Department Spokesman Richard Boucher
October 5, 2001
QUESTION: New subject? Can we talk about the reaction of the US Government to
the comments made by Mr. Sharon about appeasement? Ari Fleischer already talked
about it. I wondered if this building --
MR. BOUCHER: That's my answer. Ari Fleischer already talked about it.
QUESTION: The Secretary made the call, rather than President Bush, so obviously
we have -- this building has a role in it, a very primary role in it. So can
you give us a readout on the call? Was it polite and friendly?
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary, as you know, has kept in very close touch with the
parties in the Middle East. Yesterday, he spoke with Prime Minister Sharon,
with Foreign Minister Peres, with Chairman Arafat. This morning, he has already
spoken once with Prime Minister Sharon, and they may speak again. They did discuss
the comments made by Prime Minister Sharon. I believe Ari Fleischer reacted
on behalf of the White House and the US Government to those comments.
In addition, the Secretary and he discussed the need to continue working to
quell the violence, the need to stop provocative acts that might occur, and
the need to continue to work with both sides on security cooperation. Indeed,
that's what we are trying to do. The Secretary also had a conversation with
Chairman Arafat, and our representatives in the field, Ambassador Kurtzer, Consul
General Schlicher, have also been in touch with the parties to make sure that
we do everything we can.
I would say that, at this point, the parties know what they have to do if they
are serous about ending the violence. We've been deeply troubled by the events
of the past few days. We certainly deeply regret the loss of life on both sides.
The Palestinians have failed to do everything they can to prevent the violence
against Israelis, and we think the Israeli response, including the incursions
into Palestinian territory has been provocative. If both sides are serious,
they know what they have to do.
The Palestinian Authority must immediately take sustained and effective steps
to preempt violence, to end shooting attacks, to arrest those responsible for
planning and conducting acts of violence and terror. Failure to do so makes
any effort to restore calm impossible.
On the Israeli side, we think they need to refrain from provocative acts that
can only escalate tensions and undermine efforts to bring about a lasting halt
to violence. Specifically, they must halt incursions by Israeli defense forces
into Palestinian controlled areas. They must halt targeted killings and the
demolition of Palestinian homes.
In addition, we would hope both sides would continue their security cooperation.
Security meetings are critical to restoring calm. Both sides must engage to
the fullest possible extent in coordination on security issues if we are to
ensure a lasting halt to the violence and terror.
This is what we have been working on through our representatives; this is what
we have been working on with the Secretary.
QUESTION: (Inaudible)? Today, here --
MR. BOUCHER: We have had a series of conversations with the Israeli Government
about the need to take these steps, to refrain from actions that are provocative.
As well as, we have had a series of conversations with the Palestinian side
to see them to get to take steps to prevent the violence.
QUESTION: But did they assess the Sharon comments?
MR. BOUCHER: We have continued these discussions. The Secretary, in his conversation,
has discussed the comments that Prime Minister Sharon made yesterday. But he
has also concentrated on the need to take steps to end the violence in some
cases, or to refrain from steps that provoke violence.
QUESTION: Ari said that Israel has no better friend than the United States.
But he didn't counter that by saying that the United States has no better friend
than Israel. Right now, do you consider this, these remarks by Sharon, in a
way that Israel is not being friendly to the United States at a time that it
needs international support?
MR. BOUCHER: The White House spokesman has already addressed this issue, and
I will leave it at what he said.
QUESTION: You said the Israelis should stop incursions. Do you think that they
should withdrawal their forces from the two hillside neighborhoods in Hebron
MR. BOUCHER: I am not sure I have an up-to-date situation on the status of those
forces. But, certainly, whenever we have talked about incursions in the past,
if we thought they were still there, we would have called on them to withdraw.
QUESTION: Are you concerned that the Israelis may not take you very seriously
when you talk about targeted killings, considering this government is now reconsidering
withdrawing the 1977 executive order that would prohibit American operatives
from assassinating foreign leaders?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think the two things are comparable.
QUESTION: How do you not think the two things are comparable? The Israelis say
they have a terrorism problem and they need to take certain actions to combat
the terrorism problem. The President has said, we have a war on terrorism, and
has said that there are a number of things which he is not going to talk about
which have been reported that he is going to do to take action against the terrorists.
I mean, I don't see why there is not a similarity there.
MR. BOUCHER: There may be a similarity, but that doesn't mean the two situations
are comparable or require the same response. The Secretary and the President
have said we would consider all of the options, we would look at this executive
order. But, first of all, no decision has been made and, second of all, I don't
think it compares to any particular situation in this region.
