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The Trump Plan: The New American Approach

 
Filed under: Israel, Israeli Security, Palestinians, Peace Process, U.S. Policy

First of all, I want to express my thanks to Dore and to his entire staff for the three years of terrific collaboration and advice. Dore and I have spoken countless times about these issues, he’s taught me a lot – I hope I’ve maybe taught him something, I’ll don’t know, for sure far less. He played a very important and significant role in this process and in one that I would say was irreplaceable. So Dore, you have mine and the United States’ gratitude for all the work that you did.

Well look it’s in our interests in America to support Israel, it’s in our national interests. David Glawe who’s our Undersecretary of Homeland Security spoke at the most recent 9/11 memorial in Jerusalem – one of the most beautiful 9/11 memorials anywhere in the world and he said something that didn’t get picked up that extensively. So I am going to repeat it here. He said, “Israel keeps America safe” and that’s very true and it’s a hard thing to really go into detail or to advertise but it’s true. For generations the American support for Israel very much came from the heart and it still does. It comes from my heart and it comes from the heart of almost everybody I work with in the White House and it comes from the hearts of millions and millions of Americans. But over the last five to ten years I would say it also comes from the head. We are without question better off when Israel is strong, secure, stable, and prosperous, so it is very much an American interest to support Israel always and understand that when we approach the president’s vision for peace and prosperity we begin with that foundational principle. We support Israel many ways, one of which of course is in the geopolitical world, but it’s not the only way. And maybe at an another occasion we can talk about all the other ways that have nothing to do with the region or the maps or anything else where Israel and the United States work together, but we’ll talk today about geopolitical issues and about what we’ve done. When we got into office, we couldn’t help but notice that 52 years after the six-day war many of the issues were still out there and lingering and very little had been done upon them. There’d been a treaty with Egypt and the return of the Sinai, there has been a peace treaty with Jordan, but the thorniest issues Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, Yehuda and the Shomron were still completely up in the air, with no particular international consensus and certainly with no positions expressed by our predecessors that gave Israel any hope of any progress.

And so we tackled them one by one. We first looked at Jerusalem. It was perhaps the easiest because there’d been a law in the books for the past 25 years that compelled the United States to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and yet no president had seen fit to take any action. We did. The president made a commitment and we proceeded with that. With regard to the Golan Heights, given the enormous threats that Syria represented into the competing claims: if you will between the Democratic State of Israel, an important American ally and the brutal regime of Bashar Assad – it didn’t seem like a close call in terms of the competing rights and we moved in that direction.

We’ve been working for years on the issue of settlements, not as a policy issue, but just trying to really understand the legal claims and the legal arguments because whenever we talked about it, whenever I talked about it certainly somebody would push back from the media and say, “Well the whole world recognizes that settlements are illegal, they violate international law.” I was skeptical about that proposition, but I didn’t think it mattered what I said. I thought it really would matter what the United States said as a body, as the State Department, the representative of American foreign policy, and so we got to work on that. And it took longer, but after a very thorough analysis, Secretary Pompeo concluded that settlements were not violative of international law. So we put all that together and said okay now how do you take all those things that you extrapolate and export all that thinking that went behind that, into a peace plan.

I guess the first question really is you know why bother with a peace plan? What’s the point? It’s easier not to, frankly for me will be much easier not to have to not to have to spend what’s undoubtedly going to be an enormous amount of time in the future and it’s already been a huge amount of time defending it and explaining it and it’s complicated. Why is it in the interests of the United States and Israel to put something out? And I think the answers are multifold. The first of which is that it’s clearly in Israel’s best interest in the long run. These issues aren’t going away. They’re not hard to ignore because the Palestinians in 52 years have done nothing to create any type of a political movement that provides Israel of any sense of certainty or calm or assurances – that the Palestinians won’t be a threat to Israel if they were to achieve statehood. So Palestinians have made it very usual for Israel to ignore it and in many respects with some minor skirmishes over the last five decades, that’s pretty much what’s been the approach but the issues are out there. The issues are out there, on college campuses in the United States, with the BDS movement, with the nations around the world raising it constantly. As you guys watch the same political debates and movements that I see on television you see how not everyone in American politics views the world the way we do.

