[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: George W. Bush (2002, Book I)]
[June 24, 2002]
[Pages 1059-1062]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks on the Middle East
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 fight 
terror. 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

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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 am 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 effectively.
    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 honest government.
    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, 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 
    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 
    The United States and members of the international community stand 
ready to work with Palestinian leaders to establish finance--establish, 
finance, and monitor a truly independent judiciary.
    Today, Palestinian authorities are encouraging, not opposing, 
terrorism. 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 
infrastructure. 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 is needed.

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    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 show by 
their deeds an 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 towards security, Israel forces need to withdraw 
fully to positions they held prior to September 28, 2000. And consistent 
with the recommendations of the Mitchell committee, Israeli settlement 
activity in the occupied territories must stop.
    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 Palestinians 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 fights terror.
    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 quickly.
    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, this agreement could be reached within 3 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,

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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 as 
    If liberty can blossom in the rocky soil of the West Bank and 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 led 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 is 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 and life.
    Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 3:47 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White