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Special Event

President Clinton Delivers Remarks on Middle East Peace Process

Aired July 26, 2000 - 2:28 p.m. ET

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

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to the Roosevelt Room because President Clinton is taking questions on the Middle East peace summit, which failed this week.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... frame this in a way that I think that the Palestinians and the Israelis, and I would hope other friends of peace around the world, would think about it.

We all know how hard Jerusalem is because it goes to the sense of identity, of both the Palestinian and the Israeli people and, in a larger sense, the adherence of Islam, Judaism and Christianity all around the world.

And in a sense, therefore, the city of Jerusalem is not just Jerusalem for the Israelis and al-Quds (ph) for the Palestinians. It is a holy place that reaches beyond even the geographical boundaries of the city.

If there is to be an agreement here, it must be one which meets the legitimate interests of both parties. And that requires a certain imagination and flexibility of defining those interests and then figuring out an institutional and legal framework for them that, frankly, just takes more time and more reflection and probably less pressure than is available in our 15 days at Camp David.

But in any negotiation, it must be possible for both sides to say they got most of what they wanted and needed, that they were not routed from the field, that there was honorable compromise, and so, therefore, the issues cannot be framed in a "you have to lose in order for me to win," and "in order for you to win, I have to lose" framework.

If they are like that, you're correct, then we can never reach an agreement.

But I have spent a great deal of time obviously not only studying about this but listening to the two sides talk about it, think about it, and looking at all the options available for a potential resolution of it, and all I can tell you is: I'm convinced that if the issue is preserving the fundamental interests of the Palestinians and the Israelis, and the genuine sanctity of the Muslim, Christian and Jewish interests in the holy city, that I think we can do that. I just do. But we couldn't do it in the 15 days we were there.

And what they -- the decision that will have to be made is whether there is a way for -- for example, in this case, you mentioned the Palestinians -- for the Palestinians to win their fundamental interests without also winning the right to say they routed the Israelis. Or whether there's a way for the Israelis to protect their fundamental interests without also winning the right to say they have stuck it to the Palestinians. I believe there is. And we're going to explore how we might persuade them -- all of them -- that there is, and where we go from here.

And I hope that just this kind of thing I've been talking about will spark a whole range of articles in the press, commentators on the TV programs, other people talking and thinking this way, trying to be innovative and open and, you know -- I realize the incredible pressure these people are under in even having this discussion. That's, in the end, why I realized we couldn't get it done in two weeks. You've got to get used to talking about something for a little bit before you can then entertain how you can create an edifice that you hadn't previously imagined. And I think we'll be able to do it.

QUESTION: How long are you going to wait before you give it another shot?

CLINTON: Well, it depends. You know, I can't answer that. I tried to make the judgments here for eight years based on what I thought would aid the process. And I can't -- I can't yet tell, Mark, what would be most in aid of the process. I just can't tell you.

Thank you.

ALLEN: President Clinton, in the Roosevelt Room, talking about the breakdown in the Middle East summit and of Jerusalem, the huge sticking point in those talks. He said, "It is a holy place that reaching beyond the geographical boundaries of the city." And he said an agreement "must meet legitimate interests of both parties." And he said, both parties, the Palestinians and the Israelis, need more time to think about that.

He wouldn't say how long before the next move by the United States. Let's see what that move could be from CNN's John King, who is outside of the White House now -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, the president a bit wistful the day after the collapse of the Damp David summit. He said that he can't answer the question right now of when he would next engage in the Middle East peace process. The White House says it wants both parties, the Israelis and the Palestinians, to have a little time to reflect on what happened at Camp David.

There has been some talk, mostly from the Israeli delegation, that Dennis Ross, the president's special envoy on Mideast issues, would travel to the region, perhaps in a week or two. U.S. officials say that something like that will probably happen, but they won't commit to that just yet. They want Mr. Barak, the prime minister of Israel, to go home; Mr. Arafat, the Palestinian leader, to go home to gauge the domestic political reaction among both the Palestinians and the Israelis. And then the United States says it will decide what to do next.

And one thing, we are told by senior U.S. officials, the president is looking for is more flexibility from Palestinians on the issue on how to divide up Jerusalem.

We should also note, on another issue on this event, we did not carry it live, the president made his first remarks about Governor Bush's selection of Dick Cheney as his running mate. The president said he thought Mr. Cheney was a good man, but that this choice offered the vice president, Al Gore, a chance to draw some significant contrasts because of Mr. Cheney's record on gun control, the environment and some other issues -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Thanks for that, as well, John King at the White House.

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