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Special Event

President Clinton Delivers Statement Prior to Departure for Middle East Peace Summit at Camp David

Aired July 11, 2000 - 10:38 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We have been standing by for the president. He is headed to Camp David for the peace summit with the Palestinian and Israelis. Let's go ahead listen in to the president.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As all of you know, I am now leaving for Camp David to join Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat in their effort to reach agreement on the core issues that have divided Israelis and Palestinians for half a century now. The two leaders face profound and wrenching questions, and there can be no success without principled compromise. The road to peace, as always, is a two-way street.

Both leaders feel the weight of history but both, I believe, recognize this as a moment in history which they can seize. We have an opportunity to bring about a just and enduring end to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. That is the key to lasting peace in the entire Middle East. Of course, there is no guarantee of success, but not to try is to guarantee failure.

The path ahead builds on the journey already taken from the first Camp David summit to Madrid to Oslo, to the first handshake on the lawn between Prime Minister Rabin and Chairman Arafat, to the peace between Israel and Jordan and the agreement at Wye River. The parties have proven that peace is possible when they are determined to make it. In the process, they have passed the point of no return. The only way forward now is forward.

Both sides must find a way to resolve competing claims, to give their children the gift of peace. It will take patience and creativity and courage, but Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat have those qualities or they would not have come this far. They will also have the unending and unequivocal support of the United States.

I'll do everything I can over the coming days to see that this moment of promise is fulfilled. And I hope that those leaders will have the thoughts and prayers and support of all Americans.

Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Mr. President, having barely survived the no- confidence vote, does Prime Minister Barak come here with a handicap? Can he negotiate with the full weight of the Knesset and the Israeli people behind him? CLINTON: Well, he -- first of all the -- I'll say what I said yesterday. The polls show in Israel that over, well over half the people support his coming here, and believe he ought to work for peace.

Secondly, he has promised to put whatever agreement is reached here, if an agreement is reached, to a vote of the people. So they have nothing to lose. They'll have the final say anyway. So they ought to be 100 percent supportive for his coming here because the people will be the ultimate deciders on the question. So I think that that is fine.

And yes, he had a eight-vote margin yesterday. I would remind you that on most of the days when Yitzhak Rabin came here, he had a one-vote margin in the Knesset.

So I think we're in as good a shape as we're ever going to get. We might as well just go to work.

Thank you very much.

KAGAN: Listening to President Clinton, as he heads off to Camp David, Maryland, for peace summit talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Mr. Clinton putting a positive spin on what is going to be a very difficult task in bringing these two sides together.

Let's bring in our senior White House correspondent John King, as we watch president and his dog, Buddy, walk across the White House lawn.

John, we have seen in recent days the severe political risk to Prime Minister Barak, but what about Mr. Clinton, does he face any risks in bringing these two sides together, if indeed they do fail in trying to reach agreement?

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly he would face the risk in that critics would say that he has focused on this for 7 1/2 years now, and he will focus on this for the final six months of his terms, and that if there is no success, critics could say he failed in trying to bring this.

The president, himself, though, saying that he called this a moment of promise, yet he also said there are no guarantees of success. But, in the president's words, and we have heard him say this quite a bit in the past week, not to try would guarantee failure.

The hard work will come once Marine One makes it to Camp David. The president will meet with Ehud Barak, the prime minister of Israel, Yasser Arafat, the leader of the Palestinians, and try to convince them to bridge the differences that are so familiar because they are so difficult: the fate of Jerusalem, the fate of Jewish settlers and the land the Palestinians want for their state.

Mr. Clinton saying he would do all it takes. Certainly risks for him, and you heard the president say there at the end that he did not think Prime Minister Barak's political problems would be an issue once the negotiations began. The president making the case that the Israeli people have nothing to lose because their prime minister has promised that, if he can reach an agreement here at the Camp David, and that's a big if, that he would put those details to a referendum back home in Israel.

So the president leaving for Camp David, as you said, with a sense of optimism and certainly a sense of urgency -- Daryn.

KAGAN: John King at the White House. Thank you, John.

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