Clinton: U.S. Still Opposed to Israeli Settlements
By Stephen Kaufman
Washington - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton repeated that the Obama administration does not accept the legitimacy of Israeli West Bank settlements and wants to see the establishment of a Palestinian state with borders based on territory that Israel has occupied since 1967.
In remarks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Ali Aboul Gheit following their November 4 talks in Cairo, Clinton said the United States would like all current and planned Israeli settlement activity to be halted. The U.S. policy opposing Israeli settlement activity has not changed, she said.
She also said Israel's offer to halt all new settlement activities, to end the expropriation of land and issue no permits or approvals, while "unprecedented," is "not what we would prefer."
"We would like to see everything ended forever," she said. However, she added that it is "at least a positive movement."
In a November 4 interview with Jackie Northam of National Public Radio, Clinton said the issue of settlements has been "a terrible flashpoint" in the region. Settlements never have been a precondition for negotiations in the past, she said, adding that the Israeli government has gone further than its predecessors in its offer. However, she acknowledged that Arabs and Palestinians have said "it wasn't far enough."
"What is so clear is that once borders are decided, the settlement issue goes away. The Israelis build whatever they want in their territory, the Palestinians build whatever they want in theirs," Clinton said.
With Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit, she said, "Our goal is a real state with real sovereignty with the kind of borders that will enable the people of Palestine to make decisions about where they live and what they do on their own," adding that "a state that is based on the territory that has been occupied since 1967" is "the appropriate approach."
The Obama administration has been working to get peace negotiations restarted in hopes of achieving a comprehensive peace and a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Clinton said the troubled history between the two sides should not be allowed to stand in the way of a more peaceful and prosperous future for both.
"We can maintain an allegiance to the past, but we cannot change the past. No matter what we say about it, it is behind us," she said, urging all parties to "help shape a future that will be vastly better for the children of both Palestinians and Israelis."
The resumption of talks that will discuss final status issues such as borders, refugees and the status of Jerusalem "will allow us to bring an end to settlement activity because we will be moving toward the Palestinian state that I and many others have long advocated and worked for," Clinton said.
The United States wants to see both the establishment of a Palestinian state and a situation in which Israelis can live in security, and "we're not going to let anything deter us or prevent us from working as hard as we possibly can" to move that process forward, Clinton said.
Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit said he and Clinton had held clear and candid talks on the U.S. position toward Israeli settlements, and he said that while the United States rejects settlements, "Israel has not been responsive to the desires of the United States."
"We feel that we need to focus on the end of the course," Aboul Gheit said. "We should not waste time."