White House Briefing


Friday  June 13, 2003

THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary (Kennebunkport, Maine) June 13, 2003 PRESS GAGGLE WITH ARI FLEISCHER The Colony Hotel Kennebunkport, Maine 12:35 P.M. EDT MR. FLEISCHER: Good morning. I have no opening statement, but if somebody would remind me, I have a very exciting week-ahead to provide, so we'll do that whenever you're ready. And, Chris, you look very good dressed in black. This is not Manhattan, however, this is Kennebunkport. Q: I thought this was a film festival. (Laughter.) MR. FLEISCHER: Hearing no questions, we'll go right to the week-ahead. (Laughter.) If nobody has any questions, I'm happy to -- Q: Okay, I'll ask you one, Ari. With Powell's comments this morning, was he indicating that there is some sort of green light for Israel to crack down on Hamas? Or is he calling for restraint by both sides? MR. FLEISCHER: Let me read you precisely what he said, so everybody has it for the record: "We are all anxious to see restraint, and we understand that it is important to get the terror down. If the terror goes down, then the response to terror will no longer be required. So we will have to get moving and bring the terror down." We have to get moving and bring the terror down, and the best way to bring the terror down is for all parties, including the Arab nations, to cooperate to fight terror. The heart of the problem is terror. Terror threatens Israel's security; terror threatens the authority of the Palestinian Authority; terror threatens Prime Minister Abbas as he begins his efforts to build toward peace. And what Secretary Powell is saying is that all parties must cooperate to work together to fight terror. That's where this begins. Q: But, Ari, Powell also said that he's ruling out the use of a third-party force to go in and help with the security situation. MR. FLEISCHER: Of course. Q: Knowing that Abbas has almost no control over the entire security apparatus, what practically can be done to try to reduce crackdown -- MR. FLEISCHER: No, the American position, as Secretary Powell articulated it is putting American military, for example, in between, in the region, deploying U.S. troops -- that's something that we have not supported. What we have done and we are doing is providing assistance to the Palestinian Authority. As you know, Director Tenet talked about monitors to help the Palestinian Authority in their effort to build a security force that can focus on fighting terror. That's an ongoing effort, and it's one that will take time. Q: Ari, on this point, if -- Abbas does not have any control over security services, it seems, or any particular influence over it. So what do you have in mind that he could do to begin to crack down internally? And to your mind, would he need Arafat's help to do it? MR. FLEISCHER: It's not the case that he has no control. The question is, how powerful are the forces in the increasingly unified Palestinian Authority security operations that are reporting to Mr. Dahlan? And that is an area where the United States and the Arab nations need to work together to help support Prime Minister Abbas. He has authority, but the question is how effective are his forces in taking on the terrorists. And that's a legitimate issue. His forces have been affected as a result of the ongoing violence, and it's important to help him to rebuild those forces that will take on terror. He is committed -- Prime Minister Abbas is committed to stopping the terror. Q: Are you saying that Abbas should give up trying to negotiate with the militants? Does that -- MR. FLEISCHER: The road map is unequivocal. The road map says that the terrorists need to be dismantled. Q: Is there a risk -- two days in a row, now, you've called on the Arabs to step up. It seems like you're asking them, if I'm reading between the lines right, to do more. What are they not doing? What do they need to do? MR. FLEISCHER: One of the reasons that Aqaba and Sharm el-Sheikh were so hopeful was because the Arab nations did commit to fighting terror. It was in the statement that you heard the Arab nations issue, to stop the financing and to fight terror. There is a recognition in the Arab countries that the terrorists are denying the Palestinian people the right to a state. The Arab nations have an interest in the Palestinian Authority being successful. The Arab nations have an interest in the terrorists being unsuccessful. Q: They haven't done -- MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think the Arab nations are playing a helpful role, and what's important is for all to cooperate. Terrorism does not go away overnight. If any nation had a switch they could pull to make terrorists go away, there would not be terrorists. It doesn't work overnight, but it does take time and it takes cooperation and it takes vision. And that's what we're working with all parties in the region to accomplish. Q: Can I ask you a related follow-up? You've got Wolf and Powell going to the region in the next few days -- MR. FLEISCHER: Right. Q: -- what can they possibly accomplish? What does the President expect from them? MR. FLEISCHER: Well, everything begins with security, but everything ends with a vision. Security is required for the vision to be achieved. And I say everything begins with security, it ends with a vision of peace. And the Secretary and Ambassador Wolf's mission is to help the parties, even in the darkest moments find their way to remember the vision to peace. And that's the purpose of it; it is to help them implement the results-oriented actions that both parties are obliged to take in implementing