'Israel should focus on Negev, Galilee'

Rice says future of Israel not in the "continued occupation of the West Bank."

jp.services1 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Israel should focus its energies away from settling the West Bank and begin investing its future elsewhere, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday in an interview with Al Hurra Television, a US-sponsored service broadcasting in the Middle East. "I believe that Israel understands...that it has obligations that need to be met and need to be met now, because the future of Israel is not in the continued occupation of the West Bank," Rice said. "The future of Israel is in building a strong Israeli state in places like the Negev and Galilee." Rice was reiterating remarks made by President Bush on July 16 in a White House speech devoted to Israeli-Palestinian issues. The secretary of state revealed that during her next trip to the region she would help promote both the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians and the broader Arab-Israel track. "There is…much that can be done by Arab states to support the progress that the Palestinians and Israelis need to make…[and] when the conflict ends it should end for all parties," she said. Rice also said that were Israel and Syria to embark on a diplomatic track with the hope of garnering a peace agreement, the US would be supportive of the move. She stipulated, however, that if Syria had hopes of US endorsement of its policies, it had to mend its ways and "engage in policies that suggest that it is going to be a productive and constructive member of the international community." Syria, she added, was "destabilizing" parts of the Middle East and allowing terrorists to enter Iraq through its border.