WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized Israel’s plans for
more settlement construction Friday and called on Jerusalem to bolster the
Palestinian Authority, even as she disagreed with the Palestinians’ decision to
seek unilateral recognition at the UN.
“These activities set back the
cause of a negotiated peace,” she said of Friday’s announcement that Israel had
approved the construction of 3,000 housing units in east Jerusalem and the West
Similarly, she called Thursday’s vote at the UN recognizing the
Palestinians as a nonmember state “a step that will not bring us any closer to
peace” and the PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who requested this status, “took a
step in the wrong direction this week.”
She added, however, that “we also
need to see that the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank still offers the
most compelling alternative to rockets and permanent resistance.”
stressed, “We have to convince Palestinians that direct negotiations with Israel
represent not just the best but the only path to the independent state they
To that end, Clinton argued that “the more generous Israel can
be” in expediting tax revenues to the PA, providing investment for business and
other moves to give Palestinians in the West Bank the sense that they have a
stake in the future “helps provide a bulwark for Israel’s security, whether or
not there is a comprehensive agreement in the near future.”
But she said
it was also important to keep seeking a deal.
“It gives Israel a moral
high ground that I want Israel to occupy,” she said to applause from the
audience Friday night gathered at the Saban Forum.
Avigdor Liberman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni, Ehud Olmert and
other Israel political leaders were in attendance.
Clinton stressed that
she felt Israelis “have good grounds to be suspicious” and made several
allusions to opportunities Palestinians missed for statehood.
Palestinians could have had a state as old as I am if they had made the right
decision in 1947,” she said, also referring to the frustration of not seeing the
Palestinians come to the negotiating table until the last month of Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s “unprecedented” 10-month settlement
But she also pointed to missed chances by Israelis as well, and
added that she was not making excuses for “the lack of generosity, the lack of
empathy that I think goes hand-in-hand with the suspicion.”
continued, “The Israelis need to really demonstrate that they do understand the
pain of an oppressed people.”
Clinton also used her appearance to
highlight America’s support for Israel during the recent hostilities in
“For years we have told you, our Israeli friends, that America has
Israel’s back. And this month, we proved it again,” she said to applause. “The
world knows – and always will know – that whenever Israel is threatened, the
United States will be there.”
Now, she said, the US is working with Egypt
to communicate to Hamas the danger of re-escalating and urging Cairo to do more
to stop weapons smuggling into the Gaza strip.
“We look to Egypt to
intensify its efforts to crack down on weapon smuggling from Libya and Sudan
into Gaza,” she said, warning that another round of fighting would soon break
out if more weapons enter the coastal strip from Sinai. “We are ready to help
and to support Egyptian efforts to bring security and economic development to
Liberman preceded Clinton to the podium, and took a very
different view of Abbas and the PA.
He made a series of blistering
comments about Abbas, speaking of his “failure” on domestic issues which
prompted him to seek an achievement at the UN.
“Hamas is more effective
and has more political will and determination than Abbas,” Liberman
He contended that the Palestinian issue would be solved when per
capita income in the territories rose, saying that economic issues were the
major underlying problem.
Liberman also labeled the UN vote “hypocrisy”
as the international body has declined to take action on Syria, where tens of
thousands are dying.
And he defended Israel’s settlement
“We’re not trying to provoke” he said of the additional
construction. It’s “our right to define our capital.”