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Clinton meets with Netanyahu 370.(Photo by: Moshe Milner/GPO)
Clinton: I do not expect Pollard to be released
US secretary of state urges PM to present package of gestures to PA, says Obama committed to int'l coalition against Iran.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Monday that she did not expect any change in the situation of jailed Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.

“With respect to Mr. Pollard, he was convicted of spying in 1987. He was sentenced to life in prison, he is serving that sentence, and I do not have any expectations that that is going to change,” Clinton said.

Her comments on Pollard came at a press conference following a day of a marathon talks with Israeli officials in Jerusalem. During her visit, Clinton was met by protesters calling for Pollard’s release.

Referring to Iran at the press conference, Clinton said the US will “use all elements of American power to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.”

Clinton said that Iran was one of the focuses of her talks, and said the US will continue to rally the international community, and Tehran is now under greater pressure than ever. This pressure, she said, will increase. She said her consultations were part of an ongoing, in-depth dialogue with Israel.

Clinton dodged a question about whether the administration erred by making the settlements a key issue in the beginning of US President Barack Obama’s tenure.

The secretary of state encouraged Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at a late-night meeting on Monday to come up with a package of gestures to the Palestinians to bring them back to the negotiating table.

Clinton, who met Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad earlier in the day, and who met PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Paris 12 days ago, told Netanyahu that the duo are Israel’s best partners, and it was not clear who may succeed them.

Clinton flew back to the US after midnight, following her meeting with Netanyahu and a brief press conference.

The secretary of state, who arrived Sunday evening from Cairo where she met with the new Egyptian leadership, began a series of meetings at 9 a.m. on Monday with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman. Subsequently, in Jerusalem, she then met in succession with President Shimon Peres, Fayyad, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Netanyahu.

Netanyahu invited his senior ministers: Barak, Liberman, and Vice Premier Moshe Ya’alon to dinner with Clinton. Before the dinner, Clinton and Netanyahu met alone for 30 minutes.

The main four issues covered in the talks throughout the day were Iran, Clinton’s impressions about the changes in Egypt, the diplomatic process with the Palestinians and the ongoing violence in Syria. Channel 2 reported that Clinton also raised the issue of Turkey, and said Israel should work for a rapprochement with Ankara.

According to the report, the secretary of state said the break with Turkey was harming Israel’s strategic interests and making it hard to isolate Iran and place pressure on Syria.

In regard to Iran, Clinton told Peres – according to Israeli officials – that Obama was committed to maintaining a wide international coalition to prevent Tehran from gaining nuclear weapons. She said that much had been done and that the economic sanctions would become harsher.

Clinton, during a public statement she made alongside Peres, said she arrived at a “moment of great change and transformation in the region.” She referred to this as a time of “uncertainty, but also of opportunity,” and said that it was “in moments like these that friends like us have to think together, act together. We are called to be smart, creative and courageous.”

Clinton was accompanied on her brief visit by Wendy Sherman, the US representative at the P5+1 talks with Iran, and US Middle East envoy David Hale.

Sherman’s presence was a clear indication that Iran figured prominently in the talks. A senior State Department official said just prior to Clinton’s arrival Sunday night that Sherman would help Clinton “bring the Israelis up to speed on the latest in the P5+1 process,” and also to talk about the “pressure side of the dual track strategy,” a term that refers to diplomatic engagement with Iran coupled with sanctions.

The official sought to create the impression that there was nothing unusual about a parade of senior US officials that began arriving last week, including US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and Clinton. US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is expected in the coming weeks.

“There is nothing special about the sequence of events other than we always have a very sort of intense case of engagement and diplomacy with the Israelis,” the official said. He added that the discussions about Iran with the Israelis are only about the P5+1 discussions, and the sanctions.

“It is not about anything beyond that,” he said, in an obvious effort to deflate the idea that perhaps the sides were talking about military action. The discussions with Israel, he said, are “where we think we are in the diplomacy and where we think we are on the pressure track, and what next steps we can take on each and what the Israeli assessment is on each track.”

The official said that regarding coordination on Iran, the intense pace of engagement with Israel “matches the intensity and urgency of the issue,” and is “similar to the type of engagement that we have with our other close allies, including the British and French, on this issue.”

Britain and France, along with Germany, China, and Russia, make up the P5+1 with the US.

On the Palestinian issue, the official said that Clinton’s meetings in Jerusalem, coupled with the meeting she had with Abbas in Paris, will allow her to “take stock and assess how the US can support next steps in the process.”

Asked what the administration felt it has accomplished in four years of working on the diplomatic process, the office said that it was obvious Clinton would have liked to be coming to Israel now to sign a peace deal.

“We would have liked to have done that two years ago,” he said. “The fact that we’ve been unable to do so is a testament to the difficulty of the challenge. But the fact that we’re still at it is a testament to just how important the issue is to us and to her personally.”

The PA said that Clinton did not carry new ideas that could pave the way for the resumption of the peace talks with Israel.

After the meeting between Clinton and Fayyad, a PA official in Ramallah said that the talks focused on the Palestinian Authority’s demand for additional weapons to its security forces in the West Bank and the release of Palestinians from Israeli prisons.

The PA is demanding the release of Palestinians who were imprisoned before the signing of the Oslo Accords and permission to import weapons before its leaders agree to return to the negotiating table.

Abbas, who met with Clinton in Paris last week, presented his demands to the Obama Administration and requested that Washington exert pressure on Israel to respond favorably.

The official did not say whether Clinton relayed a reply to Fayyad from the Israeli government to the PA demands. However, the official pointed out that Clinton did not carry new ideas that could facilitate the resumption of the peace process.

“We don’t expect a breakthrough as the Americans are too busy with their presidential election,” the PA official told The Jerusalem Post.
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