And so the question is it possible to design a resolution to the Palestinian conflict that accomplishes a few important things? Number one that it protects Israel’s security first and foremost protects the Israel’s security and I want to take it I want to stop there for a minute because it’s by far the most important issue. We start, we look at this issue with a great deal of humility, based upon the fact that we are not smart enough to know what’s going to happen in this region tomorrow, a year from now, or 10 years from now. If you look back at 1995, when President Clinton was pushing Prime Minister Rabin to make a deal with somebody. Right first, the effort, the goal was to make a deal with Syria. And then when that failed – make a deal with Jordan and that is when the Jordanian said, well we’re not going to make a deal with you, unless you do something with the Palestinians. He went and Oslo came to be and then a Jordanian peace treaty came to be. But this all started off with the Syria. That was the preferred course of action. Now think about what would have happened. The entire negotiation was promised upon Israel returning the Golan Heights to Syria and those negotiations were active and they were moving forward and they might have you know, with a couple of breaks here and there, they might have proceeded. Now in 1995 could anybody anticipate that Syria would become what it became in 2015 or 2016. Nobody could imagine. Looking back today on that decision, if the Golan Heights had God forbid become part of Syria and people who lived in the Upper Galilee or the lower Galilee, we’re right on the border of the Syrian civil war. How many lives would have been lost and how much danger would have would have resulted to the Israeli people because they failed to predict something, which nobody predicted in 1995? Syria had been a stable border for many years, maybe the most stable border at that time in 1995. So we start off with the humility that we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, the next day, or five years from now. With regard to security, we looked at the situation really as three options.

Who’s going to provide security if there’s a future Palestinian state? Choice number one, which had been advocated by many of our predecessors, was an international force. Israel for good reasons could never accept an international force nor could we. We see what happened in Lebanon, just 15 years ago or 14 years ago, when there were 10,000 rockets in the arsenal of Hizbullah and the war ended and UN resolution 1701 came into place and the resolution required that Hizbullah be disarmed and that disarmament was going to be overseen by UNIFIL, the united nations forces. And Lebanon, how do we know they failed because today we know that Hizbullah has one hundred forty thousand rockets instead of ten thousand rockets. They’re far more dangerous than they were then. The quality of their rockets have gotten better. And so we can come up with three other examples, as well international forces don’t work.

What’s the second choice? The second in. Let’s dispel perhaps the fourth choice immediately which is that the Palestinians could take care of their own internal and external security. I think even they don’t believe that they can, so that one is the easiest one to dispel. So the second choice is that American troops will somehow take responsibility for the security of this new Palestinian state. The simple answer is that we’re not prepared to do that. The longer answer is that Israel doesn’t want it either because I think the best way to jeopardize the relationship of the United States and Israel is to have American soldiers dying on Israeli soil. One of the great decisions made by the State of Israel at the beginning of its existence was that Israel would defend itself, by itself and would not call for American troops. And I think that’s exactly why this relation has grown and flourished with an enormous amount of mutual respect. And so if you just kind of eliminate all those choices, you are left limited with one choice, which is that the State of Israel will defend this region. They are by far the best equipped to do it, they are by far the best incentivized to do it, and security is simply not a game, it’s not a political issue, it’s not something that you know is subject to populist sentiment, here are their security needs. It’s real. It’s life and death and from the beginning, we respected Israel’s security needs, which I think is the primary reason why we were able to move forward in other directions with the Prime Minister and others, who we have discussions with.

