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May 19, 2011


State Department
Washington, D.C.

12:15 P. M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much. Please, have a seat. Thank you very much. I want to begin by thanking Hillary Clinton, who has traveled so much these last six months that she is approaching a new landmark -- one million frequent flyer miles. (Laughter.) I count on Hillary every single day, and I believe that she will go down as one of the finest Secretaries of State in our nations history.

The State Department is a fitting venue to mark a new chapter in American diplomacy. For six months, we have witnessed an extraordinary change taking place in the Middle East and North Africa. Square by square, town by town, country by country, the people have risen up to demand their basic human rights. Two leaders have stepped aside. More may follow. And though these countries may be a great distance from our shores, we know that our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics and security, by history and by faith.

Today, I want to talk about this change -- the forces that are driving it and how we can respond in a way that advances our values and strengthens our security.

Now, already, weve done much to shift our foreign policy following a decade defined by two costly conflicts. After years of war in Iraq, weve removed 100,000 American troops and ended our combat mission there. In Afghanistan, weve broken the Talibans momentum, and this July we will begin to bring our troops home and continue a transition to Afghan lead. And after years of war against al Qaeda and its affiliates, we have dealt al Qaeda a huge blow by killing its leader, Osama bin Laden.

Bin Laden was no martyr. He was a mass murderer who offered a message of hate - an insistence that Muslims had to take up arms against the West, and that violence against men, women and children was the only path to change. He rejected democracy and individual rights for Muslims in favor of violent extremism; his agenda focused on what he could destroy - not what he could build.

Bin Laden and his murderous vision won some adherents. But even before his death, al Qaeda was losing its struggle for relevance, as the overwhelming majority of people saw that the slaughter of innocents did not answer their cries for a better life. By the time we found bin Laden, al Qaedas agenda had come to be seen by the vast majority of the region as a dead end, and the people of the Middle East and North Africa had taken their future into their own hands.

That story of self-determination began six months ago in Tunisia. On December 17th, a young vendor named Mohammed Bouazizi was devastated when a police officer confiscated his cart. This was not unique. Its the same kind of humiliation that takes place every day in many parts of the world - the relentless tyranny of governments that deny their citizens dignity. Only this time, something different happened. After local officials refused to hear his complaints, this young man, who had never been particularly active in politics, went to the headquarters of the provincial government, doused himself in fuel, and lit himself on fire.

There are times in the course of history when the actions of ordinary citizens spark movements for change because they speak to a longing for freedom that has been building up for years. In America, think of the defiance of those patriots in Boston who refused to pay taxes to a King, or the dignity of Rosa Parks as she sat courageously in her seat. So it was in Tunisia, as that vendors act of desperation tapped into the frustration felt throughout the country. Hundreds of protesters took to the streets, then thousands. And in the face of batons and sometimes bullets, they refused to go home - day after day, week after week -- until a dictator of more than two decades finally left power.

The story of this revolution, and the ones that followed, should not have come as a surprise. The nations of the Middle East and North Africa won their independence long ago, but in too many places their people did not. In too many countries, power has been concentrated in the hands of a few. In too many countries, a citizen like that young vendor had nowhere to turn - no honest judiciary to hear his case; no independent media to give him voice; no credible political party to represent his views; no free and fair election where he could choose his leader.

And this lack of self-determination - the chance to make your life what you will - has applied to the regions economy as well. Yes, some nations are blessed with wealth in oil and gas, and that has led to pockets of prosperity. But in a global economy based on knowledge, based on innovation, no development strategy can be based solely upon what comes out of the ground. Nor can people reach their potential when you cannot start a business without paying a bribe.

In the face of these challenges, too many leaders in the region tried to direct their peoples grievances elsewhere. The West was blamed as the source of all ills, a half-century after the end of colonialism. Antagonism toward Israel became the only acceptable outlet for political expression. Divisions of tribe, ethnicity and religious sect were manipulated as a means of holding on to power, or taking it away from somebody else.

But the events of the past six months show us that strategies of repression and strategies of diversion will not work anymore. Satellite television and the Internet provide a window into the wider world - a world of astonishing progress in places like India and Indonesia and Brazil. Cell phones and social networks allow young people to connect and organize like never before. And so a new generation has emerged. And their voices tell us that change cannot be denied.

In Cairo, we heard the voice of the young mother who said, Its like I can finally breathe fresh air for the first time.

In Sanaa, we heard the students who chanted, The night must come to an end.

In Benghazi, we heard the engineer who said, Our words are free now. Its a feeling you cant explain.

In Damascus, we heard the young man who said, After the first yelling, the first shout, you feel dignity.

Those shouts of human dignity are being heard across the region. And through the moral force of nonviolence, the people of the region have achieved more change in six months than terrorists have accomplished in decades.

Of course, change of this magnitude does not come easily. In our day and age - a time of 24-hour news cycles and constant communication - people expect the transformation of the region to be resolved in a matter of weeks. But it will be years before this story reaches its end. Along the way, there will be good days and there will bad days. In some places, change will be swift; in others, gradual. And as weve already seen, calls for change may give way, in some cases, to fierce contests for power.

The question before us is what role America will play as this story unfolds. For decades, the United States has pursued a set of core interests in the region: countering terrorism and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons; securing the free flow of commerce and safe-guarding the security of the region; standing up for Israels security and pursuing Arab-Israeli peace.

We will continue to do these things, with the firm belief that Americas interests are not hostile to peoples hopes; theyre essential to them. We believe that no one benefits from a nuclear arms race in the region, or al Qaedas brutal attacks. We believe people everywhere would see their economies crippled by a cut-off in energy supplies. As we did in the Gulf War, we will not tolerate aggression across borders, and we will keep our commitments to friends and partners.

