T H E   W H I T E   H O U S E

Press Briefing by Joe Lockhart From Camp David (7/12/00)

Help Site Map Text Only

The Briefing Room
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary
                              (Camp David, Maryland)
For Immediate Release                    July 12, 2000

                             PRESS BRIEFING BY
                               JOE LOCKHART

                        Thurmont Elementary School
                                    Thurmont, Maryland

11:42 A.M. EDT

          MR. LOCKHART:  Good morning.  I'll give you a little update of
what's gone on since I saw you last, since we reported to you last,
yesterday evening.  I think we took you up through the two bilaterals that
happened late in the afternoon.  After that, the President, the two
leaders, and their delegations -- roughly somewhere around 40 people -- had
dinner together in the Laurel Cabin.

          The President, Prime Minister Barak, Chairman Arafat sat at one
table, with about 15 or so of their aides.  Secretary of State Albright
hosted another table.  National Security Advisor Berger hosted the third
table, filling out the room.  They dined on tenderloin of beef with
sun-dried tomatoes, fillet of salmon with Thai curry sauce, roast baby
Yukon potatoes, steamed green beans with almonds, a mixed garden salad,
fresh fruit, and assorted desserts.

          After that meeting -- after the dinner, the President had a brief
bilateral session with Chairman Arafat in his office at Laurel, and they
retired for the evening.  The President, for his part, went back and
watched the end of the All-Star game with his daughter, Chelsea.

          This morning the President got up and was out by about, I think,
8:45 a.m.-9:00 a.m., for a walk with his dog, Buddy, and stopped by the
Laurel Cabin, and then started his day in earnest just before 10:00 a.m.
with a meeting with his team.  As I left, he was beginning a bilateral with
Prime Minister Barak.

          What I expect for the rest of the day is a series of meetings
between the parties in a number of different formats and at a number of
different levels.  I expect the President will possibly meet later today
with the negotiators from each side.  I expect that members of our team
will meet with the negotiators.  I also expect the negotiators to meet with
each other.  I have no firm sense right now of exactly how that will all
transpire, and when we come back later today I'll give you as much as I can
on that.

          Let me just point out one thing that struck me as I walked around
this morning.  There is a certain informality on the Camp David site that I
think is adding some value to these discussions.  There's meetings going
on, both formal and informal, all over the place.  At breakfast, the
delegations are sitting together in small groups and having discussions.
You see people walking around, you see members of the delegations driving
around together in golf carts, which is the mode of transportation out
there.  So there's a certain informality out there that's adding to the

          Now, having said that, and to not try to underplay the
seriousness and the problems that they face here, as an overall statement
about the discussions that they are having, as we've said all along, as the
President said, these are very difficult issues -- these are very serious
issues.  So I don't want to create the impression, although it is what I
still believe is a good atmosphere there, we have known all along that this
was going to be a struggle, and it is.  The discussions are serious, but
the positions that both parties bring here represent what they see as vital
interests to their people and have been difficult issues that we've worked
on now for many, many years.

          So, to the extent that we went into this knowing it would be a
struggle, we have not been disappointed by that.  This is a very difficult
process in a short time frame, with very difficult issues, and they are
working in a very serious way.  But we certainly know that this effort,
from the beginning, will be a struggle.

          Q    There were some reports that Chairman Arafat is convening a
meeting tomorrow of his senior leadership.  Would the United States be
amenable to such a meeting on the Camp David summit site?

          MR. LOCKHART:  I have not seen that report.  As I understand the
situation, the delegations are remaining on Camp David, and only those --
there are only some members, like myself, who come back and forth, who will
be leaving Camp David.
          Q    -- the substance of their previous negotiations in Israel --
have they gotten into any substance that you could talk about?

          MR. LOCKHART:  They certainly entered into discussions on the
substance.  We all know what the core issues are.  All of them have been
discussed at the highest level.  And this is -- let me say that we have a
difficult task ahead, and I think yesterday was a day where they got right
to it.

          Q    What is the White House reaction to the Israeli
announcement, the confirmation that they have canceled the -- sale to

          MR. LOCKHART:  Well, obviously, given our previous statements, we
welcome the decision.  This has been an important issue to us and a subject
of continuing discussion at a variety of levels of the government,
including between the President and the Prime Minister.  And we are pleased
to see that they've taken our security concerns into account in making this

          Q    May I follow up?

