For Immediate Release
President Bush Welcomes Prime Minister Sharon to White House
Office of the Press Secretary
October 16, 2002
The Oval Office
3:24 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: So here's what's going to happen. I'm going to
have an opening statement; the Prime Minister will make an opening
statement. I will call on a person; he will call -- the Press
Secretary will call on a person. I will call another, he will, and
that's it -- two questions a side.
It's my honor to welcome Prime Minister of our close friend to --
back to the White House. We've just had a good discussion about peace
and security, about prosperity. I first want to say that I understand
that -- what terror has done to economy. Terror has affected our
economy; terror has affected the Israeli economy. But we've got great
confidence in the Israeli economy. We've got great confidence in the
Israeli people. The greatest asset Israel has is the brainpower and
ingenuity of her people. And I'm convinced that the economy will be
I appreciate so very much the fact that the Prime Minister is
committed to working with his Cabinet to move some of the Palestinian
money to the Palestinian people; that he cares about the human
condition of the Palestinians; and that under a monitoring system to
make sure that the money being sent back to the Palestinian people will
not be used for terrorist activities, that he is willing to work with
his Cabinet to do just that. I believe that's important.
We talked about the framework for peace, the idea of working toward
peace, the idea of two states living side-by-side in peace as a part of
our vision. And to this end, Bill Burns, Ambassador from the State
Department, is going back to the Middle East to continue to work on the
process; continue to work toward achieving concrete, real, objective
and measurable reforms, so that there's a peaceful future for the
So, Mr. Prime Minister, thanks for coming. It's good to welcome
you. I appreciate you being here.
THE PRIME MINISTER: I would like to thank you, Mr. President, for
having us again here. I would like to express our deep appreciation to
your leadership facing the world terror. We regard terror as the most
dangerous thing, and seeing the terror spread now, seeing that your
leadership -- under your leadership the world will be able to face
the terror and contain terror and stop terror.
We have been facing terror for over 120 years, and we still face
terror. But we believe the day will come, and hope it will be soon,
that we'll be able to start peace negotiations. I believe that Jews
and Arabs will be able to live together. And we, on one hand, are
taking all the necessary steps against terror. And we will continue to
defend our citizens. In the same time, we'll take all the necessary
steps to move forward the political process. And I believe the day
will come and we'll have peace.
We discussed -- we had an interesting discussions here, very
important. I would like to thank you, Mr. President, for the
friendship and cooperation. And as far as I remember, as we look back
towards many years now, I think that we never had such relations with
any President of the United States as we have with you, and we never
had such cooperation in everything as we have with the current
administration. I would like to thank you for that, and we are looking
forward for better future for all of us.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, sir.
Barry of AP.
Q Mr. President, are you asking the Prime Minister, have you
asked the Prime Minister not to respond if Iraq attacks?
And, Mr. Prime Minister, have you any concrete offers of help from
the administration to reduce the risk of an Iraqi attack?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I have told the Prime Minister
that my hope is, is that we could achieve a disarmament of the Iraqi
regime peacefully. I haven't given up on the fact that we can achieve
it peacefully. We have no plans to use our military until -- unless
we need to. I explained to the Prime Minister, just like I explain to
every citizen who is interested in this, the military is my last
choice, not my first choice.
So we talked about -- we talked about the desire to -- for the
U.N. Security Council to be strong, and for the nations that care about
peace to see that Saddam is disarmed. And he's got to disarm himself.
That's what we talked about.
Q If I could ask for the Prime Minister's response, please.
THE PRESIDENT: He's trying to do the two question thing.
Q -- two questions.
THE PRESIDENT: Wait a minute, Barry. He's an old pro.
Q Mr. President, I would like to complete my colleague's
question. If an Iraqi missile lands in Tel Aviv, killing tens of
THE PRESIDENT: -- an unprovoked attack -- if tomorrow an Iraqi
Q Theoretically, and it can be practically.
THE PRESIDENT: If Iraq were to attack Israel tomorrow, I'm sure
there would be appropriate response.
Q How should Israel respond? How should you respond --
THE PRESIDENT: If Iraq attacks Israel tomorrow, I would assume the
Prime Minister would respond. He's got -- he's got a desire to
Our hope is that the Iraqi regime will disarm peacefully. But I
can't -- maybe -- maybe Saddam will attack tomorrow. He's certainly
a dangerous man. And he's got to understand that the international
community won't tolerate an unprovoked attack on Israel -- or anybody
else, for that matter. Of course, he's done it in the past. That's
what I've explained to the American people. He's attacked two
nations. He's gassed his own people. He's a dangerous man. That's why
he must be disarmed. And that's why the international community must
work to disarm him.
Q Thank you, sir. It's been more than a month since you said
you expected the United Nations to act in days or weeks on a new Iraq
resolution. How much longer are you prepared to wait, and why aren't
you losing patience?
THE PRESIDENT: Because I'm a patient man. (Laughter.) My mother
and wife think that's hysterical when I say that, of course.
Let's see, because it takes a while to get things done in the U.N.,
I guess is the answer. I mean, we will -- I've made the commitment
to go to the U.N., I've asked the U.N. to act. We have got to deal
with members of the Security Council. There are differing opinions on
members of the Security Council. And we've got to work hard to reach a
consensus, a resolution that will, on the one hand, do everything it
can to disarm Saddam Hussein; and also has got the capacity for there
to be consequences should he not disarm. And therefore, we're working
closely with the Perm Five, as well as others on the Security Council,
to reach this resolution.
I am a patient man. I think it's important. I made the decision
to go to the U.N. And therefore, we're willing to work with the U.N.
If the U.N. can't act, however, if they're unable to act, if once
again, after 11 years and 16 resolutions, they cannot bring themselves
together to disarm Saddam Hussein, then we will lead a coalition to do
just that. But, in the meantime, we're giving the U.N. time to listen
to the arguments and to, hopefully, come together soon to get -- to
get a resolution which will achieve the objectives.
Q Mr. President --
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, the Prime Minister is waiting for a question
or two. (Laughter.)
Q If you will allow me, I will ask him about --
THE PRESIDENT: Strict guidelines. We must be disciplined.
Q Mr. President, the Hezbollah is threatening to escalate the
situation in the Israeli northern border, and Israel has intelligence
information that Palestinian terror organizations are also planning to
escalate and have more terror attacks because the United States might
attack Iraq to disarm Saddam Hussein. Is there any limitations on
Israel to defend itself? Did you ask the Prime Minister not to do
certain -- not to take certain measures if he's attacked by Hezbollah
or by the terror organization, the Palestinian terror organization?
THE PRESIDENT: We certainly want to work with Israel and we'll
make it clear to Hezbollah, nations housing Hezbollah, whether in the
context of Iraq or not, we expect there to be no attacks. This is
terrorist activity, and we will fight terror wherever terror exists.
I find it -- the doctrine that says if you harbor a terrorist
still exists. And we expect -- again, apart from Iraq, we expect
Hezbollah not to attack our friend. And so we will work with Israel
and work with other nations, making it clear to them our position on
harboring terrorist activities.
Thank you all.
END 3:35 P.M. EDT