Yet we must acknowledge that a strategy based solely upon the narrow pursuit of these interests will not fill an empty stomach or allow someone to speak their mind. Moreover, failure to speak to the broader aspirations of ordinary people will only feed the suspicion that has festered for years that the United States pursues our interests at their expense. Given that this mistrust runs both ways - as Americans have been seared by hostage-taking and violent rhetoric and terrorist attacks that have killed thousands of our citizens - a failure to change our approach threatens a deepening spiral of division between the United States and the Arab world.

And thats why, two years ago in Cairo, I began to broaden our engagement based upon mutual interests and mutual respect. I believed then - and I believe now - that we have a stake not just in the stability of nations, but in the self-determination of individuals. The status quo is not sustainable. Societies held together by fear and repression may offer the illusion of stability for a time, but they are built upon fault lines that will eventually tear asunder.

So we face a historic opportunity. We have the chance to show that America values the dignity of the street vendor in Tunisia more than the raw power of the dictator. There must be no doubt that the United States of America welcomes change that advances self-determination and opportunity. Yes, there will be perils that accompany this moment of promise. But after decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be.

Of course, as we do, we must proceed with a sense of humility. Its not America that put people into the streets of Tunis or Cairo - it was the people themselves who launched these movements, and its the people themselves that must ultimately determine their outcome.

Not every country will follow our particular form of representative democracy, and there will be times when our short-term interests dont align perfectly with our long-term vision for the region. But we can, and we will, speak out for a set of core principles - principles that have guided our response to the events over the past six months:

The United States opposes the use of violence and repression against the people of the region. (Applause.)

The United States supports a set of universal rights. And these rights include free speech, the freedom of peaceful assembly, the freedom of religion, equality for men and women under the rule of law, and the right to choose your own leaders - whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus, Sanaa or Tehran.

And we support political and economic reform in the Middle East and North Africa that can meet the legitimate aspirations of ordinary people throughout the region.

Our support for these principles is not a secondary interest. Today I want to make it clear that it is a top priority that must be translated into concrete actions, and supported by all of the diplomatic, economic and strategic tools at our disposal.

Let me be specific. First, it will be the policy of the United States to promote reform across the region, and to support transitions to democracy. That effort begins in Egypt and Tunisia, where the stakes are high - as Tunisia was at the vanguard of this democratic wave, and Egypt is both a longstanding partner and the Arab worlds largest nation. Both nations can set a strong example through free and fair elections, a vibrant civil society, accountable and effective democratic institutions, and responsible regional leadership. But our support must also extend to nations where transitions have yet to take place.

Unfortunately, in too many countries, calls for change have thus far been answered by violence. The most extreme example is Libya, where Muammar Qaddafi launched a war against his own people, promising to hunt them down like rats. As I said when the United States joined an international coalition to intervene, we cannot prevent every injustice perpetrated by a regime against its people, and we have learned from our experience in Iraq just how costly and difficult it is to try to impose regime change by force - no matter how well-intentioned it may be.

But in Libya, we saw the prospect of imminent massacre, we had a mandate for action, and heard the Libyan peoples call for help. Had we not acted along with our NATO allies and regional coalition partners, thousands would have been killed. The message would have been clear: Keep power by killing as many people as it takes. Now, time is working against Qaddafi. He does not have control over his country. The opposition has organized a legitimate and credible Interim Council. And when Qaddafi inevitably leaves or is forced from power, decades of provocation will come to an end, and the transition to a democratic Libya can proceed.

While Libya has faced violence on the greatest scale, its not the only place where leaders have turned to repression to remain in power. Most recently, the Syrian regime has chosen the path of murder and the mass arrests of its citizens. The United States has condemned these actions, and working with the international community we have stepped up our sanctions on the Syrian regime - including sanctions announced yesterday on President Assad and those around him.

The Syrian people have shown their courage in demanding a transition to democracy. President Assad now has a choice: He can lead that transition, or get out of the way. The Syrian government must stop shooting demonstrators and allow peaceful protests. It must release political prisoners and stop unjust arrests. It must allow human rights monitors to have access to cities like Daraa; and start a serious dialogue to advance a democratic transition. Otherwise, President Assad and his regime will continue to be challenged from within and will continue to be isolated abroad.

So far, Syria has followed its Iranian ally, seeking assistance from Tehran in the tactics of suppression. And this speaks to the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime, which says it stand for the rights of protesters abroad, yet represses its own people at home. Lets remember that the first peaceful protests in the region were in the streets of Tehran, where the government brutalized women and men, and threw innocent people into jail. We still hear the chants echo from the rooftops of Tehran. The image of a young woman dying in the streets is still seared in our memory. And we will continue to insist that the Iranian people deserve their universal rights, and a government that does not smother their aspirations.

Now, our opposition to Irans intolerance and Irans repressive measures, as well as its illicit nuclear program and its support of terror, is well known. But if America is to be credible, we must acknowledge that at times our friends in the region have not all reacted to the demands for consistent change -- with change thats consistent with the principles that Ive outlined today. Thats true in Yemen, where President Saleh needs to follow through on his commitment to transfer power. And thats true today in Bahrain.

Bahrain is a longstanding partner, and we are committed to its security. We recognize that Iran has tried to take advantage of the turmoil there, and that the Bahraini government has a legitimate interest in the rule of law.

Nevertheless, we have insisted both publicly and privately that mass arrests and brute force are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrains citizens, and we will -- and such steps will not make legitimate calls for reform go away. The only way forward is for the government and opposition to engage in a dialogue, and you cant have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail. (Applause.) The government must create the conditions for dialogue, and the opposition must participate to forge a just future for all Bahrainis.

