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I want to congratulate Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat on reaching an historic agreement on Hebron redeployment. It has been an arduous task. But they have given the world an auspicious gift for the beginning of a new year and reaffirmed their commitment to the Israeli-Palestinian process of peacemaking begun at Madrid and continued at Oslo.
Both Israelis and Palestinians have gained much. What they have agreed upon today is more than a protocol on Hebron redeployment. It is in essence a roadmap for the future, to facilitate implementation of the Interim Agreement and to help create a greater degree of trust and confidence between the parties. This agreement demonstrates once again that negotiations work and that only through a process of give and take can difficult challenges be overcome.
I also want to acknowledge the critical role played by King Hussein during this process. His leadership and commitment to peace provided momentum at a crucial moment. I would also like to extend my appreciation to President Mubarak of Egypt for his important contributions.
Although the credit for the agreement belongs mainly to the parties, the role of the United States was essential in helping Israelis and Palestinians achieve their goals. President Clinton's willingness to bring the parties to the Washington Summit meeting on October 2 rescued the peace process at a critical moment, and his continuing efforts -- including over the past weekend -- have been vital. And over the past several months, Ambassador Dennis Ross, Ambassador Martin Indyk, Consul General Ed Abington and our State Department peace team -- separated from their families and at great personal sacrifice -- worked tirelessly to help the parties hammer out the details of this thorny agreement.
Reaching an agreement on Hebron redeployment is an important step in pursuit of Israeli-Palestinian peace and in our search for a comprehensive peace in the region. Many challenges remain to be overcome. Nonetheless, working with the parties, the United States will continue to make Arab-Israeli peace a top priority. And with determination and good will on the part of all the parties, we will continue to work to realize the kind of just and lasting peace that Arabs and Israelis have for too long been denied.