QUESTION: Does the statement, the fairly long statement you went through just
now, fairly represent what Secretary Powell discussed with the Prime Minister?
And, secondly, is it at all appropriate to describe what's going on now as a
rift between the United States and Israel? And, thirdly, is it a rather convenient
time for a rift, given the efforts the United States is making to bring Muslim
countries into the fold in the war on terrorism?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, no, no. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: What thought is being given to having a special envoy?
MR. BOUCHER: Remains something that the Secretary has spoken about before. If
there should be discussions, negotiations, some circumstance where that was
appropriate and helpful, that would be something that he would consider. At
the same time, we have worked very hard with the parties and continue to work
the parties on trying to end the violence and get on with the implementation
of the Mitchell Plan. Whether that becomes appropriate at some point remains
to be -- we will decide and announce at the appropriate time if it does become
QUESTION: Richard, on the phone call, did the President ask the Secretary to
make this call? Or did he -- was he going to make it anyway? How much did they
discuss, the comments that the Prime Minister made? And what exactly did the
Secretary tell the Prime Minister --
MR. BOUCHER: What exactly did the Secretary tell the Prime Minister is not something
that we normally do. I am not able to give you a transcript of the Secretary's
conversations with foreign leaders.
QUESTION: I am not asking for that level of specificity.
MR. BOUCHER: "Exactly" is fairly specific. But, go on.
QUESTION: More specific than "they discussed the Prime Minister's comments,"
which says nothing.
MR. BOUCHER: It says they discussed it. I would go back to the characterization
the White House gave of our reaction.
QUESTION: So it was exactly the message that was delivered publicly?
MR. BOUCHER: I am not giving the Secretary's exact words.
QUESTION: What did -- how much of the conversation was focused on those comments
and how much was on the steps --
MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary has talked to Prime Minister Sharon every day or
so. He talked to him last night, talked to him this morning. So both of these
elements were part of those conversations. I don't know if I can tell you percentages.
QUESTION: But when he talked to him last night, was it before or after Sharon
had made these remarks? In other words, is there one phone call --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't exactly know.
QUESTION: But you seemed to mention it somewhere in -- okay, go ahead.
MR. BOUCHER: The phone call this morning had to do with both the steps to end
the violence and the need -- both the need for efforts on both parties to end
the violence as well as the comments that Sharon made.
QUESTION: So you don't --
MR. BOUCHER: -- as well as the calm --
QUESTION: So you don't know if the last night phone call was --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't remember if it was before or after the phone call.
QUESTION: And in one of your explanations, you seem to imply that the Secretary
had also spoken this morning to Chairman Arafat? Is that --
MR. BOUCHER: He spoke yesterday to Chairman Arafat and Foreign Minister Peres.
QUESTION: But not -- okay, no Arafat call today.
MR. BOUCHER: Not today at this point, no. Almost every day he has talked to
QUESTION: The President the other day spoke of you having a vision for the Middle
East, and he gave one element of it. Can you tell us, where do we stand on the
kind of other elements in this vision, which you have? I mean, how much progress
are you making in sort of turning this vision into a package, a measure -- a
package, a program, a plan? And what's the thinking on whether it would be wise
to lay this out to the parties?
MR. BOUCHER: You're coming close to asking me when can I announce the speech,
and the answer is, I don't have anything like that to announce at this point.
QUESTION: No, I know it's not --
MR. BOUCHER: Certainly this Administration has worked very consistently from
the beginning on a view of the Middle East that we needed to end the violence,
ease the restrictions that existed on people's daily lives, and get back to
negotiations that could lead to a political settlement. That overall paradigm,
I'd say, has been the substance of what we worked on ever since. And now those
negotiations also need to lead somewhere, and as we get -- as we start to look
down that road, I'm sure we will want to describe, to the extent we can, how
we would see that process unfolding. But I don't think we can overlook the fact
that the issue right now is the violence, that the violence has come back again,
that the issue is really stopping the violence. We're still at the very beginning
of that road.
QUESTION: So you do -- there is a vision down the end -- at the end of the tunnel,
if I can mix my metaphors?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, I wouldn't want to do that, though.
MR. BOUCHER: There is clearly a view that has often been expressed by the parties
of what kinds of outcomes they would find acceptable, what kind of outcomes
they would foresee. But the task at hand is to stop the violence and to get
on with the process that can lead us back to those negotiations.
