Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
February 26, 2010

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SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s a great personal pleasure for me to welcome back my friend and the Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. The defense minister and I will be discussing a number of issues. Certainly, as he knows and as we have made clear many times, the President and I are deeply committed to a comprehensive peace beginning with a re-launch of meaningful negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians as soon as possible. We believe a two-state solution is the best way to end the conflict and guarantee peace, security, and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

We will also be discussing the situation in Gaza. The people of Gaza deserve hope for a better future, and making sure that they have that hope is in both the interests of the Israelis and the Palestinians. Minister Barak and I will discuss the need to do more in this regard while keeping in mind very real Israeli security concerns: the stranglehold that Hamas is attempting to place on life in Gaza and Gilad Shalit’s captivity by Hamas.

And we will also, I am sure, Minister, discuss Iran. We have pursued a dual-track approach to Iran. We remain committed to a diplomatic, peaceful resolution. But as the recent IAEA report makes clear, Iran is not living up to its responsibilities, and we are working with our partners in the international community to increase pressure on Iran to change course.

So, Minister Barak, it is indeed a pleasure. And we have so many serious matters to discuss together, but there is one matter that I have to raise that I was asked about in a congressional hearing yesterday, and that is trying to get nine containers of gefilte fish from the processing plant in Illinois to Israel in time for Passover. (Laughter.) So these are intractable problems; this one we might be able to solve. (Laughter.)

DEFENSE MINISTER BARAK: Thank you, Secretary Clinton. I am glad to be here. I can just tell you how much we appreciate the effort made by the Administration under the leadership of the Secretary and with Senator Mitchell at the front line to bring us and the Palestinians into substantial negotiations. We all want to see peace in our region. We understand that we’ll have to take tough decisions while not losing eye contact with our security needs and making sure that both sides will be able to live in security and peace.

We also highly appreciate the effort made by President Obama and the Secretary to make sure that sanctions against Iran will become effective and that whatever title it get, get effective, limited in time, consequential, and without losing eye contact with the possibility that in spite of all effort, it will not lead to Iran accepting the international norms. I’m looking forward for fruitful discussion of all issues, including the gefilte fish.

SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) Thank you.

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PRN: 2010/223