Israeli and Palestinian negotiators should decide once and for all where to draw the line between Israeli and Palestinian territory, ending the argument over Jewish housing expansion on disputed ground, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday.
Rice also warned that the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank do not equal a "fait accompli" that the houses or towns would remain in Israeli hands under a final settlement of the conflict.
"Ultimately the best answer is to determine what's going to be in Israel and what's going to be in Palestine," Rice said before meetings with negotiators and leaders on both sides in London and the Mideast.
Determining final borders is "the best thing we can possibly do," Rice said, suggesting she has heard Palestinian, Arab and other complaints that there is little momentum and less clarity in peace talks that are supposed to frame an independent Palestinian state before Bush leaves office.
The Bush administration has as much as promised Israel it could keep some sensitive land, but Rice was effectively warning Israel not to carry the policy too far or assume it has no consequences.
"I do not, and the U.S. government does not, accept that anything done prior to agreement can ... present a fait accompli or determine the final outcome of this," Rice said.
She did not single out any particular Israeli project as improper, but repeated the US diplomatic criticism of housing expansion in general. "It's not helpful," she said.
Rice also said that "It's far too early to start any sense of despair about the end of the year," but acknowledged that Palestinians are losing patience. "I do believe the window for the two-state solution is not open forever," Rshe told reporters traveling with her. "I think you could argue it's gotten narrower and narrower over time."
"Israel has probably the lead responsibility in helping to improve the lives of the Palestinian people but it's a shared responsibility," she said.