Some of the other key points of the plan, we learned from the past with regard to evacuations is that they don’t work. And they would place enormous stress upon the on the fabric of Israeli society. In 2005, eight thousand Israelis who are living in the Gaza Strip, about as remote from central Israel as you can get, I’ve been to Israel at that point, I think, I don’t know, maybe fifty times. I think I’ve been to Gush Katif once and those fifty times you would think if there’s any place where you could easily evacuate eight thousand people it would be in Gaza. And it wasn’t easy. It was the farthest thing from easy. I watched those videos of soldiers crying with the residents and the enormous strain it took upon the Israeli people. Why would we ever want to put Israel through that again? Especially on a level of a dimension far greater than ever happened in Gaza? I mean you’re talking about the biblical heartland of the State of Israel and not eight thousand people, but however you slice it – ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred thousand people? I mean we can debate you know with people on the right and left whether it’s a good idea or a bad idea or whether it’s right or wrong. It’s just not gonna happen. It’s just not something that we would ever expect to happen because we’ve seen the trailer, not the movie. We saw the trailer, before the trailer and it was pretty ugly. We’re not anxious to see the movie. So that’s a start. We used that sort of as a foundational principle.

Borders: the notion that the 1949 armistice lines are anything other than armistice lines is something that we frankly never understood. What happened in 1949, the Israel’s enemies agreed to stop fighting along a certain green line, with the understanding that they were not recognizing any of Israel’s borders to the west of that green line. They were going to rearm and they were going to take another shot at destroying Israel, whenever they felt like it, which they did feel like in 1967 and in 1973. So these armistice lines had somehow morphed over time into some kind of a natural border and we just don’t accept that. What we do accept is that there are several million people living in Judea and Samaria, who do not accept Israeli rule or claim not to accept Israeli rule, whose life is suboptimal given the challenges of security that exists and they deserve better. And this is a dispute that both they and Israel would be better off resolving. Not as a matter of legal principles because they’re really aren’t any that that would end the dispute, but as a basis of direct negotiations, where people’s lives can improve and people can live in and achieve aspirations of independence, dignity, and prosperity. And that’s what we tried to design.

People I don’t think people really understand the extent of the proposal, made by Israel. I think the world tends to view it as highly pro-Israel. Look we are instinctively pro-Israel, but this plan is and I’ve said this before this is not a gift to a political leader, this is a gift to Israel, it’s a gift to the Palestinians, a gift to the region, it works for everyone. To the Palestinians they have the opportunity to more than double their existing footprint in Area A and B, the ability to expand Gaza beyond its existing borders, to connect Gaza to Judea and Samaria, in a way to create some level of cohesion. There’s a means of traveling you know straight from north to south or east to west. You know there’s been references to this is a bunch of cobbled together territories. Now there will be, whether it’s a bridge, or a tunnel, or some other connection there will be a means of going north to south and east to west in the same way that you know, when I used to go to work every day in Manhattan, I used to go from one island. I used to go through the Midtown Tunnel. Now if you tell me that I’m traveling underwater, I’d have no idea. I never saw a drop of water in 35 years of commuting to work because you know that’s how that’s how tunnels work. And so you know who care how its looks from the air? From the ground it will be, we’ve created the prospects for a state that has connectivity north to south and east to west and I think in a way which is far more advantageous to the Palestinian people than today.

But I would not underestimate the amount of courage it takes to put out a map of a Palestinian state. You know to those people who say well you know it’s not big enough – it’s double the footprint, it’s double Gaza, it connects the two, and I can tell you plenty of people that saw this map on the Israeli side and when they first saw it, they gasped and asked what is that that you put there in the middle of Israel. It’s for good reason, I mean the Palestinians have made it very easy for the Israelis to just ignore the prospects of the possibility of a Palestinian state. It’s not politically easy to do this, but as I said it’s if you put if you create enough of the right structures. One other point about the structures and I take to heart Brig. Gen.(res.) Kuperwasser’s points and they’re all good points and all points that I think have to be fleshed out further, but we’ve done something here not just for Israel, but for the Palestinians as well. When we talk about the conditions to statehood, in addition to requiring an end to the Pay for Slay as the general, as you pointed out, or the incitement or other activity, which is not conducive to being a good neighbor. We’ve also said that there needs to be a system of laws in place that protects human rights, freedom of religion, freedom of the press – to create a real democratic society. Why? Because at the end of the day, those are the only societies that last. I mean you know other societies that you know they last for a while, but they’re not good partners in the long run, and for the Palestinian people they should understand that America stands with them and what I believe is their desire that they have a hard time expressing because it’s a repressive society, but we stand with them and their desire to achieve a democratic more prosperous state. And we’re not putting our fingerprints on any new state that doesn’t have those characteristics.