Indeed, one of the broader lessons to be drawn from this period is that sectarian divides need not lead to conflict. In Iraq, we see the promise of a multiethnic, multisectarian democracy. The Iraqi people have rejected the perils of political violence in favor of a democratic process, even as theyve taken full responsibility for their own security. Of course, like all new democracies, they will face setbacks. But Iraq is poised to play a key role in the region if it continues its peaceful progress. And as they do, we will be proud to stand with them as a steadfast partner.

So in the months ahead, America must use all our influence to encourage reform in the region. Even as we acknowledge that each country is different, we need to speak honestly about the principles that we believe in, with friend and foe alike. Our message is simple: If you take the risks that reform entails, you will have the full support of the United States.

We must also build on our efforts to broaden our engagement beyond elites, so that we reach the people who will shape the future - particularly young people. We will continue to make good on the commitments that I made in Cairo - to build networks of entrepreneurs and expand exchanges in education, to foster cooperation in science and technology, and combat disease. Across the region, we intend to provide assistance to civil society, including those that may not be officially sanctioned, and who speak uncomfortable truths. And we will use the technology to connect with - and listen to - the voices of the people.

For the fact is, real reform does not come at the ballot box alone. Through our efforts we must support those basic rights to speak your mind and access information. We will support open access to the Internet, and the right of journalists to be heard - whether its a big news organization or a lone blogger. In the 21st century, information is power, the truth cannot be hidden, and the legitimacy of governments will ultimately depend on active and informed citizens.

Such open discourse is important even if what is said does not square with our worldview. Let me be clear, America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard, even if we disagree with them. And sometimes we profoundly disagree with them.

We look forward to working with all who embrace genuine and inclusive democracy. What we will oppose is an attempt by any group to restrict the rights of others, and to hold power through coercion and not consent. Because democracy depends not only on elections, but also strong and accountable institutions, and the respect for the rights of minorities.

Such tolerance is particularly important when it comes to religion. In Tahrir Square, we heard Egyptians from all walks of life chant, Muslims, Christians, we are one. America will work to see that this spirit prevails - that all faiths are respected, and that bridges are built among them. In a region that was the birthplace of three world religions, intolerance can lead only to suffering and stagnation. And for this season of change to succeed, Coptic Christians must have the right to worship freely in Cairo, just as Shia must never have their mosques destroyed in Bahrain.

What is true for religious minorities is also true when it comes to the rights of women. History shows that countries are more prosperous and more peaceful when women are empowered. And thats why we will continue to insist that universal rights apply to women as well as men - by focusing assistance on child and maternal health; by helping women to teach, or start a business; by standing up for the right of women to have their voices heard, and to run for office. The region will never reach its full potential when more than half of its population is prevented from achieving their full potential. (Applause.)

Now, even as we promote political reform, even as we promote human rights in the region, our efforts cant stop there. So the second way that we must support positive change in the region is through our efforts to advance economic development for nations that are transitioning to democracy.

After all, politics alone has not put protesters into the streets. The tipping point for so many people is the more constant concern of putting food on the table and providing for a family. Too many people in the region wake up with few expectations other than making it through the day, perhaps hoping that their luck will change. Throughout the region, many young people have a solid education, but closed economies leave them unable to find a job. Entrepreneurs are brimming with ideas, but corruption leaves them unable to profit from those ideas.

The greatest untapped resource in the Middle East and North Africa is the talent of its people. In the recent protests, we see that talent on display, as people harness technology to move the world. Its no coincidence that one of the leaders of Tahrir Square was an executive for Google. That energy now needs to be channeled, in country after country, so that economic growth can solidify the accomplishments of the street. For just as democratic revolutions can be triggered by a lack of individual opportunity, successful democratic transitions depend upon an expansion of growth and broad-based prosperity.

So, drawing from what weve learned around the world, we think its important to focus on trade, not just aid; on investment, not just assistance. The goal must be a model in which protectionism gives way to openness, the reigns of commerce pass from the few to the many, and the economy generates jobs for the young. Americas support for democracy will therefore be based on ensuring financial stability, promoting reform, and integrating competitive markets with each other and the global economy. And were going to start with Tunisia and Egypt.

First, weve asked the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to present a plan at next weeks G8 summit for what needs to be done to stabilize and modernize the economies of Tunisia and Egypt. Together, we must help them recover from the disruptions of their democratic upheaval, and support the governments that will be elected later this year. And we are urging other countries to help Egypt and Tunisia meet its near-term financial needs.

Second, we do not want a democratic Egypt to be saddled by the debts of its past. So we will relieve a democratic Egypt of up to $1 billion in debt, and work with our Egyptian partners to invest these resources to foster growth and entrepreneurship. We will help Egypt regain access to markets by guaranteeing $1 billion in borrowing that is needed to finance infrastructure and job creation. And we will help newly democratic governments recover assets that were stolen.

Third, were working with Congress to create Enterprise Funds to invest in Tunisia and Egypt. And these will be modeled on funds that supported the transitions in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. OPIC will soon launch a $2 billion facility to support private investment across the region. And we will work with the allies to refocus the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development so that it provides the same support for democratic transitions and economic modernization in the Middle East and North Africa as it has in Europe.

Fourth, the United States will launch a comprehensive Trade and Investment Partnership Initiative in the Middle East and North Africa. If you take out oil exports, this entire region of over 400 million people exports roughly the same amount as Switzerland. So we will work with the EU to facilitate more trade within the region, build on existing agreements to promote integration with U. S. and European markets, and open the door for those countries who adopt high standards of reform and trade liberalization to construct a regional trade arrangement. And just as EU membership served as an incentive for reform in Europe, so should the vision of a modern and prosperous economy create a powerful force for reform in the Middle East and North Africa.

