Clinton: US commitment to Israel is 'rock solid'

ByASSOCIATED PRESS
March 22, 2010 12:39

"As Israel's friend, it is our responsibility to... tell the truth when it is needed," Secretary of State to tell AIPAC in Monday speech, as allies continue to tone down crisis.




US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gestu

Hillary Clinton 311 187. (photo credit:AP)

WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is to assure Israel on Monday that the Obama administration's commitment to its security and future is "rock solid" despite a severe diplomatic dispute that emerged this month.

In remarks prepared for delivery to a pro-Israel group, Clinton defended recent harsh US criticism of Israel over a Jewish housing project on land claimed by the Palestinians. She said America must tell the truth to Israel but would give it credit when it was due.

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"For President (Barack) Obama, for me, and for this entire administration, our commitment to Israel's security and Israel's future is rock solid," Clinton said.

Her comments come as US and Israeli officials try to ease one of the worst-ever crises between Washington and its top Mideast ally that erupted when Israel announced plans for new Jewish homes in east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the capital of a future state.


The announcement was made while Vice President Joe Biden was visiting Israel and just a day after the administration hailed the beginning of indirect peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Those talks are now on hold.

Clinton called the announcement an insult that damaged President Barack Obama's attempts to relaunch stalled negotiations. On Monday, she stressed that the US is determined to achieve broad Middle East peace but said all parties, including Israel, must make difficult choices.

And, she said, the US had a duty to call Israel out if its actions hurt peace efforts.

"As Israel's friend, it is our responsibility to give credit when it is due and to tell the truth when it is needed," she said in a text of her speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that was released by the State Department.

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Clinton has demanded that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who is to address the same group later Monday and see Obama on Tuesday, move to restore trust and confidence in the peace process, including a halt to projects in east Jerusalem.

Netanyahu met on Sunday with US peace envoy George Mitchell and has apologized for the timing but not the content of the announcement. And, just hours before leaving for Washington, Netanyahu said Israel would not freeze construction in east Jerusalem.

However, in a call to Clinton Friday, he outlined some measures his government would take. Some Israeli officials say that while there will be no formal freeze, construction in Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem may be restricted, like Netanyahu's partial 10-month West Bank construction freeze.

The package has not been made public, but officials say another element is agreement to discuss all outstanding issues in the proximity talks that Mitchell is to mediate. Those would include the future of Jerusalem, borders, Jewish settlements and Palestinian refugees.

In her remarks, Clinton said the existing situation between Israel and the Palestinians is "unsustainable" and offers nothing but violence.

"There is another path," she said. "A path that leads toward security and prosperity for all the people of the region. It will require all parties including Israel to make difficult but necessary choices."

Compromise over Jerusalem will be key to peace. Israel captured the city's eastern sector from Jordan during the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it, a move not recognized by any other country. Over four decades, Israel has built a string of Jewish neighborhoods around the Arab section of the city.

Most Israelis consider them part of the Jewish state, but Palestinians equate them to West Bank settlements, considered illegal under international law.

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