QUESTION: The one thing that Sharon also said was that Israelis were going to
have to depend on themselves for security. Is this building concerned that the
Israelis might just go full bore into the Palestinian areas and just do a massive
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that we have made clear again today our view that the
Israelis should refrain from acts that would be provocative, from these kind
of incursions, from targeted killings and other actions that can only inflame
QUESTION: Was the Department reassured by the comments that came out earlier
today from the Israeli Foreign Ministry, following Mr. Sharon's remarks?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check and see if we have a comment on the comments
on the comments.
QUESTION: Okay. And one other thing. If it's not a rift, then how do you --
how would you characterize the very public, unusually public, exchange of comments
between the White House and the Israeli Government?
MR. BOUCHER: I would characterize them as an exchange of comments, the way you
did. Clearly, everything that Ari Fleischer said this morning needs to be taken
together. But I think he described our position very well, and I wouldn't presume
to be able to add to that.
QUESTION: Were you surprised by Mr. Sharon's comments?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, our reaction has been given, and we'll stick with that.
QUESTION: The Israelis appear to be concerned that in the United States, in
reacting to the terrorist act in the United States, is overlooking Israel's
problems with terrorism in Israel. Can the United States say whether or not
after the terrorist attack response is made -- I mean, after the response is
made to terrorism, that al-Qaida is dealt with, that Israel's concern about
terrorism from HAMAS and Islamic Jihad, will be a concern of the United States
MR. BOUCHER: The President has made clear that groups that engage in terrorism
with a global reach will be the subject of our campaign, as we go down this
road. He has made quite clear that our effort is to end all terrorism of global
reach, and not just put this one organization out of business.
But I would also submit that we have worked with Israel very closely and constructively
over the years in trying to deal with the problems that Israel faces against
terrorism. Our efforts on the Middle East peace process, our effort to help
them find a political solution to political problems is indeed just such an
effort to reduce the terrorism and to get a hold of terrorism. The extensive
efforts that we have made with Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority
to try to get them to preempt this violence and stop it is also a part of our
efforts to make life safer for Israelis as well as Palestinians, and we very
much sympathize with the problems they have with terrorism.
QUESTION: Just to follow up, do you consider HAMAS and Islamic Jihad to be groups
with -- what are they called, "global reach"? Is that what it says?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. There's not a particularly Executive Order-type list of groups
with global reach, but they are clearly on our list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
QUESTION: Have you come any closer to defining that very key phrase, groups
with global reach? Which --
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I would leave it with what the President said.
QUESTION: Well, right, that's what he said. So it's basically an amorphous kind
of things, a bunch of things that are out there.
MR. BOUCHER: No, it's basically a statement by the President, and --
QUESTION: But which have no definition at the moment, other than al-Qaida.
MR. BOUCHER: It's not like the -- today, we designated 28 organizations as having
-- as being Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
MR. BOUCHER: There's a precise law, there's a standard that requires that we
do that. The phrase "global reach" is not a legal phrase; it's a description
of the kinds of organizations that we want to go after. The President said first
we'd begin with al-Qaida. We're going to do that. And then we will define such
things further in the future.
QUESTION: But what about -- but when you say "global reach," does
that mean that --
MR. BOUCHER: When the President says global reach.
QUESTION: When the President says "global reach," does that mean groups
that are global in the sense that they are able to touch the United States?
What about local groups that may not -- that may commit terrorist acts within
their own country, but really don't threaten the United States? I mean, aren't
they considered terrorists as well? And shouldn't they be gone after in this
new international war against terrorism?
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, we have designated certain organizations as Foreign
Terrorist Organizations. I think we have discussed this subject for the last
two weeks here, and I think we have made clear that these -- some of these organizations
that you might think were local in fact have various ties. The example of people
suspected of being with the IRA showing up with the FARC in Colombia is one
that we have cited before as an example that there are many activities between
these groups, and you need to put terrorism out of business. And that's the
So as we go down this road, as we first get the people who carried out these
horrible acts in New York and Washington, we do intend to continue this campaign,
and the President has made quite clear our determination to continue this campaign
and take it to other groups in other areas so that we can get rid of terrorism.
But as far as sort of laying out the entire map, I don't think we're just able
to do that right now.
QUESTION: Would you say that the US Government is being as tough on various
Arab governments and other groups and organizations that have been -- that Israel
views as threatening? That we are being as tough today, post-September 11th,
as we were before?
MR. BOUCHER: That's kind of a -- it requires a whole set of judgments. What
I would say is that the President and the Secretary have made quite clear that
we expect all governments to make a choice. In some ways, we have been even
clearer with governments since September 11th, that there is no way one can
pick and choose among terrorists, there is no way one can allow activities,
one can allow groups, one can allow transcripts or financing of terrorist groups,
and that we expect governments in the world to step up and to make the decision.