the road map, knowing that there will be violence that interrupts progress on the way toward implementing the actions both parties are supposed to take. Q: Ari, is there a risk or possibility of a Palestinian civil war in which these issues are resolved among the Palestinians? MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think there is -- certainly Hamas is a threat to all who seek peace. Hamas is not interested in peace. Hamas is interested in killing and in violence. And -- Q: -- that would be a way to deal with them outside of armed conflict? MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the road map is unequivocal; the terrorists must be dismantled. I think, again, this is one of the reasons that Sharm el-Sheikh was particularly hopeful, was because you had a statement from the Arab nation recognizing that terrorism must be stopped. Q: How is the President monitoring events in the Middle East, and in Iraq, for that matter? There have been some skirmishes of note there. MR. FLEISCHER: He received his intelligence briefing this morning. Dr. Rice talked to him today. Q: She's not here, though, that was by phone? MR. FLEISCHER: No, but -- yes, she's talked to him by phone. I just got off the phone with her. And he keeps in touch. Cell phones don't work in Maine, but his do. (Laughter.) Q: Ari, in calling for restraint on both sides -- MR. FLEISCHER: Let me back up before I run into problems with the Chamber of Commerce. Cell phones don't work in certain portions of Kennebunkport, as you get farther away from towers. (Laughter.) Q: Basement of the file. (Laughter.) MR. FLEISCHER: The basement of the file and my hotel room. (Laughter.) Q: Ari, by calling for restraint on both sides, Powell seemed to go farther today than you did yesterday in outlining what Israel's responsibilities are at the present time. Could you say what Israel should be doing? MR. FLEISCHER: Keep in mind what the Secretary said. "If the terror goes down, then the response to the terror will no longer be required. So we have to get moving to bring the terror down." The response to the terror. I mean, the Secretary is saying the first step is for the terrorism to go down. Once the terrorism goes down, there won't be a need for Israel to respond to terror. That's why it all begins with security. Q: So, essentially, you're not calling on Israel right now to restrain retaliatory attacks on Hamas. MR. FLEISCHER: This is why I said what I said about it begins with security and it ends with this vision to keeping -- reminding about the power of the role of implementing peace. So Israel is involved in a very dangerous time because of the terrorist attacks against Israel. Q: So it sounds like the administration is siding with the Israeli position that all violence must end before they will reciprocate. MR. FLEISCHER: The administration has always said that the question is how to make violence end. And when the violence comes from the terrorists, no one can let the terrorists get away with killing. Israel has to remember as it fights terror its obligations to preserve the overall road map and peace process. But no one has said or suggesting that terrorists should be able to get away with killing, and do so with impunity. And this is why all parties, again -- and this is important, I'm saying this for a reason -- all parties, including the Arab nations have a role to play in fighting terror. Q: So is it the administration's judgment that Israel's actions so far have been within that framework of appropriate response to the violence that has been -- MR. FLEISCHER: As I said yesterday, the issue is not Israel, the issue is not Prime Minister Abbas, the issue is not the Palestinian Authority. The issue is the terrorists, Hamas, and others. Q: The issue was Israel on Tuesday when you came out with that strong statement. It no longer is? MR. FLEISCHER: I repeat what I just said. Q: Ari, it sounds like you're acknowledging that Abbas does not currently have the military power that he needs to confront Hamas. So why not support sending international forces? MR. FLEISCHER: Because the parties, themselves, working with the Arab nations, have to find the way to cooperate to fight terror without putting American forces in an area where they will become targets. The most constructive and effective way to fight the terror is for the parties to cooperate to do so. Q: If I can change the subject for a moment, now that the House has passed its version of the tax bill, does the President have a view on which of those two bills he prefers more, since the administration has come out in favor of both of them? And in particular, would he accept a bill that adds further to the deficit? MR. FLEISCHER: The President wants the House and the Senate to get together quickly and resolve the differences that they have, so that low-income workers can get their checks quickly; so that military families can get their child credits. You can't take a phone call in the middle of an answer. (Laughter.) I'm going to have to tell the President that the cell phone violations have been taken to new levels. Q: -- just checking to see if the cell phones work. (Laughter.) Q: It's the Chamber of Commerce. (Laughter.) Q: -- gone to new levels. (Laughter.) MR. FLEISCHER: Give me a warning before the local constable shows up so I can beat feet out of town. (Laughter.) What I was indicating is that the President wants the House and the Senate to resolve their differences, to do so quickly and do so in a way so that low-income families can get their credits quickly and so that military families are able to get the credits