Clinton to Abbas: Enter talks now

US secretary of state also calls on Netanyahu to prove Israel’s commitment to two-state solution is sincere.

Hillary Clinton 311 187 (photo credit: AP)
Hillary Clinton 311 187
(photo credit: AP)
WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on the Palestinian Authority Thursday to immediately enter talks with Israel and charged that both the PA and Israel could do more to advance peace.
“We strongly encourage [PA] President [Mahmoud] Abbas and his government to join negotiations with Israel now,” Clinton said at an event dedicating the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace in Washington.
She described the PLO, which Abbas heads, as “a credible partner for peace” that has rejected violence and made progress on reforming security and curbing incitement.
But in a speech that dwelled significantly on the Palestinians and Arab states she also said, “Considerable work remains. The PA must redouble its efforts to put an end to incitement and violence, crack down on corruption, and ingrain a culture of peace and tolerance among Palestinians.”
Despite strides on these fronts, she said the international community and Arab world must increase support for Palestinian institution-building, warning that “if the PA cannot overcome corruption and smuggling, development will fall short. And if it fails to control violence, progress will slow to a halt.”
She took Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to task as well, saying that while he had endorsed a two-state solution and eased movement in the West Bank, such moves were “not sufficient to prove to the Palestinians that this embrace is sincere.”
She continued, “We encourage Israel to continue building momentum toward a comprehensive peace by demonstrating respect for the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians, stopping settlement activity and addressing the humanitarian needs in Gaza.”
Israel should also “refrain from unilateral statements and actions that could undermine trust or risk prejudicing the outcome of talks,” she added.
Her comments echo demands she laid out in her address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee last month and represent sentiments frequently expressed by the Obama administration during tension between Israel and the US in recent weeks.
The demands intensified after the Interior Ministry approved new housing units in east Jerusalem while US Vice President Joe Biden was on a goodwill tour in Israel, a move the US termed an “insult” and that led the Palestinians to refuse to participate in nascent indirect talks.
The administration, though, has less often focused on the Palestinians or spelled out detailed expectations of steps they need to take. Amid the US-Israel tensions, many pro-Israel groups have highlighted Palestinian infractions, with some urging the Washington to avoid an appearance of singling out Israel.
Clinton also criticized Arab countries for expressing concern about PA rival Hamas even as they “don’t do enough to bolster the efforts” of the PA.
She pressed Arab countries to back up their peace initiative – in which 57 states have offered to normalize relations with Israel in exchange for a return to its pre-June 5, 1967, borders and other measures on refugees – “with actions, not just rhetoric” that would make it easier for Palestinians to reach agreement.
Clinton chided Arab nations for threatening to withdraw the proposal, saying that if it is “the genuine offer it appears to be, we should not face threats by certain Arab states that it will be ‘taken off the table’ each time there is a setback.”
Though there has recently been much speculation that the US would soon present a peace plan of its own, Clinton reiterated statements by President Barack Obama earlier in the week that peace had to be made by Israelis and Palestinians themselves.
“We not only know we cannot force a solution, we have no interest in forcing a solution,” Clinton declared.
“All of us do have a stake in the outcome, but there are only two peoples who can make the decisions.”
She noted the importance to the US, as well as to Israel, Palestiniansand moderate Arab states, of beating back extremism, warning that thecurrent impasse only helps extremists groups like Hamas and Hizbullahand their patron Iran, whose president she called “anti-Semitic.”
She stressed her concern that “a failure to act now when there arechanged circumstances, including the Arab Peace Initiative, includingthe very broadly shared fear of Iran’s intentions and actions, will notjust set us back, but may irreversibly prevent us from going forward.”