WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday rejected the
notion of unilateral Israeli steps toward separating from the
“We have discouraged unilateral action from both sides,”
Clinton said when asked about the possibility during a press conference while on
trip to Denmark.
“The United States believes there is no substitute for
direct talks between the parties.”
Several leading Israeli voices,
including most recently hints by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, have raised the
possibility of unilateral Israeli withdrawals from the West Bank – though
presumably they would not be as extensive as those sought by the Palestinians –
in the face of a longtime stalemate in negotiations to reach a peace
Clinton, however, said the new political environment in Israel
gave some hope for movement in the peace process, and that the US would be
pushing for such momentum.
“This new coalition government in Israel
provides the best opportunity in several years to reach such a negotiated
agreement,” she said.
Clinton noted that she had called both Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to
press them to take advantage of the “new opening” created by Israel’s broad
“We’re going to continue to urge them to do so,” she
emphasized, pointing also to Israel’s return of the bodies of Palestinian
terrorists as another sign of potential progress.