We think that Israel has gone a long way and agreeing to a freeze of construction in the territory that this plan allocates an Area C to a Palestinian state, it’s a significant commitment. It’s in exchange for that we’ve agreed, as you know, when we complete this committee process, which the president spoke about, which is getting lots and lots of attention – I would point out just parenthetically right now that the president put out a plan for the next hundred years, not the next 30 days. I understand that the next 30 days people want to talk about it because of the elections but I would encourage everyone to take a step back and a deep breath because this is something that if done right, can ensure Israel’s security and bring great prosperity and dignity to the Palestinians, if it’s done right and done over the next hundred years. Then that was our perspective, we’re not going to get any more involved then we need to be hopefully, not at all in Israeli politics, but just that is our perspective on this. But in any event this is something that I think is correctly structured. We’re very encouraged by the reactions that have been observed by the neighbors, by others. This will have to take its course, where we’re not anticipating breakthroughs in the next week or two weeks or three weeks, so this is this is something we want to proceed with for the long term.

But I think that when the dust settles, I hope people around the world understand Israel’s made a firm offer to more than double the Palestinian territory and to create a Palestinian state on specific terms and specific conditions and specific territorial dimensions, and that my friends is an enormous breakthrough that no one has seen over the past 52 years. You can go back through all the great conferences, summits, and agreements, whether it’s Oslo, whether it’s Wye, Geneva, at Madrid, you can go through all them, I defy anyone to read any of those documents and tell me exactly where the borders of Palestine or Israel begin or end and you can’t. And so this is an enormous step forward and I congratulate the Israeli government for having the courage to move forward in this matter. I thank Dore and his team for helping us and others who provided us with such great insights, as we went along the process, and let’s just give it time give it the time to digest and to understand and yes it is a clear pathway to Israeli sovereignty over their biblical heartland and we’re looking forward to the proceeding with that, as we complete this process, which will not be an unduly protracted process. But more importantly, I think to demonstrate to the world that Israel is not seeking to subjugate other people that they’re prepared to live in peace and dignity with its neighbor, but they’re not prepared to commit suicide either. I think this threads that needle. And that is good as we can, it was a narrow hole, but I think we threaded it as best we can. We hope this makes a long-term contribution to the security and the stability of the region.

Q&A Session

Question: What is the timing of or there are the procedures or with regard to Israel applying its laws to the territory that is provided to be part of Israel under the plan and is the United States preventing Israel from taking any action?

Answer: Well, first let me say look the United States can’t prevent Israel from doing anything, as a sovereign nation. You look into what Israel wants to do and we have no control over Israel in terms of its sovereign actions, but if we’re talking about what we understand the agreement to be with the Israeli government – it’s that we will begin a process. And that process is literally just about to begin: a six-member committee, three members three appointed by Prime Minister Netanyahu and three appointed by President Trump. I’m not going to give the names of the six members, but I’ll tell you who one of them is – one of them’s gonna be me. We’re going to go through a mapping process to convert a map which is drawn at a scale of more than a million to one into something which really shows on the ground how the territory will be together. It’s not unduly difficult, but it’s also not simple because there’s a lot of judgment calls. We don’t want to do this piecemeal. We think it’s a mistake to you know to have you know Israel make one decision and then we have to react on a second decision because we want to do this once holistically, in totality and get it done and get it done right – for the benefit of Israel, as well. The last thing we want to do is have this become highly politicized. And you know, one should I move this here, or I move that there – we just want to get it done right and that is not too much to ask. And that was the president’s message when he when he spoke about it. The first time a committee will be appointed to convert the theoretical map into something specific, following which there would be immediate recognition. Those are the president’s words, not mine and then that’s what we would hope the Israeli government would proceed because that was our understanding, yes.

