Clinton Bids Farewell To Israelis, Palestinians

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Having failed in his efforts to broker a final peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians before leaving office, President Clinton has written farewell letters to the Israeli and Palestinian public, published in newspapers on Friday.

Clinton told the Palestinians he would never forget his trip to the Gaza Strip two years ago, and the things he learned there on the first such visit ever by an American president. Clinton attended a session of the Palestinian parliament and expressed his support for their homeland aspirations.

"I will never forget what it taught me about your suffering, your history of dispossession and dispersal, but also about your resilience and courage," he wrote.

Clinton said he understood the Palestinian frustration, disappointment and anger because they had not yet seen the "fruits of peace." But he warned them that they would not obtain anything by violence, only through negotiations.

"Never have you been as close to achieving your goals - regaining your land, establishing a state, building a prosperous future for your children," Clinton wrote.

"There will always be those sitting comfortably on the outside urging you to hold out for the impossible more," Clinton said of those who oppose the peace process and demand the right of return to Israel for some four million refugees and their descendents.

All the same, he said, they won't be the ones who will "pay the price for the missing this historic opportunity."

In a separate letter published on the front page of Israel's Yediot Ahronot daily, Clinton pledged his faithful friendship to Israel.

"On Saturday, January 20th, at the stroke of noon, I will step down as President of the United States," Clinton wrote to the Israelis.

"This will bring to a close eight eventful years during which I have dealt with problems large and small, domestic and foreign, full of pain and full of joy. Of all, none has meant more to me than the future of your region and of your country," Clinton said.

In it he disclosed that he had recommended that the U.S. sell Israel its most advanced F-22 fighter plane, when it becomes available for sale.

Israel and the U.S. are scheduled to sign a security agreement on Friday but information on what it contains has not been made available in advance.

Many Israelis regard Clinton as the best friend Israel has ever had in an American leader.

Many others - those who have opposed the Oslo peace process and the many concessions their country has been forced to make in return for a still elusive peace - suspected he was driven more by a desire to achieve a deal for his own glory than a sincere concern for Israel's welfare.