US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Thursday that only negotiations will bring about Israeli-Palestinian peace. Clinton’s remarks come a day after Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said unilateral Israeli withdrawals may be needed in the West Bank if negotiations continue to stall.
“The United States believes there is no substitute for direct talks between the parties,” Clinton told a press conference in Denmark. “It is the only route to achieving what has long been not only a Palestinian goal and an American goal, but an Israeli goal, which are two states living side by side in peace and security.”
Clinton spoke Thursday in Denmark a day after Barak said Israel could not wait forever to reach an agreement. On Wednesday the Barak said that the unity government presents an opportunity to “lead a political process.” He said that the parties must try to address all core issues and end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but should that prove impossible, Israel should consider “a temporary arrangement or even a unilateral step.”
Clinton added Thursday that prospects have improved with the emergence of a new Israeli coalition government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the recent exchange of letters between Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas outlining the conditions for dialogue. She also praised Israel’s decision to return the bodies of 91 Palestinian militants, including suicide bombers, as a confidence-building measure.
“In recent weeks, I’ve called both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas urging them to take this opportunity, to use this new opening that has come about because of the broad coalition that now exists that has pledged itself to pursuing a negotiated resolution. And we’re going to continue to urge them to do so,” she said.
“We believe that there is an opportunity for direct negotiations, and we hope it was enhanced by the release of bodies today by the Israelis as a sign of confidence building. But they need to get to the table and start dealing with all the very hard issues we know have to be resolved.”