Clinton: US Wants Israel Settlement Halt 'Forever'

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton defended the U.S stance toward Israeli settlement building to worried Arab allies on Wednesday, saying Washington does not accept the legitimacy of the West Bank enclaves and wants to see their construction halted "forever."

Still, she said an Israeli offer to restrain — but not halt — construction represents "positive movement forward" toward resuming Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

Clinton met for an hour with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during a hastily arranged stopover in the Egyptian capital to soothe Arab concerns that Washington is backing off demands for an Israeli settlement halt. The fears were sparked on Saturday when Clinton, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at her side in Jerusalem, praised his government's offer as unprecedented.

She has since tried to clarify the remarks, saying that the Israeli offer does not got far enough. Still, she has indicated that the Palestinians should resume negotiations with Israel without a full settlement halt as they demand.

On Wednesday, Clinton insisted "our policy on settlement has not changed."

"We do not accept the legitimacy of settlement activity. Ending all settlement activity current and future would be preferable," she told reporters after talks with Mubarak.

Of the Israeli offer, she said, "It is not what we would prefer because we would like to see everything ended forever."

"But it is something that I think shows at least a positive movement forward toward final status issues being addressed," she said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is sticking to his refusal to resume negotiations until Israel stops building settlements. He rejected the Israeli plan to complete 3,000 housing units in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and to continue to construct public buildings and other construction in east Jerusalem — a territory Palestinians hope will be their future capital.

After Arab criticism of her comments in Jerusalem on the Israeli plan, Clinton delayed her return to Washington after attending an international conference in Marrakech, Morocco, and flew instead to Cairo.

Appearing at Clinton's press conference on Wednesday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the Mubarak-Clinton talks were "very fruitful and will have clear benefits and results in the future."

"The talks were frank and clear that showed a U.S.-Egyptian common understanding on several issues," he said.

In a new twist Tuesday, Clinton made what appeared to be an inadvertent slip of the tongue in a television interview with the al-Jazeera network, referring to the goal of "an Israeli capital in east Jerusalem."

It has not been U.S. policy to favor including east Jerusalem in an Israeli capital; the Palestinians claim it as their capital, and the issue is one of the most important and delicate points that would have to be settled in any final peace deal between the two parties.

In the al-Jazeera interview, Clinton reiterated that Obama has clearly stated his desire for a halt to settlements. But she added that the Israeli offer of "restraint," to include an end to establishment of new settlements and other measures that limit settlement growth, might be close enough to the ultimate U.S. and Palestinian goal to merit embracing in the near future.

"It is nowhere near enough, but I think when you keep your eye on what we want to achieve, it is a better place to be than the alternative, which is unrestrained (growth)," she said.

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  • by Cactus Location: Strabane on Nov 6, 2009 at 06:35 AM
    I think Israel knows they have nothing to fear from the obama administration, obama proves everyday that he talks more than he acts.
  • by Derek Location: Greenville on Nov 5, 2009 at 03:59 PM
    The Middle East situation between Palestine and Israel is a problem that stems much more than 'tell them where they can and cannot build'. I totally agree that we need Israel as an ally, but think of the progress we could make with other arab nations if we show a working relationship with Palestine? I guess you would all agree that if Mexico began to push their borders (not just people) and we were in a situation the West Bank is in (ie: blockades, little or no resources, high unemployment, travel restrictions, etc.) we'd hope some other country would help us out. - check it out, worth 5 minutes of your time.
  • by lm Location: nc on Nov 5, 2009 at 09:01 AM
    This country needs to stop demanding that Israel move back. We will need them as allies one day and if they're not there, this country will be very sorry. This country is already getting punished because of our demands of Israel to stop expanding...
  • by PUREBREAD on Nov 4, 2009 at 02:17 PM
    We need to keep these people as our allies.The Obama administration does everything bassakwards.We are going to need these people one day and they are going to need us.God help us all if either one of us desides not to be each others allies.
  • by Anonymous on Nov 4, 2009 at 09:43 AM
    I don't understand what right the USA has to go into another country and tell them where they can and cannot build. How would we react if another country came in and said where we could and could not build?

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