Clinton: Peace will benefit both sides

Bill Clinton Israel, PA

bill clinton dramatic 248.88 AP (photo credit: AP [file])
bill clinton dramatic 248.88 AP
(photo credit: AP [file])
Both Israelis and Palestinians would only benefit from peace, said former US president Bill Clinton at the Saban Forum in Jerusalem on Sunday. "You cannot get a divorce and move to another planet," Clinton told a gathering of high level American and Israeli policy makers. The Palestinians, he warned Israel, are having children at a faster rate, causing demographics in the area to shift radically. "If you want to be a democracy and a Jewish state you have to cut a deal," Clinton said, adding that there is a physical danger to a deadlocked peace process. It is only a matter of time, Clinton warned, before Hamas is capable of putting a GPS system on the rockets that it continues to launch from Gaza against Israel's southern border. "The trajectory of technology is not your friend, … you need to get this done and you do have partners," said Clinton. The former US president stressed that "It is not too late to make peace" and urged the Palestinians to accept America's modification of its anti-settlement policy and to return to the bargaining table. "Take where we are and the reformulation of the settlement issue and find a way" to move forward, he said. The Palestinians were more likely to get a good deal through negotiations, said Clinton, warning against unilateral action. By refusing to talk with Israel, he said, they risked irking the international community, which might then blame them for the stalled peace process. His words were consistent with the policy of the US President Barack Obama's administration, which has backed Israel's call to the Palestinians to open an immediate dialogue without pre-conditions. America has said it wants Israel to freeze settlement activity, but that Israel's refusal to comply with this demand should not stop the two sides from talking. "We have to work with the politics we found in Israel just like we have to work with the politics we found with the Palestinians," Clinton said. He added that he would not be shocked if Netanyahu's government "actually does make some kind of an agreement or makes a proposal that would be beyond anything anyone expects," Clinton said. He repeated the praise his wife, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, made last month with regard to Israel's decision to curb settlement activity. "This is the first time that any Israeli government has said we will not issue an new permits and not have any new settlements and that should be enough to open the door and start talking," said Clinton. But in the process, he said, Israel should be careful "not to sound too victimized." It should also believe that America is its friend and remains deeply committed to Israel and its security. "You should not think that President Obama is your enemy," Clinton said. He spoke in the aftermath of media reports of a strained relationship between Netanyahu and Obama as well as speculation that the US was about to step away from the peace process. Clinton, however, stressed that the US, and Obama, remain deeply committed to the peace process. "I think that when we meet someone new, in any context we are always looking for clues that will tell us something," said Clinton. "No American president can serve in good conscience and not be committed to the security of Israel and not be committed to the security of Israel," said Clinton. "The United States can not make you do something that you do not want to do," Clinton said. He added that if the US spends federal funds to support Israel's security needs, "than we owe it to you to say what the best way to achieve that security is." He said that Israel should interpret America's rejection of the Goldstone Report which accused Israel of war crimes in Gaza as a strong sign of its commitment to Israel. For America to be an effective partner in the peace process it is critical that Israel believes and trusts in the deep bonds between the two countries. "As long as you believe that American is with you at some core emotional level, we can have a conversation about anything. If you ever stop believing that then it does not matter what our position is," he said. He cautioned Israelis not to "over analyze the Obama-Netanyahu relationship." With respect to a nuclear Iran, he said the largest danger is the nuclear proliferation that would follow Iran's ability to produce weapons of mass destruction.