United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has increased the pressure on Israel again to strengthen the PLO and Fatah and make concessions to the Palestinian Authority. The pressure is an apparent response to an impasse in talks between Israel and the PA, which has refused to hold direct negotiations. It is in direct contradiction to Obama's recent remarks about not continuing to concentrate on the Middle East, since he sees no progress after all the U.S. efforts to start talks.
For an analyst's look at how to get things going, click here.
Clinton spoke Thursday at the opening of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace think tank. While she called for the PA, led by Mahmoud Abbas, to end its incitement against Israel, she had a number of steps for Israel to take.
"We encourage Israel to continue building momentum toward a comprehensive peace by demonstrating respect for the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians, stopping settlement activity and addressing the humanitarian needs in Gaza,” she said. “And to refrain from unilateral statements and actions that could undermine trust or risk prejudicing the outcome of talks.”
Israel must strengthen the PA and the PLO in order to counter Hamas, Clinton said. “Israel can and should do more to support the Palestinian Authority's efforts to build credible institutions and deliver results,” she argued.
Clinton praised Abbas's work in the PA, but said that if Abbas is seen as unable to get results, “there is no doubt his support will fade and Palestinians will turn to alternatives – including Hamas.”
As Israel has halted construction in Judea and Samaria's Jewish communities, Clinton's reference to “settlement activity” was apparently in regard to the construction of Jewish homes in Jerusalem. Israel's capital city was split in 1949 as Jordan seized half the city, and reunited in 1967 during the Six Day War.
Israel has declared united Jerusalem as its capital. The PA has demanded that those areas that were under Jordanian control for 18 years be given to the PA as the capital of a future Arab state.
When Clinton served as senator of New York she supported Israel's position, stating that Jerusalem's status as Israel's undivided capital “must never be questioned.” However, since her appointment as President Barack Obama's secretary of state, Clinton has changed her position in favor of the PA, and recently called the construction of housing in the Jewish neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo “insulting”.
Following the Obama administration's insistence that Israel cease construction in much of Jerusalem, the PA took up the same demand and PA leaders have now stated that they will not hold direct talks with Israel as long as Jews are allowed to build in areas once under Jordanian control – including historically Jewish neighborhoods such as the Old City.