          MR. LOCKHART:  Sure.

          Q    But haven't they -- two questions.  One is existentialist
--let's do existentialism first.  One of your rationales for promoting and
sort of prodding Israel into making concessions and coming to terms with
the Palestinians and with other Arabs is that it will enhance Israel's
status in the world, that it will enhance its diplomatic contacts, its
business contacts, it will be accepted by the international community.  And
here you have the cancellation of a quarter billion-dollar sale that would
do a lot for Israel's economy, for its relationship with a country that
you're locked in an embrace with -- China.

          So let me put the two questions together.  Did it turn out you
didn't believe Israel when it said that it would do nothing that would hurt
American security concerns, and doesn't this run counter to your objective
of opening the window on the world for Israel?

          MR. LOCKHART:  I don't believe so on either a philosophical or a
practical sense.  Israel has made a decision here, they took into account
our security concerns.  We appreciate that, and welcome their decision.  As
far as what the government of Israel, what Chairman Arafat gets out of
this, we believe and it's the reason we're here, that it is in the best
interest for both parties and for the region as a whole to engineer a

          Q    Did the United States promise Israel to compensate over the
cancellation of the deal?

          MR. LOCKHART:  I'm not aware of any such promise.

          Q    Do you see it having any effect at all on the summit?

          MR. LOCKHART:  I view the issues that face the summit as
complicated enough and difficult enough to not have to bring other issues
into it.

          Q    When did the Prime Minister tell the President?

          MR. LOCKHART:  I know they've been talking about this for a few
days.  I know this was part of their discussion yesterday, so I have to
assume that this was done yesterday.

          Q    We know that Barak talked to Senator Lott yesterday.  How
important was cancelling this deal to ultimately getting congressional
approval for any aid package?

          MR. LOCKHART:  That's a question you would have to ask Congress.

          Q    Joe, knowing that the President will be leaving for Japan, I
think at the end of the week, do you think that the next few days until he
leaves for that trip, do you think it will be enough to come up with some
positive progress from this conference?

          MR. LOCKHART:  I don't think we'd be here if we didn't think we
could achieve a positive outcome.  There's a lot of work to be done, but I
think all sides have come here in a serious mode in order to try to get
that work done.

          Q    Joe, are there any extracurricular outings planned while the
summit's going on?  When you were in Shepherdstown, I don't know that it
was the President, but somebody took the principles to some --

          MR. LOCKHART:  I would expect -- there's nothing planned at this
point, and I actually would not anticipate there being too much of that.  I
think whether there would be any outside trips, outside of Camp David, I
think given the fact that we have an enormous task in front of us, and that
time is not unlimited, that they'll stay concentrated on the issues at
          Q    The cancellation of -- during these talks until now -- can
we suppose that the cancellation was the potential issue of the talks
between Clinton and Barak during the first day of the talk?

          MR. LOCKHART:  That would be an incorrect assumption if you
assume that.  The main focus, both in effort and time, were the core issues
that are in front of us in order to reach a final agreement.

          Q    Had Israel made the decision when Mr. Barak talked to the
President last night, or did their conversation help produce the decision?
In other words, did the President encourage him further, or was it a
decision already taken?

          MR. LOCKHART:  I do not know the precise answer to that question.
I think it would be best put to their people.

          Q    -- but is there is a sense in the Camp that progress is
being made within these --

          MR. LOCKHART:  I think, as I indicated yesterday, I'm not going
to try to get into a -- go down the slippery slope of progress or no
progress.  I think at the beginning here I tried to indicate how difficult
this is, and I think I'll leave it there.

          Q    We've been told that the President is going to be leaving
after the Barak meeting, about 6:00 p.m.  He's got the NAACP speech
tomorrow and then we've got the Sabbath.  That doesn't leave a lot of time
for him to be here.  And one of the things that people have said about the
1978 Camp David Accords was Carter ever presence was very helpful in
getting that agreement.

