"The fact of the matter is that there is nothing in the interim agreement,
as such, and under Oslo that prohibits settlement activity."
U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 1, 1997
Briefer: JAMES B. FOLEY
U.S: Settlement construction legal within context of Oslo
[With thanks to Lenny Ben-David - IsraelConsult, Inc -- Washington &
Government & Business Relations - firstname.lastname@example.org]
U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing INDEX WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 1,
Briefer: JAMES B. FOLEY
... QUESTION: Settlements. Does the U.S. Government accept the Israeli
justification for expansion of existing settlements, the concept of natural
growth? That there is a natural growth which - of the population, which
justifies and makes acceptable an expansion in the number of housing units?
MR. FOLEY: We have never accepted that proposition. Our view has
consistently been that the settlement activity is unhelpful and is
counterproductive to the effort to achieve a negotiated settlement of the
Palestinian-Israeli dispute. So there is nothing new on that.
QUESTION: However, in her Today Show interview this morning, the Secretary
was asked if the settlements are legal. And she said, quote, "they are
legal." Was she talking about legal within the context of Israeli law? Or
was she talking about international law, specifically the Fourth Geneva
MR. FOLEY: No, she was not talking about international law. Our overall
position on the question of the legality of settlements remains the same. We
are, of course, not taking a legal position on that overall issue. We
believe, as I stated, that settlements are very unhelpful to the peace
process. We are hoping that the peace process itself, if it is allowed to
get back on track and reach culmination, will render these problems moot.
But as to her interview this morning, though, she was answering a rather -
you have to take a look at the context of the question -- but a rather
technical question in a technical way. The fact of the matter is that there
is nothing in the interim agreement, as such, and under Oslo that prohibits
settlement activity. We do not support the settlement activity. We think it
is unhelpful and counterproductive. But as a technical answer, though, the
statement was technically correct. Anything else on the Middle East?
Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Interview by Matt Lauer, The Today Show - NBC TV
New York, New York, October 1, 1997
MR. LAUER: When you talk about the lack of trust and you talk about the
leaders, while you were there you talked about a time-out. You wanted people
to stop doing things that added hostility to the peace process.
Shortly after you held a phone conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu,
he announced that he'd build 300 new homes in Efrat, a settlement near
Jerusalem. He said he planned more settlements in the West Bank. This is
right after you had a phone conversation with him. He mentioned nothing
about that to you. What does that say about your influence, after your call
for a time-out in the region?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think I have tried and I will continue to try.
The United States is the only country that can actually help them get
But as I said, Matt, the leaders themselves have to make the decisions. What
I found when I was in the region, the people, the Israeli people and the
Palestinians, want peace. I think it's very important for the leaders to
give that a chance, to make some tough decisions. We are talking more with
them about what the concept of a time-out means, because actions that create
even greater lack of confidence, we've got to avoid those.
MR. LAUER: But do you think you were blind-sided by the Prime Minister?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I wasn't happy. We had had a conversation, and I felt
that going forward with those kinds of buildings was not helpful. It is not
in any way not part of what they can do, but they shouldn't do it.
MR. LAUER: It's legal.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It's legal. But I think that, in this kind of an
atmosphere, it's very important not to take actions that are viewed by the
other side as creating more difficulties.
MR. LAUER: As you know, when you announced that the peace process, the
talks, would be ongoing, Hamas came out and said they pledged more violence.
Based on your meetings with Yasser Arafat, do you think he is capable or
willing to stop the violence coming from Hamas?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think what he has to do is exert 100 percent effort to
try to stop the violence. It's very hard to guarantee 100 percent results,
but we expect 100 percent effort.
I have say that, since I was there, we have seen some steps forward in his
work to try to limit terrorism and work at the infrastructure of Hamas.
There have been some positive steps. Those have been recognized by Israel.
MR. LAUER: Yet recently, at a unity rally, he was seen embracing the leader
of Hamas. How can, on one hand, he say he's looking for serious peace and,
on the other hand, embrace the leader of the organization that has vowed to
end the peace process.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, that was then, and I spoke to him about that. I
think, since that time, he has taken some steps. He has to take more steps,
because it's very hard to expect anybody to exist -- the Israelis, for
instance -- to live under the threat of terrorism.
Something has to be done in order to stop the violence, and we have pressed
Arafat to do that. But at the same time, it's very important for both
leaders to do everything they can to rebuild confidence. Taking actions that
undermine that confidence, when we're trying to help put it together, is a
complicating factor at this time.
MR. LAUER: What do you make of the step that developed recently where the
Israelis released the spiritual leader of Hamas, a man who had been jailed
but who was in poor health? Was that a significant gesture?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, that is something between the Jordanians and the
Israelis. I think it was a useful thing to do, but we'll have to see how it