(photo credit: AP)
The US pledged on Friday to work with any Israeli prime minister and coalition configuration, and expressed optimism about the future of the peace process despite the center-left Kadima party's declaration that it will not join the next government.
State Department acting deputy spokesman Gordon Duguid said the United States remained dedicated to a two-state solution, and would continue to work for this goal regardless of who was in office.
"That is something that we've been committed to for a number of years, and I do not see that changing," he said, adding that the US was "always optimistic" about the peace process's prospects.
The new US envoy to the United Nations, Susan Rice, also pledged Friday to maintain a strong relationship with Israel, no matter who leads the next government - but warned that Washington expected both Israelis and Palestinians to remain engaged in negotiations toward a two-state solution.
If Kadima doesn't join a national unity government headed by Binyamin Netanyahu of the Likud, he will likely form a coalition with more right-wing parties, which is expected to complicate his diplomatic flexibility and peace-making efforts premised on territorial compromise.
Referring to America's "longstanding and firm ally of Israel," Duguid stressed, "We will work with the next Israeli government, however it is composed, and we'll move on from there to work on bilateral and regional issues together."
He also said that the US had yet to reach a decision on whether it would participate in the upcoming World Conference on Racism, organized by the UN as a follow up to the first such conference in Durban in 2001 and dubbed "Durban II," despite having participated in preparatory meetings on the conference this week.
Several American Jewish groups have objected to any US participation given what they consider the conference's anti-Israel and anti-Semitic tone. The US said its presence during the consultative process was aimed in part at altering this content.
The US had "grave concerns" about the draft declaration for the conference, Duguid said, but he would not characterize the mindset of the American delegation after its consultations with other countries or whether it had met its goals.
"There were many things we disagreed with in the document," he said. "The intention was to engage and to try and make something that was flawed better. We did not predict success, and I can't do that for you now."
He added, though, that the US's "intervention was welcomed" by many countries and that America was at least now "on the record with our international partners as to where we stand on these issues."
Susan Rice insisted that the US would remain allied with Israel "irrespective of the leadership there and the leadership here in Washington" and said she was confident that the Obama administration could work successfully with a "more hardline" government under the Likud.
"That's been the case before and it will remain the case," Rice said.
Yet she acknowledged the potential for disputes with Likud head Binyamin Netanyahu over negotiations with the Palestinians. Rice said she and her colleagues, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and special envoy George Mitchell, hoped to see "a two-state solution with Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace and security."
"We'll have to see how events will unfold in Israel should Mr. Netanyahu become prime minister," Rice said. "It will be our point of view that this remains a very important element of our approach and our policy, but both parties, both sides, have to want to work in that direction."
Rice also said, "There is no ambiguity" about Iran's goal of developing nuclear weapons and that the US was conducting an "early and urgent" review of policy. She added that the US views a nuclear Iran as a threat to itself, the Middle East, and Israel - in that order.
The Obama administration hoped to ratchet up pressure on Teheran and raised the possibility of "direct engagement" with Iranian leaders, she said.
Rice, who holds cabinet rank, spoke from her office in Washington.