The US this weekend denied that its efforts to arrange a resumption of direct
talks have collapsed, and said it is planning further consultations and further
announcements on the peace process early this week.
“We’re going to have
some additional consultations with both the Israelis and the Palestinians,”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in an Al Hurra television interview in
Bahrain on Friday. “There are a number of ways that we are going to move
Asked to confirm some Palestinian claims that the process had
collapsed, she said, “We’re not ready to say that.”
Clinton spoke as
Brazil issued formal recognition of the state of “Palestine,” and as Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas revived a threat to dissolve the PA if Israel
does not freeze settlement construction.
“I cannot be the president of a
non-existent authority as long as Israeli occupation of the West Bank
continues,” Abbas said on Palestinian television on Friday.
interview with The Jerusalem Post on Friday, meanwhile, Minister Bennie Begin
said that Israel had not yet received a document from the United States setting
out the package of incentives through which the Obama Administration has been
trying to encourage Israel to renew a settlement freeze for three months and
open the door to resumed direct talks.
He said it was clear, however,
that the US would make no commitment to explicitly or implicitly support
continued Israeli building over the Green Line in east Jerusalem during any new
freeze. Some ministers, including those from Shas, have said they will not
support a freeze if it extends to east Jerusalem.
Begin said Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu never told his cabinet, nor even hinted at the
notion, that the United States would support Israeli building in east
“Obviously, there’s some misunderstanding on the
understandings that were reached [between Netanyahu and Clinton in New York] on
Thursday three weeks ago,” Begin said.
“That gap must be closed and the
only effective way to close it is in writing.”
But Jerusalem, Begin went
on, was emphatically not one of the areas of misunderstanding.
who knows anything about the situation,” he said, “could have thought, could
have presented such an idea that the United States, in opposition to its 42-year
policy, would [now] commit itself to a change – to announcing that it doesn’t
mind Israeli construction in Jerusalem. They don’t make a distinction between
Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria from their point of view.”
minister “never expected, and never expressed an expectation,” that the US would
change this long-term policy, Begin said. “My prime minister is an adult. In no
way did he present or, as some people hint, mis-present the American position.
Not at all.”
Begin said in the interview that it was not clear whether
Netanyahu would be able to muster a ministerial majority for the package of
incentives offered by the US to encourage a renewed settlement freeze, since the
proposals had not been received in writing and therefore couldn’t be
For his part, Begin made plain, he firmly opposed a further
freeze. He said Israel had done “our share.”
Meanwhile, Brazil became the
last of the four so-called BRIC nations – the others are Russia, India and China
– to recognize the Palestinians’ 1988 unilateral declaration of independent
statehood, which has already been endorsed by over 100 nations.
outgoing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva issued the recognition in a formal
response to a request by Abbas, underlining the PA’s ongoing inclination to
pursue unilateral moves toward independence.
“Considering the request
made by Your Excellency is fair and consistent with the principles advocated by
Brazil to the Palestine question,” da Silva wrote to Abbas in a December 1
letter, “Brazil, through this letter, recognizes a Palestinian state on 1967
He added: “In doing so, I reiterate the understanding of the
Brazilian government that only dialogue and peaceful coexistence with its
neighbors will truly advance the Palestinian cause.”
US Congressman Eliot
Engel, a New York Democrat who is chairman of the House subcommittee overseeing
relations with Latin America, condemned Brazil’s move.
to recognize Palestine is severely misguided and represents a last gasp by a
Lula-led foreign policy which was already substantially off track,” Engel, who
is also cochair of the Brazil caucus in Congress, said in a
“Brazil is sending a message to the Palestinians that they
need not make peace to gain recognition as a sovereign state.”
steps down on January 1 after eight years in office, made his first-ever visit
to Israel and the Palestinian territories in March. He was snubbed during the
tour by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman for laying a wreath at the grave of
Yasser Arafat and not visiting the tomb of Theodor Herzl.
contributed to this report.)