Former President Clinton Speaks on Terrorism, Middle East Peace



Veronica AguilarTufts Daily Tufts University

MEDFORD, Mass.?Combining humor, humility, and insight into an hour-long speech, former President Bill Clinton lectured to a packed Gantcher Center Thursday, on the war against terror and prospects for peace in the Middle East. The 42nd president warned students against reverting to isolationism in the face of terrorist threats and challenged them to maintain a global perspective.

After a pointed introduction from Issam Fares, the former Tufts University trustee and current Deputy Prime Minister of Lebanon who sponsored the event, Clinton said he had been “convinced” to change the content of his prepared speech. The two-term president advocated a decisive, alliance-based campaign against al Qaeda and called for compromise instead of violence in the heightening Arab-Israeli conflict. He said that most Americans incorrectly believe that foreign aid is expensive and ineffective, and implored students to educate voters and push for significant increases in foreign assistance.

“It’s money well spent,” he said. “And it’s cheaper than going to war.”

Clinton went on to say that the international community, including many Arab nations, has misconceptions about America. These nations think the United States provides insufficient help, he said, in stark contrast to the many Americans who think the United States spends too much.

Several times throughout the speech, Clinton lauded Tufts’ commitment to international citizenship and the Fletcher School’s global outlook.

“[Tufts] should dedicate itself to support globalization and make sure that fellow Americans know the truth. This is the future,” he said, adding that foreign aid is a key tool for building alliances and preventing terrorism.

Speaking on the conflict in the Middle East, Clinton condemned violence on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides. He said there is no military solution to the conflict?neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians are going away, he said. He pushed for compromise, calling it a sign of strength, not weakness.

The people of the Middle East, Clinton said, want and need a political solution but the surge of violence in the region “confuses them.” He went on to say that peace cannot be solved by the Palestinians and Israelis alone. Thrilled by U.S. envoy General Anthony Zinni’s return to the Middle East, Clinton said that “we do not have to succeed, but we have to try.”

The former president cited the Pointing to the Peace Accord of 1995 as proof that substantial progressions can occur in accordance with U.N. resolutions. He then compared the Israel-Palestinian peace accord to that of Northern Ireland. There is to be one Palestinian, mostly Arab Muslim state and one Israeli, mostly Jewish state. In Ireland, the majority can shift from Catholic to Protestant and back again. According to Clinton, in the Middle East, the spirit of the accord rests on the two religiously defined states.

Veronica AguilarTufts Daily Tufts University