Question: Dan Williams from Reuters:

Thank you ambassador. Beyond completing the committee process that you just referred to does the U.S. require that the upcoming Israeli elections March 2nd be a thing in the past and the installation of a formal permanent government, rather than a caretaker government?

Answer: No we don’t think that the process will be completed before March 2nd.  We just have a sense in our own minds as to what’s involved. The amount of time it will take, the demands on the committee members. I’m the only one who lives in Israel, they’ll have to be some visits, and some tours, and we just don’t think it’s going to happen before March 2nd. But beyond that, the committee will proceed as quickly as it can.

Question: Does the administration require the installation of a formal government rather than a caretaker government?

Answer: We have not made that demand. No.

Raphael Ahren from the Times of Israel: If I may ask a question about the four year time frame. It’s question number one, in the event of a deal, why is Israel allowed to take its spoils already right now, when the Palestinians have a long list of requirements to fulfill before they get their part of the bargain? And in case the Palestinians do not come to the table and reject the deal what is the vision for after these four years, will Israel be allowed to apply sovereignty over the other parts, the parts that are not being turned into a Palestinian state? Thank you.

Answer: So let me answer the second question, first because it’s a little bit shorter. The answer is at the end of four years, if there’s no progress, and no basis to extend that period of time and that would be an extension that the parties themselves would have to agree to – then it would return to what it is today. It would be under okay, it will continue to be under the administration of COGAT and that will that will continue after the four-year period. And hopefully there’ll be another initiative, but we don’t have a specific there’s no specific event that occurs when the four years expire – it’s just that we will go back to where we are today as to that territory.

Your first question, I think it is a good one, an important one and what it does is it bridges the asymmetry between Israel and the Palestinians. This is a completely asymmetric relationship – Israel is a democracy, you can hold it to its word it has an enormous relationship with the United States on multiple levels and in that relationship is very solid.  It is in a position today to keep its part of the bargain, the Palestinians today are not in a position to keep any bargain. The Palestinians are not united their government, it is not democratic, their institutions are weak, their respect for the types of norms that we hold dear, whether it’s not just democracy, but human rights, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, are non-existent. And so you have to bridge that asymmetry, by saying well if Israel is ready today, why shouldn’t they get what they’re agreeing to today. If the Palestinians are going to be ready in four years, well then they can get what they get in four years. And the only way I think to induce Israel to make the kind of commitments today that that will have you know ramifications for years to come, is to provide them today with what they’re entitled to in exchange for that. And so I have no doubt that Israel will never agree to a naked freeze of four years just on the possibility that the Palestinians might be willing to negotiate and achieve the milestones that that this is – we just couldn’t have gotten there and to us it was very important to go to the Palestinians, who were again asymmetrically not ready. To say to them, look you don’t have to say yes or no today, okay, we understand that you’re in a very difficult position you’re not united, you have numerous streams of conflict that kind of weave throughout your body politic – so take your time, digest it, and you will not be penalized by the passage of time. If it takes you three or four years to get there, the territory that is earmarked for you – the integrity of that territorial opportunity will be preserved. Israel’s never agreed to a four year freeze before. Israel agreed to a 10-month freeze and it was it was a complete waste of time you know, at the demand of Hillary Clinton. So you know in a simple course of negotiations, it seemed like it seems like a very fair trade for us, for the Palestinians and for Israel.

Well, first of all there is no way that any president that proceeded President Trump would recognize Israel’s annexation of anything at any time so don’t suggest that we are somehow being harsher than prior presidents. Look the president got up and he made a speech and he said there will be a committee and the committee will take go through a process, the process will not last very long, but we want to go through a process. The politics seem to be emerging that young people are saying who cares about the process let’s go do whatever we want. I can’t stop that I’m not suggesting that the government of Israel shouldn’t do whatever it wants to do, but I think people should know that if the if the president’s position is simply ignored then we’re not going to be in a position to go forward. We laid out the basis upon which we’re prepared to go forward with this process, it’s an enormously beneficial to Israel, it’s also beneficial to Palestinians to the region, and to everyone else. But I’ll just I’ll say something, which I seem to say a lot in this country and I’m sure you guys I’m sure I don’t need to translate, תפסת מרובה לא ,תפסת okay. I mean you know a little bit of patience you know to go through a process to do it right is not something, which we think is too much to ask for. Again Israel it’s a sovereign nation, but it seems to me with the news out that the cabinet was about to be pushed in a direction that was potentially adverse to our view of the process, at least let people know where we stand. It wasn’t a threat, just let people know where we stand. I think, look I think we might have had some difference with the timing, but in very short order it became clear that we were all in the same page.

