Former President Bill Clinton, whose energetic efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal collapsed, urged both sides Saturday to end their decades-old conflict, saying they cannot escape their common future.
"We are either going to hurt each other or we are going to help each other," he said of the two foes. "Divorce is not an option."
While president, Clinton had a close personal involvement in Mideast peacemaking. He presided over the signing of the historic first agreement between Israel and the Palestinians in 1993, and seven years later, he brought the two sides closer than ever before to a final deal.
But talks broke down in late 2000, and soon after, tensions ignited into years of deadly fighting.
The former U.S. president remains extremely popular in Israel, however, because he is perceived as being a genuine friend.
Clinton spoke Saturday to a VIP gathering at the Yitzhak Rabin Center, a memorial to the Israeli leader who was gunned down in November 1995 by a Jewish assassin opposed to his peace moves.
"In the last 14 years, not a single week has gone by that I did not think of Yitzhak Rabin and miss him terribly," he said. "Nor has a single week gone by in which I have not reaffirmed my conviction that had he not lost his life on that terrible November night, within three years we would have had a comprehensive agreement for peace in the Middle East."
Clinton's own emotional last words to Rabin at his funeral _ "Shalom haver," Hebrew for "Goodbye, friend" _ have been seared into the Israeli collective consciousness.