that they, too, deserve. Q: And would he accept something that's not revenue-neutral? MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President has always believed in tax relief, as you know, and the tax bill that he proposed was much bigger than the one that was passed. What's important now is for the House and Senate to get together and make progress on something that can be done and signed into law. All right, if nothing else -- Knoller? Q: You really didn't answer David's question about what the President said on Tuesday. Are we wrong to detect a distinct shift in emphasis in what you said yesterday and today about the need to fight terror, and what the President said on Tuesday, publicly scolding Israel for its attempts to fight terror? MR. FLEISCHER: The need is for all the parties to cooperate to fight terror. Israel was just the victim of a horrific attack. And as we've said before, Israel needs to take actions, but be mindful of the fact that they have to keep the overall vision alive, the vision that is laid out in the road map. What the enemy has proved by the bus attack in Jerusalem are these terrorists, principally Hamas, and the other organizations that are committed to killing and to violence, and not to a peaceful, political path, unlike the Palestinian Authority. Q: Just a question from our Paris bureau. The U.S. is not sending airplanes to the Paris Air Show for the first time in a long time. Can you just give us a fresh comment as to why not? MR. FLEISCHER: Talk to DOD about that. If I recall, that issue came up weeks ago. I thought the Paris Air Show already came and went, if I remember. But I don't get invited to that show, so I don't know when exactly it was. I thought that was an issue that's already come and gone. I thought that -- if I recall, DOD sent aircraft to the show and they did not fly. But they sent aircraft. Talk to DOD and they can give you the information. Tell the Paris bureau I said, bonjour. Q: How's the quality time going with Dad? MR. FLEISCHER: I'm sorry? Q: How is his quality time going with Dad? MR. FLEISCHER: Well, it's going great. (Laughter.) Q: What did they do last night? Did they have a birthday dinner or something? Q: Yes, and what are they doing today? MR. FLEISCHER: There was an exchange of gifts last night. Q: What were they? MR. FLEISCHER: They exchanged gifts last night as they celebrated 41's birthday. And the President very much enjoys his time with his father. This, of course, is Father's Day weekend, it's his father's birthday, and the President enjoys being with his family. It's a big gather of the Bush family. And they have a very close relationship. And it's a relationship that, I think what the President would say to you, it's a loving father to a loving son, a loving son to a loving father. Wait a minute, who snorted? Who sniffed at that? Q: Was that Segway device defective, or was the President just a little clumsy with it? (Laughter.) MR. FLEISCHER: I thought he made a particularly excellent rebound. He looked very athletic as he emerged from that. Let's see, if it's not a fall from that non-vertical posture that he assumed. (Laughter.) Q: Was that double-dip or a soft landing? (Laughter.) Q: Were the Segways either gifts for the birthday or Father's Day? MR. FLEISCHER: You know, I did not ask the President what he got his father. And even if I had, he'd have to tell me whether I should give it out, so I don't know. Q: What kind of plans are there for Father's Day, do you know? MR. FLEISCHER: I think they'll have a quiet celebration at the house. As you know, the President has a wedding tomorrow. Right now, just for your planning purposes, I have no word yet on whether he's going to go to the rehearsal dinner tonight or not. Right now, I don't assume that he -- I don't think he will. But we'll fill you in on all movements of course. And then, if that takes us to Monday. So are you ready? Q: Wait, where did the Segways come from? Do you know? MR. FLEISCHER: I don't. Q: Someone said he's friends with the inventor. MR. FLEISCHER: The President is friends with the inventor. But I don't know where they came from. Okay, on Monday, the President will depart Maine for Orange, New Jersey, where he will meet with small business owners and employees and make remarks to the New Jersey business community. That afternoon, he'll return to the White House. On Tuesday, the President will make remarks on employment training in Annandale, Virginia. Tuesday afternoon, he'll participate in a photo opportunity with the NCAA Winter Champions in the East Room. Tuesday evening, he will attend a Bush -- let me back up. I could say it for the final time. I anticipate seeing Middlebury there somewhere. I won't indicate what future college will be puffed up to NCAA champion status by my successor. (Laughter.) Tuesday evening, he will attend a Bush-Cheney 2004 reception at the Washington Hilton Hotel. Wednesday, the President will participate in a roundtable discussion on Prison Fellowship Ministries in the Roosevelt Room. Thursday, the President will travel to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he will make remarks on the economy, before returning to Washington, D.C. Friday, the President will meet with the President of Brazil in the Oval Office. And that afternoon he will travel to Greensboro, Georgia where he will attend a Bush-Cheney 2004 fundraiser before returning to Washington, D.C. Sunday, the President will attend the White House tee-ball game on the South Lawn, the first game of the 2003 tee-ball season. Thank you. END 12:50 P.M. EDT


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