Clinton: A negotiated Palestinian state is inevitable

Barak describes divided J'lem: Western and Jewish suburbs "for us," heavily populated Arab neighborhoods "for them."

Hillary Clinton face and flag 311 AP (photo credit: AP)
Hillary Clinton face and flag 311 AP
(photo credit: AP)
WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recommitted the US to the peace process Friday night and said the US might offer its own bridging proposals, after efforts to break a stalemate in negotiations faltered earlier this week.
“We will push the parties to grapple with the core issues.  We will work with them on the ground to continue laying the foundations for a future Palestinian state.  And we will redouble our regional diplomacy,” Clinton said at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum dinner. “When one way is blocked, we will seek another. We will not lose hope and neither should the people of the region.”
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She noted that she shares “the deep frustrations” of so many invested in the peace process who have been concerned at its foundering in recent days.
But she said the US would be consulting assiduously with the parties to try to reignite direct talks.
Defense Minster Ehud Barak, who spoke after Clinton at the Saban dinner, also pledged to continue pursuing peace, stating that the contours of a two-state solution were well-known and going further than Clinton into the details of final status issues that have long rocked the process.
On Jerusalem – perhaps the most vexing issue – he described a solution splitting the city.
He said the issues would be discussed last and resolved along the lines of the Clinton parameters, namely “western Jerusalem and the Jewish suburbs for us, the heavily populated Arab neighborhoods for them, and an agreed upon solution in the ‘Holy Basin.’”
There had been some speculation that during Friday’s address, Clinton would lay out a more concrete American vision for the outcome of the process. But the closest Clinton came to such a statement was that the US would continue consulting with both sides and that “in the context of our private conversations with the parties, we will offer our own ideas and bridging proposals when appropriate.”
While Clinton listed Jerusalem as a final status issue that would need to be addressed by the sides, she was more circumspect in possible prescriptions. But on another significant issue – settlements – she stressed American opposition.
“We do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity,” she said. “We believe their continued expansion is corrosive not only to peace efforts and the two-state solution, but to Israel’s future itself.”
The Palestinians have refused to hold direct talks so long as Israel does not renew a moratorium on settlements which expired in late September. Since then the US and Israel have been working on a deal which would give Israel incentives for a 90-day extension, but that deal fall apart earlier in the week.
Still, Clinton warned the sides against thinking that the relative lull in violence and prosperity means a political solution isn’t necessary.
“I know that improvements in security and growing prosperity have convinced some that this conflict can be waited out or largely ignored,” she said. “This view is wrong and it is dangerous.”
She spoke of the “unacceptable” and “unsustainable” status quo which has continued “to deprive the Palestinian people of dignity and self-determination.”
Clinton declared that “a Palestinian state, achieved through negotiations, is inevitable” and the US would continue pushing for its creation.
However, she disparaged efforts on the part of Palestinians to have statehood declared at the UN.
“Unilateral efforts at the United Nations are not helpful and undermine trust.  Provocative announcements on East Jerusalem are counterproductive,” she said. “And the United States will not shy away from saying so.”
“She’s recommitted the administration to [achieving] a comprehensive peace agreement in a very short timeframe,” said Robert Danin, a former deputy envoy to the Quartet deputy now with the Council on Foreign Relations, who attended the Saban dinner.
He warned, “It’s dangerous if expectations are maintained at a high level if these goals aren’t realized.”
Clinton met with Barak, opposition leader Tzipi Livni, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat as part of her diplomatic outreach to rejigger the talks. US Mideast envoy George Mitchell is headed to the region next week to continue the effort.