Exclusive: Condoleezza Rice Hopeful for Mideast Peace

"It's clear that they're going to have to overcome some of the hardest elements of the psychology that keeps these two peoples from solving their conflict. And in that, of course, overcoming long years of suffering, long years of grievance. I thought that Prime Minister [Ehud] Olmert spoke very effectively yesterday to the suffering of the Palestinian people, which was an extraordinary thing for an Israeli prime minister to say and to acknowledge."

Rice on Ahmadinejad

Iranian President Ahmadinejad called the Annapolis meeting a failure and said that Israel is "doomed to collapse."

"Well, he says all kinds of things," Rice responded. "And it's really a pity. You know, it's a pity that a great culture and a great people like the Iranians are represented somehow by someone who talks about wiping a fellow member state of the United Nations off the map; someone whose policies are leading to widespread inflation and economic depravation for the Iranian people; someone whose policies are isolating Iran so that it sits in chapter seven status, along with other bad actors in the international community; someone who has led Iran on a course that means that the Iranian people are being deprived of their rightful place in the international system."

To those who suggest that the real impetus for the Annapolis conference was to further isolate Iran, Rice said "the reason for the Annapolis conference is to launch these peoples toward peace."

"We talk about the two-state solution. And, you know, it sounds rather antiseptic, 'the two-state solution.' What we're really talking about is people; people whose lives will be better when there are two states, living side-by-side in peace and freedom; when Israelis don't have to go to bed wondering if there are going to be bombs going off, because of terrorism; when Palestinians no longer have to suffer the humiliations of occupation, where they go to a checkpoint and they're told they can't go on that road just because they're Palestinians. That's what we're talking about. And that's why Annapolis was important. It takes place in the context of a greater struggle, between extremism and moderation."

In response to the riots in Gaza in anticipation and throughout the conference, Rice said "there will always be those who reject a peaceful way. But I don't believe that that represents the great majority of the Palestinian people."

Speaking about Hamas, who also was not invited to participate in the conference, Rice said, "Hamas is going to have to make its choice. But Hamas cannot have it both ways: be a part of peace and continue to make terror and war."

'Nobody Wants to Go to War'

On the subject of the war in Iraq, Rice said she resents the notion that the Bush administration was looking to go to war against Iraq.

Nobody wanted to go to war," she said. "We would have gladly not gone to war against Iraq if Saddam Hussein had been willing to live up to the obligations that he undertook first in 1991, then in 1998, and again in 2002. … Nobody wants to go to war. You go to war when you really have not very good options. And with Saddam Hussein, with whom we were still in a state of conflict after 1991, who was shooting at our pilots in the no-fly zones that were there to keep him from attacking his neighbors and attacking his own people, who was continuing to defy the international community, that's why we went to war."

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