WASHINGTON - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asserted Friday that the upgrade in the Palestinian Authority's status at the United Nations won't bring forth the establishment of a Palestinian state, but urged both Israel and the PA to take the opportunity to move forward.
"America supports the goal of a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel but this week's vote at the UN won't bring the Palestinians any closer to that goal," she said. "(…) President Abbas took a step in the wrong direction this week . We opposed his resolution. But we also need to see that the PA in the west bank still offers the most compelling alternative to rockets and resistance.
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"(…) Israel needs to help those committed to peace," she added, referring to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, whom she lauded for their achievements in overhauling institutions in the PA and cooperating with Israel over security.
Clinton at Saban Forum (Photo: Reuters)
Clinton, who made the remarks during at the Saban Forum in Washinton, blasted Israel’s decision to proceed with plans to build some 3,000 housing units beyong the Green Line, stressing that "These activities set back the cause of a negotiated peace.”
Answering questions after her address, the outgoing secretary of state said she believes that a Palestinian state would have already been established had Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin wasn't murdered.
"I think the Israeli people would have trusted him to make the hard decisions that were needed," she said.
Clinton recalled how late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat rejected then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak's peace proposal at Camp David, and how Arafat called her husband, Bill Clinton, years later, after the latter was no longer in office, and asked to accept the deal.
"And bill says, 'well, that's terrific, why don’t you call the white house and tell them that,'" she recounted.
She urged Israel to take it upon itself to further the peace process and move closer towards the two-state solution.
Addressing the tension between Israel and Gaza, Clinton said the US expects Egypt to prevent weapons from being smuggled into the Strip from Sudan and Somalia, and expressed willingness to help the country develop the Sinai Peninsula.
She added that Hamas now faces a decision over the future of the enclave it rules.
"Hamas, which has condemned those it rules to violence and misery, faces a choice between the future of Gaza and its fight with Israel," she said. "America has showed that it is willing to work with Islamists who reject violence and work towards real democracy, but we will never work with terrorists.
"Hamas knows what it needs to do. If it wishes to reunite the Palestinians and join the international community it must reject violence, honor past agreements with Israel and recognize Israel's right to exist.
"The most lasting solution to the stalemate in Gaza would be a comprehensive peace between Israel and all Palestinians, led by their legitimate representative, the Palestinian Authority," she added.
Clinton with Abbas (Archive photo: AP)
She reiterated that the US backs Israel when it comes to the threats the Jewish state faces.
"Americans honor Israel as a homeland dreamed of for generations and finally achieved by pioneering men and women in my lifetime… What threatens Israel threatens America. What strengthens Israel threatens us," she said.
Clinton accused Iran of stirring conflict in the Middle East and emphasized the importance of preventing the Islamic Republic from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Mentioning the missiles that Tehran provided to Gaza groups, Clinton said "The Iranian regime already exports terrorism. Not only to Israel's doorstep but across the world... a nuclear Iran is not simply a threat to Israel. It is a threat to all nations."
She added that when it comes to his determination to stop Iran's nuclear program, President Barack Obama "does not bluff."
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