In an address to the influential pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged "rock-solid" commitment to Israel's security but warned that the country faced "difficult" choices on the road to peace.
After more than a week of tense relations between Washington and Tel Aviv, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried on Monday to downplay a public spat over continued Jewish settlement activity on Palestinian land by insisting on the two allies’ unbreakable bond, while also urging Israel to make “difficult” choices to revive the Mideast peace process.
In a speech to AIPAC’s annual conference, Clinton said that the Obama administration’s support for Israeli security was “rock-solid”, adding that in her case, it was a personal affair.
“Guaranteeing Israel's security is more than a policy position for me. It is a personal commitment that will never waiver”, said Clinton.
AIPAC, a leading pro-Israel pressure group that wields influence across the political spectrum in Congress, has repeatedly urged the Obama administration to tone down its rhetoric against the Jewish state and move past recent tensions.
Israeli Prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu has also struck a conciliatory tone ahead of his AIPAC speech, promising some undisclosed “confidence-building” measures to help revive peace talks.
But Netanyahu didn’t back down from what caused one of the most serious crisis in US-Israel relations – a plan to build 1,600 new homes for Jews in Ramat Shlomo, a religious settlement located in mostly Arab East Jerusalem. Israel’s announcement of the new settlement plan, which coincided with a visit by US Vice President Joe Biden aimed at reviving stalled Mideast peace talks, draw a furious response from Washington.
Several senior US officials have slammed both the timing and the substance of the plan, condemning the announcement as “insulting”, and describing continued Jewish settlement activity on Palestinian land as “destructive” to peace efforts.
Despite the show of reconciliation at the AIPAC summit, Washington has continued to criticise Israel’s settlement plans, setting the stage for a protracted, behind-the-scenes dispute between the two allies. In a veiled reference to last week’s standoff, Clinton said it was the United States’ role to “tell the truth when it is needed”, calling on both Israel and the Palestinians to make “difficult but necessary choices”.
“New construction in East Jerusalem or the West Bank undermines mutual trust and endangers the proximity talks that are the first step toward the full negotiations that both sides want and need”, she added.
Israeli Prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu is due to address the AIPAC conference later on Monday and to see President Obama on Tuesday.
Date created : 2010-03-22