Clinton denies effort to revive direct talks has collapsed

Secretary promises new "consultations"; Brazil recognizes "Palestine"; Begin says PM never suggested the US would support e. J’lem building.

December 4, 2010 23:02
4 minute read.
Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton speaking to press. (photo credit: Associated Press)

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 forward.”

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.

In an 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 Jerusalem.

“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.

“No one 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.”

The prime 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 judged.

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.

Brazil’s 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 borders.”

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.

“Brazil’s decision 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 statement.

“Brazil is sending a message to the Palestinians that they need not make peace to gain recognition as a sovereign state.”

Lula, who 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.

(Bloomberg contributed to this report.)

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