Middle East Trip: Remarks by the President At Luncheon With Chairman Arafat

Office of the Press Secretary
(Gaza City, Gaza)

For Immediate Release December 14, 1998


Zahrat Al Madian
Gaza City, Gaza

2:15 P.M. (L)

CHAIRMAN ARAFAT: His Excellency, President BillClinton, First Lady Hillary Clinton, and Miss Chelsea; members ofthe American Congress and members of the U.S. delegation; ladiesand gentlemen. This ancient city that receives you today has notseen too many happy days during its modern history. But yourpresence here made us live the golden days of the days ofPalestine. And I express the feelings of all our peoples when Isay that the few hours that you will be spending here with us,these will be hours that will provide us with a great momentum ofhope and confidence that the future will be there to achievefreedom and peace.

When you, this morning, Mr. President, wereinaugurating the opening of Gaza International Airport, you wereopening for us -- which is for us a window to the world -- youalso were inaugurating another window for our people towardfreedom, peace and prosperity. This a window, a window for thepeace of the brave, peace with our neighbors.

We were hoping that your stay with us would have been alittle bit longer, so you can have a firsthand experience to seethis Holy Land closely, the land that is full of history. A landthat is authentic with its people, a land that is rich in historyand its culture, a land where people are looking forward to afuture that's much brighter, and more prosperity.

President Clinton, First Lady Hillary Clinton, Miss Chelsea, distinguished members of Congress, all our great friends, today we are enjoying a very nice, warm day. The sea is calm while we are in the middle of winter. It seems like nature is cooperating and celebrating with us.

Once again, I would like to welcome you, Mr. President,Mrs. Clinton -- myself, on behalf of the Palestinian people,would like to welcome you here. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Chairman Arafat, Mrs. Arafat,distinguished leaders of the Palestinian community, colleaguesand friends: On behalf of my family and our entire delegation,we thank you for your warm and truly memorable welcome.

Mr. Chairman, as I promised you at Wye River, I havecome to Gaza, to speak about the benefits of peace, based onmutual respect. I know that the circumstances you've faced since1993 and the signing of the peace have remained difficult, butthere are reasons for hope. For the first time in the history ofthe Palestinian movement the Palestinian people and their electedrepresentatives now have a chance to determine their own destinyon their own land. (Applause.)

I am proud to be the first American President to standwith the Palestinian people here as you shape your future.(Applause.) I want to emphasize that that future is possiblebecause of the commitment you have made to live in peace andmutual respect with your neighbors, side by side. (Applause.)

All this would have been hard to imagine in the darkestyears of struggle, when most people expected the Middle Eastwould always be a separate set of armed camps. Sometimes ittakes more courage and more strength to make peace than it doesto continue war. I thank Chairman Arafat for having thestrength, the courage and the wisdom to make peace, and then topersevere on the path of peace. (Applause.)

I thank the Chairman and, indeed, all Palestinians whoembrace the idea that Palestinians and Israelis can share theland of their fathers together. I thank you for believing thatthe land which gave the world Islam and Judaism and Christianitycan be the home of all people who love one God and respect everylife our one God has created.

America wants you to succeed and we will help you tocreate the society you deserve -- a society based on respect forhuman rights, human dignity, the rule of law. (Applause.) Asociety that teaches tolerance, values education, and now, atlast, has the chance to unleash the creative power of its peopleagainst the destructive pull of hopelessness and poverty.

I think of you at this hopeful moment as a familyreuniting after too many years of dislocation and despair; acommunity of believers helping to build a Middle East in whichpeople of all faiths can live in security and peace; a peopleknown through the world like the olive tree for your attachmentto this land and now to peace; a society that demands ofyourselves what you rightly demand of others.

The way ahead may be hard and uncertain, but the wayyou have left behind is full of self-defeating violence and sowithering hate. So we have no choice but the way ahead.

Tomorrow, my family and I, along with Chairman and Mrs.Arafat, will have a chance to visit Bethlehem, to light theChristmas tree at the beginning of this season which is soimportant for those of us who are Christians. The next timepeople celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem we will be on the edge ofa new millennium, marking 2000 years since the birth of theChrist child, who became known to Christians as the Prince ofPeace, who happened to be a Jew, who happens to be recognized byIslam.

Now, if all that can be true, surely we can figure outhow to solve these problems and go into the future. (Applause.)

I close with these words of the poet, Hafez Ibrahim:People of a hopeful future, we are in need of leadership whichbuilds and people who construct. People of a hopeful future, weare in need of wisdom that counsels and a hand that liberates.People of a hopeful future, we need you; fill the void, get towork. People of a hopeful future do not let tomorrow pass likeyesterday, in dusty existence. People of a hopeful future, yourcountry implores you to think. God willing, we will think andfeel and act as one.

Thank you. And thank you again. (Applause.)


1998 Mideast Trip: Remarks of the President to the Press Pool

Middle East Trip: President Clinton Addresses The Palestinian National Council

Middle East Trip: Remarks by the President At Luncheon With Chairman Arafat

Middle East Trip: Remarks by the President in Photo Opportunity with Chairman Arafat

Middle East Trip: Remarks by the President to the People of Israel

Office of the Press Secretary: Joint Statement by Clinton and Netanyahu

Office of the Press Secretary: Remarks at Lighting of the Menorah

Middle East Trip: Remarks by President Clinton and Prime Minister Netanyahu in Exchange of Toasts

Office of the Press Secretary: Remarks by President Clinton at Arrival Ceremony in Tel Aviv

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