Question: Mr. Ambassador Ariel Kahana, from Israel Hayom, I am following up about your answer to Amichai. I would ask if Netanyahu will take the step let’s say he will make a call to the President and tell him I have to do it, in your opinion what will happen?

Answer: I’m not going to speculate on that happening. I think it’s very unlikely but I wouldn’t speculate.

Melanie Phillips from The Times of London: The plan is being presented as a break from the past, but once again the Palestinians are being offered a reward for their aggression. What therefore makes you think that they’re not simply going to do what they’ve done every single time this happened and simply walk away and leave Israel in basically the same position as it always was?

Answer: Well, first of all, what you’ve also done is provide a partial answer to the question before as to why should Israel get certain relief in advance of the four year period? It’s because there is the possibility that the Palestinians will do that and the Palestinians should not be rewarded for either aggressive behavior or failure to engage. I think we’re going to, I’m not here to predict what the Palestinians will do. I am a firm believer in the Abba Eban mantra about them “never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” they may very well do the same here. The world has changed, the risks have changed, and the neighborhood has changed. There is much greater visibility inside Palestinian society as to what awaits them outside their enclave, if they can if they can live in peace with their neighbors and look we think there ought to be you know, we understand that they’re moving towards elections, maybe there’ll be a breakthrough with that process. Maybe some of the some of the friends of the Palestinians, the really good friends, they’ll tell them they ought to sit down and engage on this. But we’re going to take it a step at a time, and as I said one of the one of the key principles here is that this is a four-year option and that’s exactly because we expected very little in the short run.

Question: I’m Alan Baker, former ambassador, former legal advisor to the foreign ministry presently the resident lawyer, international lawyer, here at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs – my question is basically from a lawyer to a lawyer from an ambassador to an ambassador.

Friedman: I’m a former lawyer, a recovering lawyer. (laughter)

Question continues: The plan itself and your own words today refer to deal, vision, plan negotiated peace agreement, a package of compromises, and you yourself said just a few minutes ago, pathway for Israeli sovereignty, pathway. My question as a lawyer, is it a basis for negotiation or is it an interdependent package that needs to be agreed upon by both sides? Or as it’s been asked today is it something that’s open for either side to take what he or she likes and implement immediately, unilaterally, or does it all have to wait for a negotiated arrangement? Thank you.

Answer: Okay so I would look at it like this. I think there’s the deal and then there’s the “deal within the deal.” The deal itself, which is the long document that that you’ve read is a reasonably comprehensive, I mean if one well if one were to actually sit down and negotiate every point, that the document would grow probably tenfold, but it’s a reasonably comprehensive outline of the terms, upon which Israel and the Palestinians will exist: two separate states side-by-side, a nation-state of the Jewish people, and a nation-state of the Palestinian people, with overriding Israeli security control upon the borders that are laid out. Now we think it’s a basis for negotiation, it’s certainly not something the United States would impose on either side and to the extent of the parties negotiate different terms that lead to peace. We would obviously be delighted to see that happen and we have no pride of authorship. In terms of the “deal within the deal” that is that is the agreement that we’ve reached with Israel – that if Israel maintains this optionality for four years, creates a four year settlement freeze, with regard to the 50 percent of Area C that’s allocated to the Palestinians, if they achieve that freeze and agree to negotiate and use this plan as the basis for negotiation which the Prime Minister has already done, you said that this plan will be the basis for negotiation. Then upon Israel applying its laws to the territory that is earmarked for Israel within Judea and Samaria that is laid out on the map, upon them doing that, pursuant to this committee process, which we just talked about. Then the United States will recognize Israel’s application of its laws, so you have the bigger deal and then that basically what I would refer to as the implementing agreement, which in order to keep this open for four years and not throw it back in a drawer, the United States has agreed to recognize Israel’s application of laws. As you will, as an inducement for Israel to keep the other the other territory open for a future agreement.