Prosperity also requires tearing down walls that stand in the way of progress - the corruption of elites who steal from their people; the red tape that stops an idea from becoming a business; the patronage that distributes wealth based on tribe or sect. We will help governments meet international obligations, and invest efforts at anti-corruption -- by working with parliamentarians who are developing reforms, and activists who use technology to increase transparency and hold government accountable. Politics and human rights; economic reform.

Let me conclude by talking about another cornerstone of our approach to the region, and that relates to the pursuit of peace.

For decades, the conflict between Israelis and Arabs has cast a shadow over the region. For Israelis, it has meant living with the fear that their children could be blown up on a bus or by rockets fired at their homes, as well as the pain of knowing that other children in the region are taught to hate them. For Palestinians, it has meant suffering the humiliation of occupation, and never living in a nation of their own. Moreover, this conflict has come with a larger cost to the Middle East, as it impedes partnerships that could bring greater security and prosperity and empowerment to ordinary people.

For over two years, my administration has worked with the parties and the international community to end this conflict, building on decades of work by previous administrations. Yet expectations have gone unmet. Israeli settlement activity continues. Palestinians have walked away from talks. The world looks at a conflict that has grinded on and on and on, and sees nothing but stalemate. Indeed, there are those who argue that with all the change and uncertainty in the region, it is simply not possible to move forward now.

I disagree. At a time when the people of the Middle East and North Africa are casting off the burdens of the past, the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent than ever. Thats certainly true for the two parties involved.

For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September wont create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.

As for Israel, our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values. Our commitment to Israels security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums. But precisely because of our friendship, its important that we tell the truth: The status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.

The fact is, a growing number of Palestinians live west of the Jordan River. Technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself. A region undergoing profound change will lead to populism in which millions of people - not just one or two leaders -- must believe peace is possible. The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome. The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation.

Now, ultimately, it is up to the Israelis and Palestinians to take action. No peace can be imposed upon them -- not by the United States; not by anybody else. But endless delay wont make the problem go away. What America and the international community can do is to state frankly what everyone knows -- a lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples: Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people, each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.

So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, a secure Israel. The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.

As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself - by itself - against any threat. Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism, to stop the infiltration of weapons, and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state. And the duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.

These principles provide a foundation for negotiations. Palestinians should know the territorial outlines of their state; Israelis should know that their basic security concerns will be met. Im aware that these steps alone will not resolve the conflict, because two wrenching and emotional issues will remain: the future of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees. But moving forward now on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation to resolve those two issues in a way that is just and fair, and that respects the rights and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.

Now, let me say this: Recognizing that negotiations need to begin with the issues of territory and security does not mean that it will be easy to come back to the table. In particular, the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel: How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist? And in the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question. Meanwhile, the United States, our Quartet partners, and the Arab states will need to continue every effort to get beyond the current impasse.

I recognize how hard this will be. Suspicion and hostility has been passed on for generations, and at times it has hardened. But Im convinced that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians would rather look to the future than be trapped in the past. We see that spirit in the Israeli father whose son was killed by Hamas, who helped start an organization that brought together Israelis and Palestinians who had lost loved ones. That father said, I gradually realized that the only hope for progress was to recognize the face of the conflict. We see it in the actions of a Palestinian who lost three daughters to Israeli shells in Gaza. I have the right to feel angry, he said. So many people were expecting me to hate. My answer to them is I shall not hate. Let us hope, he said, for tomorrow.

That is the choice that must be made - not simply in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but across the entire region - a choice between hate and hope; between the shackles of the past and the promise of the future. Its a choice that must be made by leaders and by the people, and its a choice that will define the future of a region that served as the cradle of civilization and a crucible of strife.

For all the challenges that lie ahead, we see many reasons to be hopeful. In Egypt, we see it in the efforts of young people who led protests. In Syria, we see it in the courage of those who brave bullets while chanting, peaceful, peaceful. In Benghazi, a city threatened with destruction, we see it in the courthouse square where people gather to celebrate the freedoms that they had never known. Across the region, those rights that we take for granted are being claimed with joy by those who are prying lose the grip of an iron fist.

For the American people, the scenes of upheaval in the region may be unsettling, but the forces driving it are not unfamiliar. Our own nation was founded through a rebellion against an empire. Our people fought a painful Civil War that extended freedom and dignity to those who were enslaved. And I would not be standing here today unless past generations turned to the moral force of nonviolence as a way to perfect our union - organizing, marching, protesting peacefully together to make real those words that declared our nation: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.

Those words must guide our response to the change that is transforming the Middle East and North Africa - words which tell us that repression will fail, and that tyrants will fall, and that every man and woman is endowed with certain inalienable rights.

It will not be easy. Theres no straight line to progress, and hardship always accompanies a season of hope. But the United States of America was founded on the belief that people should govern themselves. And now we cannot hesitate to stand squarely on the side of those who are reaching for their rights, knowing that their success will bring about a world that is more peaceful, more stable, and more just.

Thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.) Thank you.

END 1:00 P. EDT

Pressman: American Presidents and the Two-State Solution

Jeremy Pressman writes in a guest column for Informed Comment:

“Clinton, Bush, & Obama on a two-state solution”

This compilation of major Clinton, Bush (43), and Obama statements on a two-state solution including security, settlements, the West Bank, refugees, and Jerusalem suggests the similarities and differences in presidential rhetoric since President Bill Clinton publicly called for two states on January 7, 2001.

What does a careful reading of these six documents suggest?

1. These presidents all supported a two-state solution including a contiguous, viable, and sovereign Palestine. Bush and Obama explicitly noted that each state was the homeland for that people.