          MR. LOCKHART:  Well, listen, let me make a couple points here.  A
is I would warn against trying to draw too many comparisons to 1978; this
is not 1978.  Secondly, I'd warn against what you've been told by people
who are not at Camp David, because that information you were told is
inaccurate.  We don't know whether he's leaving tonight.  He's certainly
not going anyplace at 6:00 p.m. tonight.  He would either leave very late
this evening or very early in the morning.

          We have sufficient time to get this done.  The issues are
well-known to the parties.  They've been working at this for seven and a
half years now; the question is will there be -- can we create something
that will allow the leaders to take the courageous steps to peace.

          Q    You told us about one plenary session yesterday and half a
dozen or more bilaterals.  What's the schedule going to be for additional
meetings -- three-way meetings, or do you know that yet?

          MR. LOCKHART:  I think I indicated at the top here that there
will be a number of different sessions this afternoon.  They're being put
together as we speak.  And what I will try to do is give you some sense
later in the day if I can of the format of some of these things.  But I'm
not going to try to preview them before they've happened.

          Q    Do you expect more members to join the Israeli official
delegation at Camp David --

          MR. LOCKHART:  Not that I know of.

          Q    What was the reaction at Camp David when the leaders saw the
picture this morning of Prime Minister Barak pushing Arafat inside?  What
was the reaction?

          MR. LOCKHART:  It was the subject of a lot of laughing around the
breakfast table.

          Q    Can I ask a different question on a domestic topic?  Does
the White House have any reaction to Senator Roth's move this morning to
propose a government-administered program for drug benefits for Medicare --

          MR. LOCKHART:  I think that the move in the Senate to have a
prescription drug program within Medicare should provide momentum for what
the President's been proposing.  It is a sharp repudiation of what the
House Republicans proposed, and it's a program that everyone knows won't
work, because the insurance companies that would administer it have said
they don't want to participate in it.  It was a program to provide
political cover and not coverage.

          Now, having said that, there are a number of problems we have
with that plan as far as how it would work, the kind of resources that are
being applied to it.  But I think overall, it's certainly our hope that the
Senate, now weighing in on the side of the President on prescription drugs,
should give this issue momentum.

          Q    May I ask a question about the atmospherics?  Are they all
eating breakfast together in one large room?  What cabin is it in and how
do they sit --

          MR. LOCKHART:  Meals are served in the Laurel Cabin.  In that
room, there are I think three large round tables set up throughout the day
with probably 12 chairs or so around them.  The meals are served
buffet-style, and it's really first come, first serve.  When you -- so
anytime you walk in there during the day, you will generally find a small
number of people and a cross-section of various delegations, sitting
together having a meal.

          Q    Did they have breakfast together --

          MR. LOCKHART:  There were certainly across from me about three
members of the Palestinian delegation and two members of the Israel
delegation having breakfast together, and that's fairly typical.

          Q    -- President's personal relationships?  I mean, any
anecdotal thing about his interactions with these guys?

          MR. LOCKHART:  I think the President has a very good relationship
with both Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Barak.  He's now worked with
them extensively.  I think just watching the interaction, you can see that
they believe that they can engage in discussions and that there is a
certain level of trust.  I think that is something that's essential to this
process here, and essential to the U.S. role, that both parties come here
in a position where they trust the President and understand the role he's
trying to play.

          Q    You said that they discussed all of the issues.  Can you
give us some sense of how long they spent on each issue?  Is the President
initiating discussion of an issue?  Are they hopscotching around --

          MR. LOCKHART:  I'm not going to try to dissect the meetings down
to percentages, but suffice it to say that the core issues are well-known
and they're all being thoroughly discussed.

          Q    What about the level of trust between Chairman Arafat and
Prime Minister Barak?  How are they interacting together?

          MR. LOCKHART:  They interacted yesterday, both at the dinner and
in the walk with the President and the plenary session.  I think,
obviously, as I said in the beginning here, these issues are difficult and
getting there is a struggle, and that's just something that I think will
continue from now until we pick up and leave here.

          Q    I was just wondering, is Palestine receiving an equal
representation in talks, especially since cancellation of the -- talks by
Barak give even a closer relationship between the U.S. and Israel?

          MR. LOCKHART:  I think that the reason that the President and the
United States government can act as an honest broker here is that because
they are an honest broker and both sides understand that.