Are they for terrorism, or are they for civilization? And we have been very,
very clear about that with all the governments that we talk to.
QUESTION: I ask that because of Betsy's comment, that Sharon had said that the
Israelis have to rely on themselves, I guess the sense within Israel being that
now that the United States has its own serious problem with terrorism, that
it is not devoting as much energy and attention and political pressure to the
governments that it used to, that are of concern to Israel.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if that's the only interpretation of those remarks,
but I wouldn't want to try to interpret Prime Minister Sharon's remarks.
QUESTION: Is there a criteria that you would have at the State Department for
individuals versus groups? Because the groups can change names or not -- if
there is some type of terrorist attack, they can then deny it's their particular
group that caused it, yet the attack did take place.
MR. BOUCHER: If you look at the Federal Register notice, for example, that's
on the Internet today, that's connected with these groups, these Foreign Terrorist
Organizations, you'll see that associated groups -- and I'm not sure if they're
individuals or not -- but to the extent we can, the Treasury Department in its
listings, will identify aliases, associated groups, individuals, and things
QUESTION: Richard, an easy one for you. What's your response to the Taliban
offer to put bin Laden on --
QUESTION: I'm sorry. Today, you reiterated the call from this building that's
been going on for six months or more, calling on Arafat to arrest the terrorists.
There are reports, which have not been entirely confirmed by this building,
that he actually let many of these folks who were in jail out of jail. Islamic
Jihad and HAMAS, two organizations on the Foreign Terrorist Organizations list,
have offices that are open in Palestinian Authority-controlled areas.
So given all that, is Arafat and is the Palestinian Authority harborers of terrorism,
which according to the President, at least, would mean that they were not on
the right side in the war on terrorism?
MR. BOUCHER: I will go back to what we said before. We have reported extensively
on the situation in the Palestinian areas, with regard to the Palestinian Authority,
in our various reports on terrorism. We have reported in the PLO Compliance
Act, and I would just refer you to those.
QUESTION: But I understand -- we're at a point now where people are lining up
for a coalition against terrorism, and one of the most important categories
is harboring terrorists. I mean, it seems that -- I mean, I'm just wondering,
if he's not a harborer of terrorism, could you explain how Arafat is not a harborer
MR. BOUCHER: You're asking to make all kinds of grandiose statements and judgments
here. We've reported in very much detail and very specifically on these kind
of questions, on the activities and the relationships between different groups,
and I would really refer you to all that extensive material.
QUESTION: Yes. Can we have a -- a very easy one for you -- the Taliban offered
to put bin Laden on trial --
MR. BOUCHER: He keeps giving me easy ones.
QUESTION: -- yes, you've had too many hard ones today -- if it receives solid
evidence. What's your reaction?
MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen the statement, but is there news in that? Is that
not the same thing they have said several times before, and that we have found
QUESTION: They're saying they're going to put him on trial now.
QUESTION: Put him on trial, yes.
MR. BOUCHER: That's not what the UN resolution requires. The UN resolution already
requires them to deliver him to a place where he can be brought to justice.
So I think it's quite clear that whatever they are proposing in this statement
is not what the UN resolution requires.
QUESTION: And that place is the United States?
MR. BOUCHER: The President said that should be the United States.
QUESTION: Okay, but that's not in the UN resolution. Right.
MR. BOUCHER: No, it's not. But the President said it should be the United States.
QUESTION: Can I ask you, for a long time, ever since '96, people have been saying
that the United States implicitly or explicitly, through the Saudis and the
Pakistanis, wanted or helped the Taliban get into power because they -- because
you saw it as a stabilizing force, and there was a lot of pressure from a certain
What do you -- yes, who wanted to build a pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan,
and they were very specific -- I mean, I won't name any names, but there are
specific allegations about specific individuals that were employed by this Department
at the time, assisting the Taliban. What do you say to that?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not familiar with those reports or that history. If there's
a matter for US policy at this point, I'd be glad to look into it. But I'm not
sure I can have any commentary on those things.
QUESTION: You can't deny that you -- you can't deny that --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know nothin'. I can't, sir, confirm it, I can't deny it.
I can't deal with it. (Laughter.)
If there's something that involves US policy, I'd be happy to try to speak to
it at a later date when I have a chance to inform myself.
QUESTION: You're not aware of any US effort to allow the Taliban -- to put the
Taliban in place.
MR. BOUCHER: I have never seen these reports. I have never had a chance to look