2. Bush emphasized a democratic Palestine.

3. In general, only Israel was said to need security. (This was often juxtaposed with ending the humiliation of the occupation and restoring Palestinian dignity.) All agreed the new borders needed to be secure for Israel. Only Obama made any reference to Palestinian security.

4. Clinton and Obama agreed the Palestinian state should be “nonmilitarized.”

5. By talking about swaps, blocks, or population centers, all three presidents seemed to agree Israel would keep some large settlements in the West Bank (large in terms of population). In May 19 speech, Obama may have used a phrasing the Palestinians prefer – the 1967 lines – but the practical significance given past negotiations is little.

6. Clinton and Bush rejected the idea that the Palestinian right of return would mean the return of refugees to Israel. Bush and Obama did not detail a comprehensive plan for addressing the Palestinian refugee question.

7. Only Clinton was clear on Jerusalem. Bush and Obama did not detail a comprehensive plan for addressing Jerusalem. In other words, only Clinton set out a U.S. position on every major Israeli-Palestinian issue.

These quotations are drawn from six sources (five speeches and one letter):

(The Clinton speech is a less detailed version of the Clinton parameters that he privately read to the parties on December 23, 2000.)

Again, the pdf compilation of presidential remarks is here.

Jeremy Pressman
Alan R. Bennett Honors Professor
Associate Professor
Department of Political Science
University of Connecticut

About the Author

Juan Cole is the founder and chief editor of Informed Comment. He is Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History at the University of Michigan He is author of, among many other books, Muhammad: Prophet of Peace amid the Clash of Empires and The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Follow him on Twitter at @jricole or the Informed Comment Facebook Page

Paul T. Mikolashek

Mikolashek, 59, who served in the U.S. Army for more than 35 years, has extensive expertise in political and military affairs in the Middle East/North Africa/Pakistan region. Prior to joining Raytheon, he was the Army's Inspector General and Commanding General of the Third Army, leading 25,000 soldiers, Marines and airmen during combat op erations in Afghanistan.

From 1998 to 2000, Mikolashek was Commanding General, Southern European Task Force, a 2000-person rapid reaction force and support team based in Italy. Before that, he served as Chief of the U.S. Office of Military Cooperation, Kuwait, providing military advice to the U.S. ambassador to Kuwait and the Kuwaiti armed forces. During his time in the Army, he held numerous staff and command assignments in the U.S., Germany, Vietnam, Japan, Kuwait, Italy and NATO Headquarters in Brussels.

Mikolashek was born in Akron, Ohio, and received his commission in 1969 upon graduation as a Distinguished Military Graduate from the University of Akron. He has a Master of Art in Education Administration from Michigan State University.


Trump's election is a massive setback for humanitarian issues, and Jordan was just as shocked as the rest of the world by his victory. This is not to say that all Jordanians were upset by the news: in fact, many welcome him, despite his rhetoric on Muslims, women, and minorities. Most troubling, however, is that many of our questions about his approach to the Middle East cannot be answered right now because he literally has no experience in foreign policy.

It is safe to say that American institutions like The Washington Institute will still have the ability to influence Trump's decisions abroad. Yet progress on issues such as the Palestinian conflict seems farfetched although there will always be hope for an end to that conflict, Trump is highly unlikely to push for peace, human rights, and equality anywhere, let alone the Middle East.

Regardless, the continuity of U.S.-Jordanian relations seems assured. Jordanians ultimately expect the relationship to remain stable, and given the long history between the two countries, many hope that bilateral ties will grow even stronger.

The Future of Social Protection in MENA: Turning Unprecedented Crisis into an Opportunity

This inaugural event — the first in a series of unique opportunities to engage with high-level decision makers, policymakers, regulators, private sector business leaders and influencers — will share a vision for how to build a renewed social protection system in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region that protects all people who need it, whenever they need it, in a financially sustainable way.

"Rethinking Social Protection in MENA is critical. The continued innovation, learning, and sharing of experience in designing and implementing social protection measures will be vital in shaping the new normal across MENA in the years to come."
– Ferid Belhaj, World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the critical need for adaptive, inclusive and sustainable social protection systems for countries in MENA. Without reforms, the prevailing systems in the region will become increasingly out of sync with the realities of tomorrow and financially unsustainable. The situation is a reflection of a broken social contract, as most people in MENA no longer support it, and government can no longer afford it.

As governments in MENA think about recovery from COVID-19, they must think of ways to improve their social contract and provide access to social protection to all in an equitable, transparent and sustainable manner.

The World Bank has supported social protection systems in MENA countries for several years and scaled up its support rapidly since COVID-19. There is now an active social protection engagement in every client country in the region: 15 active projects totaling $3.7 billion and pipeline of another two projects for $315 million this year.

Monday, April 26, 2021
12:00 pm-1:30 pm GMT (8:00 am-9:30 pm EDT)

Welcome and Introduction
Keiko Miwa — Regional Director, Human Development MENA, The World Bank

Opening Remarks
Ferid Belhaj — Vice President, Middle East and North Africa, The World Bank

Panel Discussion
Moderator: Michal Rutkowski — Global Director, Social Protection and Jobs, The World Bank

Ferid Belhaj, MENA Regional Vice President, World Bank
H.E. Ms. Mouna Osman Aden, Minister of Social Affairs, Djibouti
H.E. Ms. Nivine El-Qabbage, Minister of Social Solidarity, Egypt
H.E. Ayman Riad Al-Mufleh, Minister of Social Development, Jordan
H.E. Mr. Mohamed Trabelsi, Minister of Social Affairs, Tunisia
H.E. Dr. Khaled Mahdi, General Secretariat of the Supreme Council for Planning and Development Ministry of Finance, Economic Affairs, and Investment, Kuwait

