United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reaffirmed America's commitment to the Jewish State on Tuesday in her first meeting of the day with President Shimon Peres before moving on to a long series of talks with other Israeli leaders.
She will be meeeting with Prime Minister-designate and Likud party chairman Binyamin Netanyahu as well as outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.
A main topic of discussion in most of the talks is expected to be America's response to the Iranian nuclear threat.
Clinton emphasized following Monday's international conference of donor nations in Sharm el-Sheikh that the U.S. is "willing to extend a hand if the other side unclenches its fist in order to have some process of engagement. But it will only be done in close consultation with our friends." The Secretary of State said she has consulted with Egypt and Jordan on the matter and will continue to consult with countries in the region.
No Pressure for Ceasefire with Hamas
Clinton also refrained from discussing any pressure on Israel to agree to a ceasefire with Hamas, noting with some pessimism that the terrorist group is not being cooperative in any way.
"I commend Egypt for the role that is has played in working toward a ceasefire… But I have to confess I am troubled by the continuing rocket attacks coming out of Gaza, 15 to 18 rockets in the last several days," she noted.
"We call upon all parties to move toward a durable ceasefire," she said, "but it is very difficult for any country to just sit and take rockets falling on its people. How are they supposed to respond when they continue to have that kind of attack?
"So I commend the Egyptians and know that they will continue to work toward a durable ceasefire, but I hope that we are able to get a position established where that can be done," Clinton added.
Looks Forward to Ramallah
The Secretary is also expected to travel to Ramallah on Wednesday for talks with Palestinian Authority officials, headed by PA Chairman and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas.
Clinton said that the U.S. is focusing its efforts on helping to "pave the way for a responsible Palestinian state that can be independent, accountable to its people, and live in peace with Israel and its Arab neighbors."
The new Secretary of State referred to the "very large sum of money" that was pledged at Monday's conference as proof that PA Chairman Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad had inspired confidence in their leadership skills.
She added that the U.S. is "prepared to engage in aggressive diplomacy with all sides in pursuit of a comprehensive settlement that brings peace and security to Israel, the Palestinians, and their Arab neighbors." Secretary Clinton emphasized that she, like her predecessor, is committed to working toward the establishment of a new Arab country - the "two-state solution" - within the current borders of Israel.
However, Clinton backed away from specifying what that might mean in terms of specific pressures to be applied on Israel. "We will be discussing specific policies with [the] new government once it is formed," she told reporters following the Sharm el-Sheikh summit.