          Q    Considering the China deal, is it your understanding that
the deal has been cancelled once and for all, or suspended?  The Israeli
announcement is a little bit vague on that.

          MR. LOCKHART:  My understanding from the announcement was that
they have taken fully into consideration our security concerns and the
concerns we have raised about security in the region.  From our point of
view, those security concerns and our overall concern for that system in
the region will not change.

          Q    Joe, did you think the President and Arafat and Barak --
(inaudible) --

          MR. LOCKHART:  Not that I'm aware of.  I think all shapes, forms,
possibilities, combinations are in the realm of possibility and in the
realm of probability.

          Q    -- timetable for meetings over the next few days, or will
they be --

          MR. LOCKHART:  I think they took some time both last night and
this morning to look at what today will look like, and I hopefully will
give you a bit more of a sense of that later in the day.

          Q    Are you including interim issues or --

          MR. LOCKHART:  No, I think the issues that are central here are
the core final status issues.

          Q    Can you say at this point that the President is completely
understanding of where both sides are and is now trying to forge a
compromise between the two, or are you still trying to get a handle on
where they're --

          MR. LOCKHART:  I think it's impossible to separate those two
things, they're both part of the process.

          Q    -- schedule, when you expect to be back here --

          MR. LOCKHART:  I will try to come back here between 4:00 p.m. and
5:00 p.m.  I can't tell you that I'll have any more than I have right now,
but if you'll have me, I'll be here.

          Q    -- develops, anything else this morning -- is that different
from all their meetings --

          MR. LOCKHART:  Let me say this without getting into too many
other meetings.  I think Camp David is uniquely engineered to provide sort
of an informal atmosphere, given the closeness of all of the different
living facilities, given the propensity for people to walk between places
or take golf carts, and given the common facilities for things like eating
and recreation.

          Q    Can you imagine any circumstances where Clinton would not go
to Japan because his presence would be so necessary at a crucial juncture
at this summit?

          MR. LOCKHART:  Well, there's a reason that I don't try to get up
here and talk about my imagination, and that question is one of them.

          Q    -- if it's not too early, when he is away this week, on
Thursday, does the Secretary of State sort of step in and --

          MR. LOCKHART:  Yes, the Secretary of State will be here the whole
time and it will be her function to direct our group in the absence of the

          Q    -- if Chelsea has gone to the dinners, or has she interacted
with the other --

          MR. LOCKHART:  She had a chance to meet both leaders yesterday as
they came for the first bilat.  She was there with the President; the
President introduced her to both.  What she's been doing during the
meetings I'm not really sure.  I know she had a chance to spend some time
with her father last night to watch the end of the baseball game.  I think
she's both getting a chance to witness an important event and also enjoy
something she's grown to enjoy, the atmosphere of Camp David.

          Q    Any recreation by anybody, any bowling, any jogging?

          MR. LOCKHART:  I understand from my people here that bowling has
become a preoccupation with many of you, and I checked this morning, and no
one entered the bowling alley yesterday.

          Q    Why?  (Laughter.)

          MR. LOCKHART:  Well, I don't know, but I certainly have personal
plans to change that today.  (Laughter.)

          Q    You know it's the Nixon bowling alley?  Do these people know

          MR. LOCKHART:  I didn't know that.  That could be the answer to
Anne's question.  (Laughter.)

          Yes, we'll take a couple more.

          Q    You said, Joe, earlier that they were laughing together at
breakfast.  Have they been communicating to one another directly or with

          MR. LOCKHART:  Most -- the vast majority of the conversations are
direct, as I think most of the people here have excellent linguistic skills
in several languages.  But I think the structure of Camp David and the
closeness of everything has given everyone a chance to talk not only in the
formal sessions that they enter in, but also informally.

          Q    Joe, what kind of a message does he want to take to the
NAACP tomorrow?

          MR. LOCKHART:  I think the President will talk about what this
administration has done over the last seven and a half years for African
Americans in this country as far as bringing opportunity to that community,
what we've got done and what we still need to do.

          THE PRESS:  Thank you.

                            END        12:05 P.M. EDT

President and First Lady | Vice President and Mrs. Gore
Record of Progress | The Briefing Room
Gateway to Government | Contacting the White House
White House for Kids | White House History
White House Tours | Help | Text Only

Privacy Statement