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Special Event

Former President Clinton Speaks in Florida

Aired February 11, 2001 - 8:36 p.m. ET

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

STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: Former President Bill Clinton is talking right now in his first open speech since leaving office last month. He is talking about the crisis in the Middle East at Aventura, Florida where he is speaking at the local Jewish center's annual gala dinner dance. This is an audience the includes Israeli dignitaries. Following the speech, the remainder of tonight's event is closed to the public and to the press, so while it's still open, let's listen into to the president's remarks.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FRM. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The third thing I think is important is that, and I think this is a big underlying theme of the last election, Israel has to be secure enough and strong enough to make peace and to be absolutely certain that we'll always be deter adversaries even after peace is made, for enemies of peace will remain which is why the United States must remain committed to preserving Israel's qualitative edge in military superiority.

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: Fourth, any talks which occur in the future, whether they're about a comprehensive settlement or a more limited agreement, must be accompanied by actions and conditions which will breed trust. Goodwill at the negotiating table cannot survive ill intent on the ground and tolerance of violence and incitement of hatred in Palestinian classrooms and the media make it more difficult to make peace because it makes it more difficult for Israelis to believe that the negotiations are real.

On the other hand, when Palestinians feel they're humiliated on streets or at checkpoints, these things, too, are obstacles to getting them to make the compromises they have to make if there is ever to be peace.

Fifth, as I said earlier, the fundamental choices I believe necessary to resolve the remaining differences will remain the same, whether decisions come today, next month or after more years of difficulty because there will still be the same history, the same geography, the same neighbors, the same passions, the same old about wounds.

This is not a problem time will take care of. Indeed, time could make it worse because of the rapid growth of the Palestinian population and the difficulties under which so many live which make them so vulnerable to the irresponsible voices of violence and destruction in the region.

You know, I've worked a lot on peace around the world. You mention Haiti. I worked in Bosnia. I worked in Kosovo. I worked in the land of my forebears, Northern Ireland, and I had finally come the conclusion some time last year that all these really thorny problems fall into two categories that have sort of a medical analogy and it may seem overly simplistic, but I hope you will bear with me.

Some of these problems are like old wounds, and they have a scab on them and if you just let them alone, they'll heal. If you can just keep something bad from happening, something from bumping the wound, something from opening it again, they will heal. But some problems are like abscessed teeth. If you leave them alone, they get worse and infect the rest of your mouth.

And it's very important when you look at these things to analyze which you think they are. For example, I think that Northern Ireland has become more and more like an old wound. Why? They're still, believe it or not, very difficult problems that are unresolved there. Even though the IRA has renounced violence, there is an off-shoot of the IRA still committed to terrorism, and at any given time they have between 60 and 200 members in a cell and that's enough to do a lot of damage if you have access to bombs and other weapons.

But the reason is that the people now are comfortable living with each other and making a common future. Just before I left office, I went over there and I spoke in Belfast at the new hockey arena and 8,000 people came, 4,000 Catholics, 4,000 Protestants sitting in a room together, perfectly comfortable. It would have been impossible even five years ago for me to get that done.

And I realize that my role there has become cheerleader-in-chief just to remind them of how good it is. Why? Well, one big reason is that Northern Ireland is now the fastest growing part of the British economy, and the Irish Republic has is fastest growing economy in Europe.

FRAZIER: Former President Bill Clinton using medical metaphors to discuss peace in the Middle East and in other parts of the world. We don't know about tonight, but we do know that the former president reportedly earned $100,000 for a speech Monday nearby in Boca Raton, Florida.

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