Speaking at a convention of the Saban institute aimed at promoting Israeli-American dialogue, Rice expressed her satisfaction with reforms in the region and said parents here were pleased, too, that their sons were becoming “engineers instead of suicide bombers.”
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who also spoke at the convention, called on the international community to continue in its efforts to press Syria and “make it clear the radical approach it adopts puts the continued existence of the regime in danger.”
Meanwhile, Rice demanded Israel’s neighbors act and not only talk, saying “we’re encouraging them” to do so. The secretary of state also made note of Palestinian suffering, noting the decade since the killing of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was one of suffering and terror.
Hope for peace
However, Rice said a process of change has taken hold in the area recently and promised new hope as long as the Palestinians fight terror and advance democratic reform, while Israel acts to improve Palestinian daily life.
"If Palestinians fight terrorism and lawless violence and advance democratic reform, and if Israel takes no actions that prejudge a final settlement and works to improve the daily lives of the Palestinian people, the possibility of peace is both hopeful and realistic," Rice said.
However, Rice was clear about the need to dismantle terror groups as a first step before peace, saying no democratic government could "tolerate armed parties with one foot in the realm of politics and one foot in the camp of terrorism."
At the same time, Rice also urged Israel to ease restrictions on the Palestinians.
"Greater freedom of movement is key for the Palestinians, from shopkeepers to farmers, restaurant owners and for all seeking early, easier access to their economic livelihoods," Rice said at the convention.
Sharon praises America
Meanwhile, Sharon said Syria sponsors the activity of terror groups against American and foreign targets on the Iraqi border.
He praised the American government and said the United States "plays a key role in the significant transformations the Middle East underwent in recent years. The U.S. is leading an essential international move to turn the Middle East into a more moderate, democratic and stable region," the PM said.
"At this point in time, the Middle East moves between two poles: On the one side stand the states that president Bush called the axis of evil. This group is headed by Iran and Syria, which are both governed by irresponsible leaders and that take a hard, extremist line that threatens the stability in the region," he said.
"These countries advocate the activity of extremist terror groups, provide them with shelter, guide them, train them and sponsor them," Sharon added.
"Iran, in particular after recent elections, is a country headed by a fanatical leadership that openly calls for the destruction of Israel. Iran's strenuous operations to obtain nuclear arms and promote terror represent the greatest threat to this region and beyond it," the prime minister concluded.