Closing Remarks
Ferid Belhaj — Vice President, Middle East and North Africa, The World Bank

Keiko Miwa — Regional Director, Human Development MENA, The World Bank

• The president changed his tune within days of his swearing-in when George Mitchell was appointed Special Envoy for Middle East Peace to demonstrate the president’s 𠇌ommitment to a negotiated ‘two-state solution.’” 16
• President Obama then went to Cairo a few months later to argue the Arab-Israeli conflict had to be solved so that it could “no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems.” 17
• In August 2010, Secretary of State Clinton announced Middle East peace was to be 𠇌ompleted within one year.” 18

• When the Arab Spring was in full bloom in 2011, President Obama gave a speech ostensibly about this development, but the focus of the speech remained proposals for a comprehensive Middle East peace settlement. 19
• In focusing attention on that, the Obama Administration seemingly blamed Israeli settlements as the primary reason there was not peace between the parties, as opposed to the constant Hamas terrorist attacks.
• Demonstrations across the region in support of universal freedoms show just how irrelevant the Obama Administration fascination with a comprehensive Middle East peace is to the issue of greater freedoms in the Middle East, namely the notion that greater liberalization in the Middle East could not come to pass until the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was solved. 20
• As CRS said, “Since taking office, President Obama has devoted greater time and attention to the pursuit of Middle East peace than to efforts to promote reform and democracy in the Arab world.” 21
• This would seem to mean the Obama Administration has failed to cultivate and assist opposition groups committed to democratic ideals in order to help them become sufficiently organized so as to assist their succession to power in a post-Mubarak environment.
• The United States and supportive opposition groups must now play catch-up to this cause where the Muslim Brotherhood is commonly understood to be the best organized opposition group in Egypt at present.
• The overwhelming victory by Islamist parties in the November 2011 Egyptian parliamentary elections is evidence of this. 22
• Similarly, a fractured opposition in Syria is hindering the removal of President Assad from power.
• Instead of focusing upon a Middle East peace that can only be achieved by the parties if and when they want it, perhaps the Obama Administration should direct its efforts to supporting pro-democracy groups across the region with a favorable disposition toward the United States.

President Obama is scheduled to give a major address on Middle East affairs this Sunday, March 4. If his past speeches are any indication, this appearance will be full of rhetoric that quickly will be tossed aside in policy practice.

[1] Barack Obama, Speech to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, June 4, 2008, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=91150432 .

[3] Bipartisan Policy Center, Meeting the Challenge: Stopping the Clock, Feb. 2012, p. 21

[4] Joby Warrick, “U.N. Sees Spike in Iran’s Uranium Production,” Washington Post, Feb. 25, 2012 Stephen Rademaker and Blaise Misztal, “The Growing Threat of Iran’s Nuclear Program,” Washington Post, Nov. 7, 2011 (“[T]he true measure of Iran’s progress toward nuclear weapons capability is the rate at which it is producing enriched uranium, [and] . . . as IAEA reports demonstrate, Iran’s production of enriched uranium continues to accelerate.”).   

[5] Barack Obama, News Conference of the President at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum, Nov. 14, 2011, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/11/14/news-conference-president-obama .

[6] Hillary Clinton, Interview of the Secretary of State by George Stephanopoulos, Good Morning America, Jan. 18, 2011, http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2011/01/154920.htm .

[7] Ellen Barry, “Russia Dismisses Calls for New U.N. Sanctions on Iran,” New York Times, Nov. 9, 2011.

[8] Obama AIPAC speech, supra note 1.

[9] 156 Cong. Rec. S324, Jan. 28, 2010 House Roll Call Vote No. 975, 111 th Cong, 1 st Sess., Dec. 15, 2009.

[10] Senate Roll Call Vote No. 19, 111 th Cong, 2 nd Sess., June 24, 2010 House Roll Call Vote No. 394, 111 th Cong, 2 nd Sess., June 24, 2010.

[11] Senate Roll Call Vote No. 216, 112 th Cong., 1 st Sess., Dec. 1, 2011.

[12] FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act �, Pub. L. No. 112-81, 125 Stat. 1298, 1646, Dec. 31, 2011.   

[13] Anne Gearan, Associated Press, 𠇏resh Iran Deadline Passes With No New Sanctions,” March 1, 2012.

[14] James Clapper, Testimony of the Director of National Intelligence to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Hearing on Worldwide Threats, Jan. 31, 2012.

[15] Obama AIPAC speech, supra note 1.

[16] Congressional Research Service, Israel and the Palestinians: Prospects for a Two-State Solution, CRS Rpt. R40092, p. 1.

[18] Hillary Clinton, Briefing of the Secretary of State on Middle East Peace, Aug. 20, 2010, http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2010/08/146156.htm .

[20] Robert Satloff, Testimony of the Executive Director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy to a House Committee on Foreign Affairs Hearing on Recent Developments in Egypt and Lebanon, Feb. 9, 2011, http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/112/sat020911.pdf (noting “the absence of progress toward Israeli-Palestinian peace appears not to have been a factor in the popular unrest” in Tunisia and Egypt) Elliott Abrams, testimony at the same hearing, http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/112/abr020911.pdf (noting democracy developments in the Middle East “should persuade us once and for all that the linkage argument—that every problem in the region is really tied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—is false,” as none of the developments “had anything to do with Israel and the Palestinians”).

[21] Congressional Research Service, Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations, CRS Rpt. RL33003, p. 8 (earlier versions, available at http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/156525.pdf ).

