting the slam on the Israeli Government, can I ask you -- because it's apparently --
RUBIN: No, it's not a slam --
Q: But you're saying the Israeli Government doesn't know what to do for the best interests of the Israeli people.
RUBIN: That's not what I said. Don't put words in my mouth.
Q: But that's what you're suggesting.
RUBIN: This is a very important statement I'm making. I'd appreciate it if you would listen to what I said and report it accurately --
Q: We're listening, Jamie. Go ahead.
RUBIN: And that is we're talking about their stated objectives, not what's in their best interests. They'll make that judgment. What we are saying is that in terms of their stated objectives, in these three areas, it manifestly meets their objectives.
Q: What I really wanted to ask you about was your use of the word "institutions," -- Palestinian institutions. Is that a (inaudible) ambiguity to not say Palestinian National Council? Or will the Palestinian National Council meet?
RUBIN: If the agreement is signed and all the elements are signed, then the agreement will be made public and the actual text will be provided to you and you can draw your own conclusions.
Q: Jamie, you are ignoring now in the statement totally the snag itself, which is the Israeli demand to release Pollard. What about it?
RUBIN: With respect to that issue, any suggestion by any quarter that the President made a commitment to release Jonathan Pollard is inaccurate and false. This is something that the President and the Secretary are now working through, and I don't know how it will turn out.
Q: What sort of commitment did he make on Jonathan Pollard, Jamie?
RUBIN: I'm not going to be more specific than I just said.
Q: Did he commit to initiate a quick review of the parole with an eye toward leniency?
RUBIN: I can make clear that any suggestion that he committed to the release of Jonathan Pollard is incorrect and false, and that now the Secretary and the President are working on this issue to see if it can be overcome.
Q: Is it true that the President and Mrs. Albright have also asked President Mubarak of Egypt to release the Israeli Azzam Azzam, who was tried in Egypt and got 15 years in prison for espionage, to Israel as part of the entire deal?
RUBIN: I wouldn't be able to comment on any diplomatic communications between the United States and the Government of Egypt.
Q: Let's come both together in one way, picking up Sid's good question, which you really didn't answer. To get a commitment to release, as part of this package or collateral to this package, are these two governments supposed to consider reviewing these cases?
RUBIN: What I'm telling you is an agreement was reached on the text of a document that constituted the American initiative in all the aspects you have been asking about for many days now. With respect to other matters, to the extent that people have suggested that a commitment was made to the release of Jonathan Pollard, that is incorrect. Obviously this is an issue that is now being discussed and people are trying to work their way through it. I'm not going to have any further comment about it.
Q: If they work their way through, will a signing take place?
RUBIN: One would hope so if one would resolve the snag.
Q: What are the prospects for a signing or an initialing or whatever this afternoon?
RUBIN: I don't want to make any predictions.
Q: This issue that you describe as a snag, did it arrive after the conclusion of the security agreement and all the other issues? Did it come up at the end?
RUBIN: My understanding is that the issue of Jonathan Pollard comes up regularly in meetings between the Prime Minister and the President, and so I wouldn't be in a position to tell you exactly when it came up with respect to the timing of this agreement.
Q: What happens if, in fact, the Israelis hold firm? Would the United States say to the Israelis, "Alright, if you're going to hold firm, go ahead and walk?"
RUBIN: I don't want to speculate on that. All I can tell you is we're working on it right now.
Q: Are you saying that after the agreement was reached on the text, Clinton and Netanyahu did not have a last meeting in which Netanyahu made Pollard a condition of final signature?
RUBIN: No, I did not deny that.
Q: Thank you.
Q: Are you confirming it?
RUBIN: I'm not going to be more specific than that.
Q: Is it true you are planning a possibility of signing an agreement before the Jewish Sabbath comes into motion here in Wye?
RUBIN: The president and the Prime Minister are meeting right now and working on this issue. We'll have to see.
Q: Where is everybody now?
RUBIN: They're all at Wye.
Q: All the delegations?
RUBIN: As far as I know, yes.
Q: Arafat as well?
Q: Is it true that Arafat went to sleep?
RUBIN: I don't know what he did.
Q: Is the King still here?
RUBIN: I don't know the answer to that. I know the King has been engaged in discussions with the leaders this morning, but I don't know where the calls have come from. He hasn't been on the site here.
Q: Has he spoken with them about this subject?
RUBIN: I presume so.
Q: Can you give a few details about how the final agreement was reached, when it was reached, what happened when it was reached?
RUBIN: Well, early this morning --
Q: What time?
RUBIN: I think it was around 7:00, but don't hold me to that. But I think it was around 7:00, and all the issues had been worked through in great detail. Chairman Arafat left thinking that an agreement had been struck, and I gather was planning to sign the agreement. Then the snag occurred, and that's where we are.
Q: Let me follow it up. What happened in the room? Did Arafat and Netanyahu shake hands, were there any interactions?
RUBIN: There appeared to be a moment where everyone shook hands, and there appeared to be an agreement on the text that was struck. That's why we called you.
Q: And after that, did the President and the Prime Minister retire to some room?
RUBIN: Look, I'm not going to be more specific than I have been. It appeared that an agreement had been struck on all the substantive issues of this text, after which a snag developed. I'm not going to describe the elements of that snag because it will be harder to overcome the snag if I go into great detail.
Q: The other day you said there might be, in fact you sort of suggested it's normal to have side agreements, side letters, you know. Is that still the way this package is?
RUBIN: Discussions were held and understandings reached that may or may not be explicitly stated in a public document. That's pretty standard procedure in a diplomatic exercise of this kind.
Q: My reason for asking it now is if there was no commitment to put the release of Pollard in the agreement --
RUBIN: There was no understanding reached on the subject privately or publicly.
Q: Thank you. That was the point.
Q: Was it mentioned?
RUBIN: As I indicated in response to Tom's question, the subject comes up regularly in meetings between the Prime Minister and the President.
Q: Did it come up here at Wye?
RUBIN: I'll have to check, but I presume so. It certainly has now.
Q: Is there any sort of American side letter on the issue of the third forward redeployment?
RUBIN: That's part of the text.
Q: What is the President's position on the release of Jonathan Pollard?
RUBIN: I don't want to speak to that other than the standard guidance on the subject and to tell you that it's a subject that's obviously being worked on.
Q: When would you brief again?
RUBIN: I have no idea.
Q: Thank you very much.