By Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that the United States was working “every day, indeed every hour” to revive stalled Middle East peace negotiations, and warned both sides against making unilateral moves that could compromise the outcome of these talks.
“We do not support unilateral steps by either party that could prejudge the outcome of such negotiations,” Clinton said.
Her remark came after Israel’s recent announcement of new construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and amid increased Palestinian Authority pressure on the international community to formally recognize a Palestinian state.
“Each party has a very strong set of opinions about the way forward. There can be no progress until they actually come together and explore where areas of agreement are and how to narrow areas of disagreement,” Clinton said after a meeting with visiting Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.
For his part, Aboul-Gheit said that Egypt was“concerned, because we feel that Israel is not doing what is required on the Israeli side to do.”
Clinton earlier Wednesday criticized Israel’s announcement that it was moving ahead with plans to build 1,300 new homes in East Jerusalem and 800 in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.
“This announcement was counterproductive to our efforts to resume negotiations,” Clinton told reporters in an earlier appearance in Washington.
“We will continue to work to resume negotiations,” Clinton said. “We still believe that a positive outcome is both possible and necessary.”
Netanyahu told reporters in New York on Wednesday he planned to use his meeting with Clinton the following day to discuss ways to achieve a peace agreement and downplayed friction over the settlement issue.
“We have broad understandings with the United States on this issue and many others that surmount the disagreements over other matters,” he said.
Diplomats have said Netanyahu hopes to finalize a package of incentives that could help him sell another partial construction moratorium to his governing coalition, which is dominated by pro-settler parties.
Netanyahu will focus on trying to forge a broad understanding on Israel’s security needs in any future peace agreement in light of the challenges it will face in coming years, Israeli political sources said.
Israel wants a long-term military presence in the Jordan Valley along the eastern boarder of a future Palestinian state, and Netanyahu has said that Israel would also need new U.S. aid to help finance other security changes brought about by any future peace agreement.