[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1997, Book II)]
[November 21, 1997]
[Pages 1627-1630]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks on Receiving the Man of Peace Award
November 21, 1997

    Dalia, Michelle, Members of Congress, members of the administration, 
General and Mrs. Shelton, Secretary Christopher, Secretary Vance, 
General Powell, thank you all for coming. To the Ambassadors of Israel 
and Jordan and Egypt, we thank you for being here today. Shimon and 
Leah, thank you for your friendship, for your remarks, and for your 
continued profound and eloquent striving for peace.
    I am delighted that this prize will fund scholarships for young 
Americans to study in Israel, further strengthening the bonds between 
our nations and deepening the friendship between our people. And I am 
profoundly honored to be the first recipient of the Man of Peace Award. 
But actually, as we all know, I can accept this only on behalf of all 
people in our administration and previous administrations and, indeed, 
citizens in this country who have devoted themselves to helping to bring 
peace in the Middle East. There can be no greater recognition that this 
award was founded by the family of Yitzhak Rabin and by Shimon Peres, 
two men who helped to give the world one of its greatest gifts, the hope 
of a new era of peace in the land of light and revelation.
    You know, I was sitting here thinking when Shimon and Leah were 
talking of all the times that Hillary and I and Al and Tipper were with 
one or all of them, and it's so hard to say now, but actually, from time 
to time, we had a lot of fun doing this.
    There were times when I thought that my role in the Middle East 
peace process was to bring to bear the wealth and power of the United 
States to work in a positive way and

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to work things through with Arab States, and all of that. A lot of times 
I thought I was Prime Minister Rabin's fashion adviser--[laughter]--
which shows you just how much trouble he was in. [Laughter]
    Upstairs--in my office upstairs, which is actually almost exactly 
right above this room, I have on a little table, in a silver tray that I 
believe Shimon gave me, the yarmulke that I wore at the Prime Minister's 
funeral, a little pin I had to wear to go to the graveside, and a small 
stone I took from the grave. But above it I have the picture of us 
together the last time I ever saw him, where I'm straightening the bow 
tie I had to get for him because he didn't bring a bow tie to take to 
this black-tie dinner that we attended.
    I say that to remind you that the real purpose of peace is to allow 
people to laugh, to return to ordinary life, to appreciate the little 
things in life, and to appreciate it with people with whom they have 
previously been at odds and that it is not something we can be 
discouraged about, it has to be done little by little.
    I remember the day we were in here and we were fixing to go out, in 
September, and sign the peace agreement. And the Prime Minister was of 
two minds. First, you know, people were grinding on him, ``How can you 
do this? You can't trust the Palestinians,'' and all this, and he had 
this great one-liner, ``Well, you can't make peace with your friends.'' 
But then when I said, when we went out there it was going to be quite an 
extravaganza, and Mr. Arafat was an emotional person, and there was 
going to have to be a handshake--well, now, the handshake was another 
thing altogether. [Laughter]
    He said, ``I have been fighting him for decades.'' I said, ``You 
just told me you can't make peace with your friends. There is going to 
be a billion people watching. What are you going to do?'' He said, ``All 
right, but no kissing.'' [Laughter] And so I'm glad the press didn't 
know that, because there's always this question, is the glass half empty 
or half full? So the whole world was electrified by this picture of 
these two men shaking hands. If the whole story had been known, someone 
would have written the story, why didn't they kiss? [Laughter]
    We have to remember what the purpose of this is. Shimon Peres and 
Yitzhak Rabin rose to the height of Israeli politics by being concerned 
with the security of the State of Israel. And after a lifetime devoted 
to its security, based on their experience and their understanding not 
only of the particular situation but of human nature, they reached a 
unique partnership premised on a commitment to peace as ultimately the 
only guarantor of security. They found the sort of courage that we saw 
when Sadat and Begin signed the Camp David accords.
    And I will never forget that great day here in September of '93, 
when Yitzhak Rabin said, ``Enough of blood and tears.'' Leah mentioned 
the things which happened afterward, and we have seen a great deal of 
progress, the interim accords, the peace with Jordan in the Araba, 
growing diplomatic ties with neighbors.
    Shimon said in his Nobel Address that Israel had proved, and I 
quote, ``that aggressors do not necessarily emerge as the victors.'' But 
also, he had learned that the victors do not necessarily win peace. To 
win peace these two leaders, on behalf of the Israeli people, stepped 
beyond the bounds of convention, put aside old habits of suspicion and 
mistrust. And after an assassin's bullet took Yitzhak's life, Shimon 
stayed true to the path they had chosen, even when the enemies of peace 
waged terror against the people of Israel.
    We know from experience both before and since that progress is 
possible and progress is difficult, that barriers fall only if people 
show a consistent and constant will to go forward, guided by and bound 
to several principles. I think it's worth repeating them here today. 
Israelis and Palestinians must embrace the spirit at the heart of the 
Oslo accords, not jockeying for advantage but working together for the 
benefit of both sides. Both sides must dedicate themselves to building 
confidence, step by step, through a series of agreements on issues 
affecting both Palestinians and Israelis. Both sides must refrain from 
actions that undermine the joint pledge they have made to strengthen 
security. Both sides must approach each other as partners, joined by the 
prospect of peace and security. Both sides must live up to the letter 
and the spirit of their obligations.
    In recent months, you have to acknowledge at least that the pace of 
change has slowed and that the bonds of trust have eroded on both sides. 
The answer is not to bemoan the present condition but to renew our 
resolve to move forward.
    During recent negotiations here in Washington and in the region, 
Israelis and Palestinians

