Jerusalem, March 4 – Visiting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday stressed to Israeli officials that the U.S. administration is committed to establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
The United States “will be vigorously engaged in the pursuit of a two-state solution every step of the way. The inevitability of working toward a two-state solution is inescapable,” said Clinton at a joint press conference with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
While noting that “obviously it’s up to the people and the government of Israel to decide how to define your interests,” the top U.S. diplomat said that “we happen to believe that moving toward the two-state solution, step by step, is in Israel’s best interests.”
Earlier in the day, Clinton also told Israeli President Shimon Peres that her country will pursue a peaceful coexistence of Israel and a Palestinian state, while her host replied that any Israeli government coming out of the ongoing cabinet-making process will “be committed to the peace process and to prior agreements” with the Palestinians.
Prior to her meeting with outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the evening, the former first lady reiterated that the U.S. government intends “to make sure that the people of Israel have a chance to live and flourish in a safe and secure environment and to seek a way that they can live next to their Palestinian neighbors in a safe and secure environment.”
For his part, Olmert stressed that the two-state plan is “the only solution, there is no doubt, and it reflects absolutely Israel’s supreme strategic interest as well as the interest of the Palestinian people.”
However, such a scenario, although backed by the departing Israeli leadership and the Palestinians as well as the international community, might prove a hard sell to the next Israeli government.
Although Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the center-right Likud party and the right-wing bloc, recently stressed his intention to advance the peace process, he stopped short of committing himself to the two-state guideline.
Meanwhile, his vocal support for settlement expansion in the West Bank and controversial proposition that peace efforts should be concentrated on developing the Palestinian economy have been rejected outright by the Palestinians and seemingly place him on a collision course with the United States.
Details of the meeting between Clinton and Netanyahu were not made public, and the latter did not mention the two-state solution when briefing reporters after their talks, while describing the conversation as “deep, important and good.”