Question: Jordana Miller I24 news and ABC news. I now have a question out of that answer. The “deal within the deal” is that then not a deal that the United States is helping to mediate a negotiation? That’s my first question. The second is you talked a lot today about security, borders, settlements, U.S. officials have said to the Palestinian side come and negotiate, you also have said that. What specifically is up for negotiation? This doesn’t sound like a lot.

Answer: Well first of all, on the first point the critical issue for years has been the Palestinian complaint that that Israel is creating facts on the ground that over time, deplete the possibility of a two-state solution. And in order for us it was important to us to freeze that process, to freeze that depletion, so that if the Palestinians come to the table and if they agree to his two-state solution along these lines, that the territory be there for them. If we didn’t have that freeze in place, you know, four years from now or whenever, whatever the timeline would be, this could be rendered academic because there frankly is no reason for Israel to discontinue its process. There’s strong political support behind it and you know the idea would be to keep that option alive. Well, to keep that option alive, Israel’s never agreed before to anything more than ten months and it was a waste of time. So to agree to that type of a concession and recognizing the fact that the communities that that we’re talking about are highly unlikely to be going anywhere anyway.  We’ve already said we don’t support any notion of evacuation. These are large communities, there’s hundreds of thousands of people that that live in these communities, so it seemed like a small price to pay to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over this territory, in exchange for that territorial freeze. This is not something we mediated, this is something that we obtained as a commitment from Israel, in order to keep this option alive and we were willing to recognize its sovereignty in exchange.

Question: So just to confirm there is no stage where the United States mediates these negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians? You’re leaving it to them to do it based on this outline?

Answer: I think you might be conflating two different points. That the larger point is this freeze and the recognition of sovereignty neither one of them bring peace, okay, they’re interim steps to achieve territorial integrity for the Palestinians. And to in exchange for that, recognize Israel’s sovereignty with regard to communities that are unlikely under any circumstance to be not be part of Israel in the future, so it would seem like a small price to pay in order to obtain that opportunity, the bigger deal. Okay now that you’ve now that you’ve created that option, the option is now alive, it’s in place, it’s going to for four years, the clock is ticking but it’s clicking, ticking very slowly. It’s a lot of time now, can the Israelis and the Palestinians sit down in that environment and negotiate peace? And we will certainly be playing a mediating role if we’re asked to. We expect we will and so the bigger deal we are continuing to engage as mediators, but ultimately it’s up to the Israelis and the Palestinians through direct negotiations.

Question: Okay, Ruthie Bloom from JNS and The Jerusalem Post: We’ve seen in Iran that there are many more voices now: pro-America, pro-Israel voices – they wouldn’t step on the American flag and the Israeli flag recently, is there anything that you know behind the scenes to suggest that there is anybody in the Palestinian Authority feeling that way and would like to switch this over to a desire for a state and not a desire to destroy Israel?

Answer: Yeah look, I wish I could speak more candidly about this and at this point I can’t because I need to preserve confidences, but we’re so encouraged by actions we’ve gotten from within the Palestinian community, from within the pro-Palestinian environment, from regional neighbors. This is I think accomplishes two things, first I think there are reasonable minds out there. They exist. How, when, where they will come to the front, it’s the same question in Iran. I mean when will that happen? Iran won’t last, that regime won’t last forever, but you know don’t ask me to predict you know how that plays out. There are people of good faith and good will out there that want to move forward with this, I  have no doubt about that. There are good people within the region, I think there are byproducts of this agreement that will help Israel normalize with a lot of its neighbors. And I think that in many ways this puts us on a very good path in a multitude of directions. Stay tuned. It’s something that I think over the months ahead will be more visibility into. Thank you.