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worked together seriously in an atmosphere of genuine respect. They 
faced the essential task of building cooperation and preventing 
terrorism. They moved closer to agreement on concrete steps to benefit 
the Palestinian people. They worked to advance the discussion on more 
difficult issues they will face in permanent status negotiations.
    Now both sides have got to realize the need for urgency. The window 
of progress will become smaller with time. The frustration of ordinary 
people, both Israelis and Palestinians, will grow in the absence of 
progress. That is why we want the parties to work intensively on the 
matters that Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat have 
undertaken to discuss: security cooperation, redeployment of Israeli 
forces, a time-out on provocative actions, the acceleration of permanent 
status talks. By addressing these issues, we can establish for Israelis 
and Palestinians that peace will bring tangible benefits. By speeding 
the progress on this track, we can move closer to invigorating 
negotiations between Israel and Lebanon and Israel and Syria to 
establish a lasting and comprehensive peace.
    In recent weeks, as Iraq has challenged the United Nations, we have 
been reminded again of how vital it is to continue forging a community 
of shared values throughout the region to strengthen the bonds among all 
people who oppose intimidation and terror, and how we will never ever do 
that until there is peace between Israel and her neighbors, and that the 
absence of that peace makes the other difficulties, tensions, and 
frustrations all the more troubling because it compounds them and 
undermines our ability to seek a unified solution.
    I think I should say just a few words about Iraq before closing. 
Early this morning, the international weapons inspectors arrived back in 
Baghdad, including the Americans assigned to the team. Their 
unconditional return is an important achievement for the international 
community. It shows once again that determined diplomacy backed by the 
potential of force is the only way to deal with Saddam Hussein. We must 
make sure that inspectors are able to resume their mission unimpeded. 
The inspector team has a clear mission and a clear responsibility. They 
must be able to proceed with their work without interference, to find, 
to destroy, to prevent Iraq from rebuilding nuclear, chemical, and 
biological weapons and the missiles to carry them.
    Let there be no mistake: We must be constantly vigilant and 
resolute, and with our friends and partners, we must be especially 
determined to prevent Saddam's ability to reconstitute his weapons of 
mass destruction program. Our children and our grandchildren will not 
forgive us unless we honor the work of these UNSCOM professionals. We 
must not let our children be exposed to the indiscriminate availability 
and potential of use and actual use of the biological and chemical and 
smaller scale nuclear weapons which could terrorize the 21st century.
    The UNSCOM team of dedicated professionals have labored quietly and 
effectively for 6 years. The past 2 weeks have made them famous people 
in the world. Let us not so much cherish their fame as value their 
mission. And let us be determined to see that it can go forward.
    Leah and Shimon, it was about 5 years ago that I promised Yitzhak, 
as President Carter had promised Menachem Begin, that the United States 
would be there every step of the way with Israel as it walks the path of 
peace. Today I renew that pledge for myself, our administration, and 
indeed for the American people. I am deeply honored by this award. But 
the only prize in the end that really matters is the prize of peace we 
must give to the children of the Middle East.
    For as long as I live, I will be grateful for the profound honor I 
had to work with you, Shimon, and with Yitzhak, to get to know your 
families, your coworkers, your friends, to see one of those magic 
moments that the Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet Seamus Heaney spoke of 
when he said that sometimes people just leave aside their cynicism and 
their bitterness, and hope and history rhyme. That is what you've made 
happen. The only way we can truly honor the memory of our friend and the 
continuing work of our friend, Shimon Peres, is not to let it go but to 
bear down and see it through.
    Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 12:27 p.m. in the East Room at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to Dalia Filosof, daughter of 
assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and Leah Rabin, his 
widow; Michelle Waldin, granddaughter of former Israeli Prime Minister 
Shimon Peres; Gen. Henry H. Shelton, USA, Chairman,

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Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife, Carolyn; former Secretary of State 
Warren M. Christopher; former Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance; Gen. 
Colin Powell, USA (Ret.), former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; 
Ambassadors to the United States Eliahu Ben-Elissar of Israel, Marwan 
Jamil Muashir of Jordan, and Ahmed Maher al-Sayed of Egypt; Chairman 
Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority; and Prime Minister Binyamin 
Netanyahu of Israel. The Rabin Foundation and the Peres Foundation 
jointly established the Man of Peace Award.