Clinton urges Israel to make hard choices

US SECRETARY of State Hillary Clinton yesterday urged Israel to make “difficult but necessary choices” for Middle East peace as she warned that Jewish settlements undermine fresh negotiations.

But Clinton also told the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC that US support for Israel’s security is “rock solid, unwavering, enduring and forever”.

It contrasted with tougher talk from the EU. Foreign Relations chief Catherine Ashton condemned the killing of four Palestinians by the IDF.

“We are particularly concerned about the violent incidents in the West Bank in the last 48 hours that has seen four Palestinians dead. It should be investigated,” she said following a discussion by the EU’s foreign ministers in Brussels.

Ashton was in the region last week including Gaza and she gave an account to the ministers. They also heard from the special envoy to the region, Tony Blair, about the situation on the ground ahead of planned proximity talks.

Ashton said: “We want serious and genuine commitment, not talks for the sake of talks.” She said they hoped that negotiations would lead to an independent Palestinian state within two years.

Foreign Minister Micheál Martin said that the key areas where the EU can play a role, with the US leading, to help build peace is in helping establish the rule of law, boost the Palestinians governing capacity and economic development and in ensuring that Israel takes steps to improve the lot of ordinary Palestinians on the ground.

The minister said Blair in his address referred to the lessons he had learned in Ireland and advised that they be applied to the Palestinian situations.

Meanwhile in Washington, Clinton prompted standing ovations from the estimated 7,500 delegates at the annual policy conference of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee each time she stood up for Israel’s security.

She explained that Washington had to condemn the new 1,600 homes for annexed east Jerusalem to preserve trust and ensure that new Israeli-Palestinian peace talks go ahead as agreed.

New construction in east Jerusalem or the West Bank also “exposes daylight between Israel and the United States that others in the region could hope to exploit”, she warned.

She said it also “undermines” Washington as a credible mediator in the negotiations that praises and condemns actions on both sides as needed.

In her speech, at times critical of Israel, she also accused the Palestinians of inciting violence by mischaracterising the re-opening of a synagogue in Jerusalem’s Old City as an attack on Muslims.

Clinton also urged Netanyahu, whom she was to meet in Washington later, to ease the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which is under an Israeli blockade.

She said the path to peace “requires all parties – including Israel – to make difficult but necessary choices,” adding the status quo will only lead to more violence.

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