[22] Islamist political parties, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, dominated the November 2011 elections for Egypt’s People’s Assembly, winning nearly 70% of the seats.  Congressional Research Service, Egypt in Transition, CRS Rpt. RL33003, Feb. 8, 2012, p. 3

Remarks by World Bank Vice President for the Middle East & North Africa at the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee Ministerial Meeting

Ferid Belhaj, World Bank Vice President for the Middle East & North Africa

Madame Chair, Excellencies,

We are gathered today in unusual circumstances and in unusual and challenging times. Despite the early and decisive action by the Palestinian leadership, Covid-19 is inflicting severe damage on the Palestinian economy, which is still recovering from the 2019 fiscal crisis.

The World Bank estimates that the economy will contract between 7.5 and 11 percent in 2020, depending on the speed of the recovery from the recently ended lockdown.

Palestinian livelihoods will be impacted immensely. Unemployment and poverty, both around a quarter of the population before the outbreak, are expected to grow.

The private sector suffered under the shutdown, especially Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and businesses operating in the informal sector.

A rapid rebound, beyond the containment period, will be heavily influenced by the Palestinian Authority’s ability to provide liquidity for the private sector in the coming months.

In this, everyone here has a role to play in supporting Palestinian livelihoods and helping the economy make a recovery.

The Palestinian Authority is severely hamstrung in its ability to provide social assistance to the new poor and private sector support to help the economy respond to the crisis.

With a significant public revenue reduction and additional expenditure demands, the Palestinian Authority’s financing gap is likely to exceed $1.5 billion. This calls for a reprioritization of its pre-Covid planned expenditures.

The Palestinian Authority could also work actively with other parties to maximize available financing, such as donor support, which would allow the Palestinian Authority to remain within previously set domestic borrowing limits and would in turn enhance the liquidity that domestic banks can make available to the private sector.

The Government of Israel can play an important role by working closely with the Palestinian Authority to enhance the revenues it collects and to improve the conditions for economic activity—for example by reaching an agreement with the Palestinian Authority on exit fees from Allenby – King Hussein- Bridge.

The cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and the Government of Israel, in responding to the Covid-19 crisis, provides a positive example of how this can be achieved.

The wider donor community can play a vital role by both financing some of the demands facing the Palestinian Authority and by bringing innovation and expertise to spur economic development.

At the World Bank, we have mobilized resources to support the Palestinian Authority health response to the pandemic. We have provided additional budget support, and we are preparing projects to enhance social assistance, help in local government service delivery, and assist the private sector recover from the crisis.

We also believe that improvements in digital infrastructure can be a game-changer for the Palestinian economy.

While the full potential of the Palestinian economy will not be realized without the removal of restrictions on movement and access, the digital economy can overcome geographic obstacles, foster economic growth, and create better job opportunities for Palestinians.

With a tech-savvy young population, the potential is strong. However, the Palestinians should be able to access resources similar to those of their neighbors and be able to rapidly develop the regulatory environment to allow for the sector to progress.

Let us build on the cooperation during these times of crisis. Let us stride forward and prioritize sustainable progress. Let us support human livelihoods and private sector-driven job creation. We are already mobilizing additional resources to help accomplish these goals, and we stand ready to collaborate together to do so.


By The White House - March 5, 2012

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I want to welcome Prime Minister Netanyahu and the entire Israeli delegation back to the White House, back to the Oval Office.

This visit obviously comes at a critical time. We are seeing incredible changes that are taking place in the Middle East and in North Africa. We have seen the terrible bloodshed that's going on in Syria, the democratic transition that's taking place in Egypt. And in the midst of this, we have an island of democracy and one of our greatest allies in Israel.

As I've said repeatedly, the bond between our two countries is unbreakable. My personal commitment -- a commitment that is consistent with the history of other occupants of this Oval Office -- our commitment to the security of Israel is rock solid. And as I've said to the Prime Minister in every single one of our meetings, the United States will always have Israel's back when it comes to Israel's security. This is a bond that is based not only on our mutual security interests and economic interests, but is also based on common values and the incredible people-to-people contacts that we have between our two countries.

During the course of this meeting, we'll talk about the regional issues that are taking place, and I look forward to the Prime Minister sharing with me his ideas about how we can increase the prospects of peace and security in the region. We will discuss the issues that continue to be a focus of not only our foreign policy but also the Prime Minister's -- how we can, potentially, bring about a calmer set of discussions between the Israelis and the Palestinians and arrive at a peaceful resolution to that longstanding conflict. It is a very difficult thing to do in light of the context right now, but I know that the Prime Minister remains committed to trying to achieve that.

And obviously a large topic of conversation will be Iran, which I devoted a lot of time to in my speech to AIPAC yesterday, and I know that the Prime Minister has been focused on for a long period of time. Let me just reiterate a couple of points on that.

Number one, we all know that it's unacceptable from Israel's perspective to have a country with a nuclear weapon that has called for the destruction of Israel. But as I emphasized yesterday, it is profoundly in the United States' interest as well to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. We do not want to see a nuclear arms race in one of the most volatile regions in the world. We do not want the possibility of a nuclear weapon falling into the hands of terrorists. And we do not want a regime that has been a state sponsor of terrorism being able to feel that it can act even more aggressively or with impunity as a consequence of its nuclear power.

That's why we have worked so diligently to set up the most crippling sanctions ever with respect to Iran. We do believe that there is still a window that allows for a diplomatic resolution to this issue, but ultimately the Iranians' regime has to make a decision to move in that direction, a decision that they have not made thus far.

And as I emphasized, even as we will continue on the diplomatic front, we will continue to tighten pressure when it comes to sanctions, I reserve all options, and my policy here is not going to be one of containment. My policy is prevention of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. And as I indicated yesterday in my speech, when I say all options are at the table, I mean it.

