WASHINGTON - Israel risks losing Arab support in its fight against the Iranian threat should Jerusalem refrain from engaging in talks with the Palestinians, United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Thursday.
"For Israel to get the kind of strong support it is looking for vis-à-vis Iran, it can't stay on the sidelines with respect to the Palestinians and the peace efforts. They go hand in hand," Clinton told the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee.
Clinton said she believes the shared fear of Iran presents an opportunity for Israel and Arab states to form a united front vis-à-vis the Shiite state.
Arab leaders she met "believe that Israel's willingness to reenter into discussions with the Palestinian Authority strengthens them in being able to deal with Iran," Clinton said. "Every country with whom I have personally met - and that's most of them by now - wants very much to support the strongest possible posture toward Iran."
Turning her attention to reports of tensions between the Obama administration and the new Netanyahu-led government in Israel, the secretary of state stressed that the US had no intention of prejudging Israel's positions before they are presented in face-to-face meetings.
Clinton noted that Netanyahu is scheduled to arrive in Washington in May, adding that the US administration is waiting for in-depth discussions with the new government before jumping to conclusions.
The secretary of state also reiterated American concerns over Iran's nuclear efforts, Tehran's involvement in the domestic affairs of neighboring countries, and the support it offers terrorists. She added that while efforts to engage in dialogue with Iran continue, the US still works on potential sanctions against Tehran.
Meanwhile, Iran's foreign minister responded to Clinton's threats to punish Tehran over its nuclear program by reiterating that it was for peaceful purposes.
"My advice to Madam Clinton is to study about the peaceful activities of the Iranian nuclear program," Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters through a translator in Brussels after attending an international donors conference on Somalia.
Reuters contributed to the report