Secretary Clinton With Vice President Joe Biden Announce Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell and Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke
Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton
Benjamin Franklin Room, Department of State, Washington, DC
SECRETARY CLINTON: …
It’s my great honor to introduce the man who the President and I have asked to be the Special Envoy for Middle East Peace. He will lead our efforts to reinvigorate the process for achieving peace between Israel and its neighbors. He will help us to develop an integrated strategy that defends the security of Israel, works to bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that will result in two states living side by side in peace and security, and to achieve further agreements to promote peace and security between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
Senator Mitchell will also work to support the objectives that the President and I believe are critical and pressing in Gaza, to develop a program for humanitarian aid and eventual reconstruction, working with the Palestinian Authority and Israel on behalf of those objectives.
It is a great personal pleasure to introduce George Mitchell, a man who is well known inside this Department and across Washington and America, who has been willing to accept this important assignment. (Applause.)
SENATOR MITCHELL: Mr. President, Madame Secretary, I am grateful to you for your kind words and for the confidence that you show in me and in Ambassador Holbrooke. It’s a great honor for me to be able to serve our country again, and especially to do so with my friend and distinguished colleague, Richard Holbrooke.
I don’t underestimate the difficulty of this assignment. The situation in the Middle East is volatile, complex, and dangerous. But the President and the Secretary of State have made it clear that danger and difficulty cannot cause the United States to turn away. To the contrary, they recognize and have said that peace and stability in the Middle East are in our national interest. They are, of course, also in the interest of Israelis and Palestinians, of others in the region, and people throughout the world.
The Secretary mentioned Northern Ireland. There, recently, long-time enemies came together to form a power-sharing government, to bring to an end the ancient conflict known as the “Troubles.” This was almost 800 years after Britain began its domination of Ireland, 86 years after the partition of Ireland, 38 years after the British army formally began its most recent mission in Ireland, 11 years after the peace talks began, and nine years after a peace agreement was signed. In the negotiations which led to that agreement, we had 700 days of failure and one day of success. For most of the time, progress was nonexistent or very slow. So I understand the feelings of those who may be discouraged about the Middle East.
As an aside, just recently, I spoke in Jerusalem and I mentioned the 800 years. And afterward, an elderly gentleman came up to me and he said, “Did you say 800 years?” And I said, “Yes, 800.” He repeated the number again – I repeated it again. He said, “Uh, such a recent argument. No wonder you settled it.” (Laughter.)
But–800 years may be recent–but from my experience there, I formed the conviction that there is no such thing as a conflict that can’t be ended. Conflicts are created, conducted, and sustained by human beings. They can be ended by human beings. I saw it happen in Northern Ireland, although, admittedly, it took a very long time. I believe deeply that with committed, persevering, and patient diplomacy, it can happen in the Middle East.
There are, of course, many, many reasons to be skeptical about the prospect for success. The conflict has gone on for so long, and has had such destructive effects, that many have come to regard it as unchangeable and inevitable. But the President and the Secretary of State don’t believe that. They believe, as I do, that the pursuit of peace is so important that it demands our maximum effort, no matter the difficulties, no matter the setbacks. The key is the mutual commitment of the parties and the active participation of the United States Government, led by the President and the Secretary of State, with the support and assistance of the many other governments and institutions who want to help.
The Secretary of State has just talked about our long-term objective, and the President himself has said that his Administration – and I quote – “Will make a sustained push, working with Israelis and Palestinians to achieve the goal of two states: a Jewish state in Israel and a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security.”
This effort must be determined, persevering, and patient. It must be backed up by political capital, economic resources, and focused attention at the highest levels of our government. And it must be firmly rooted in a shared vision of a peaceful future by the people who live in the region. At the direction of the President and the Secretary of State, and in pursuit of the President’s policies, I pledge my full effort in the search for peace and stability in the Middle East.
Thank you. (Applause.)