Having said that, I know that both the Prime Minister and I prefer to resolve this diplomatically. We understand the costs of any military action. And I want to assure both the American people and the Israeli people that we are in constant and close consultation. I think the levels of coordination and consultation between our militaries and our intelligence not just on this issue but on a broad range of issues has been unprecedented. And I intend to make sure that that continues during what will be a series of difficult months, I suspect, in 2012.

So, Prime Minister, we welcome you and we appreciate very much the friendship of the Israeli people. You can count on that friendship always being reciprocated from the United States.



PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Mr. President, thank you for those kind words. And thank you, too, for that strong speech yesterday. And I want to thank you also for the warm hospitality that you've shown me and my delegation.

The alliance between our two countries is deeply appreciated by me and by everyone in Israel. And I think that, as you said, when Americans look around the Middle East today, they see one reliable, stable, faithful ally of the United States, and that's the democracy of Israel.

Americans know that Israel and the United States share common values, that we defend common interests, that we face common enemies. Iran's leaders know that, too. For them, you're the Great Satan, we're the Little Satan. For them, we are you and you're us. And you know something, Mr. President -- at least on this last point, I think they're right. We are you, and you are us. We're together. So if there's one thing that stands out clearly in the Middle East today, it's that Israel and America stand together.

I think that above and beyond that are two principles, longstanding principles of American policy that you reiterated yesterday in your speech -- that Israel must have the ability always to defend itself by itself against any threat and that when it comes to Israel's security, Israel has the right, the sovereign right to make its own decisions. I believe that's why you appreciate, Mr. President, that Israel must reserve the right to defend itself.

And after all, that's the very purpose of the Jewish state -- to restore to the Jewish people control over our destiny. And that's why my supreme responsibility as Prime Minister of Israel is to ensure that Israel remains the master of its fate.

So I thank you very much, Mr. President, for your friendship, and I look forward to our discussions. Thank you, Mr. President.


Kawa Hassan, EWI's vice president of the Middle East and North Africa program and director of the Brussels Office, spoke with El País to reflect on the legacy of the uprisings that erupted across the Arab world in 2010 and 2011.

Hassan was quoted in an El País article on January 2 entitled, "El desenlace por escribir de la Primavera Árabe."

Hassan’s paraphrased remarks (translated from Spanish to English), appear below:

In historic terms, ten years is not a sufficient time frame to judge the impacts of transformative processes like the "Dignity Revolutions," wrongly referred to as the "Arab Spring." Seasonal analogies, including "Arab Spring" and "Arab Winter or Autumn," are attractive and "sexy" from a marketing point of view but terribly miss the mark and hence, are misleading. That is why I prefer to call these uprisings "Dignity Revolutions"—millions of people from various backgrounds took to the streets demanding social justice and dignified citizenship. Though most of these protest movements have been brutally suppressed, they will likely return, perhaps bringing even more violence, since the root causes that produced them have worsened over the course of the past ten years. What is abundantly clear is that there will be no going back to a pre-2011 political order.

It is unclear where the region is heading in the next ten years. The existing political order has proved to be resilient. The deeply corrupt and authoritarian leaders are ready to implement the strategy of scorched-earth and therefore, fight to the death to stay in power. Societies, too, have shown signs of resilience. Ten years on, the protesters are caught between authoritarian states, kleptocratic ruling elites and apocalyptic, authoritarian non-state actors, such as ISIS. Yet, the fear factor has fallen and as a result, no regime in the region—no matter how brutal—can take the status quo for granted. Unexpected, recent mass demonstrations in Iraq, Algeria, Lebanon and Sudan show that these societies are ready to protest and confront resilient authoritarianism.

Click here to read the full article on El País (in Spanish).

Zoran Vucinic

Zoran A. Vucinic is on the board of Equatorial Coca-Cola Bottling Co. SL, American Beverage Association, Aujan Coca-Cola Beverages Co. and Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Egypt and COO-North America Group at The Coca-Cola Co. In the past Mr. Vucinic held the position of President at Dukat, Inc. and Marketing Director-Poland Region at The Coca-C ola Co. Mr. Vucinic received an undergraduate degree from European Business School London, an MBA from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an undergraduate degree from Middlesex University.

President of Latin America Group at The Coca-Cola Company

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a private research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States. MIT has five schools and one college, containing a total of 32 academic departments, with a strong emphasis on scientific, engineering, and technological education and research. Founded in 1861 in response to th e increasing industrialization of the United States, the institute used a polytechnic university model and stressed laboratory instruction. MIT was elected to the Association of American Universities in 1934.

Middlesex University is a university in Hendon, north west London, England.

The Coca-Cola Co. is the nonalcoholic beverage company, which engages in the manufacture, market, and sale of non-alcoholic beverages which include sparkling soft drinks, water, enhanced water and sports drinks, juice, dairy and plant-based beverages, tea and coffee and energy drinks. Its brands include Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Coca-Cola Zer o, Fanta, Sprite, Minute Maid, Georgia, Powerade, Del Valle, Schweppes, Aquarius, Minute Maid Pulpy, Dasani, Simply, Glaceau Vitaminwater, Bonaqua, Gold Peak, Fuze Tea, Glaceau Smartwater, and Ice Dew. It operates through the following segments: Eurasia and Africa, Europe, Latin America, North America, Asia Pacific, Bottling Investments and Global Ventures. The company was founded by Asa Griggs Candler in 1886 and is headquartered in Atlanta, GA.

Coca-Cola North America produces and markets soft drinks. The firm markets soft drink brands and other beverages, including diet and light soft drinks, waters, juices and juice drinks, teas, coffees, and sports and energy drinks. The company is headquartered in Atlanta, GA.

Watch the video: President Obama: Reasons for Hope in Middle East and North Africa (June 2022).


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