Israel urged to make concessions for peace

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
has called on Israel to make “difficult but necessary choices” if it
wants a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Mrs Clinton warned that the status
quo was “unsustainable” in a speech to a pro-Israel lobby group.

Her comments come amid a dispute
between the US and Israel over plans for 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu has ruled out halting settlement construction in the city.

The Palestinian Authority is
furious at Israel’s insistence on building on occupied territory. It sees it as
a serious stumbling block to the resumption of talks, which have been stalled
for more than a year.

Nearly 500,000 Jews live in more
than 100 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and
East Jerusalem. They are held to be illegal under international law, though
Israel disputes this.

In her speech to a convention in Washington
of the influential Aipac (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), Mrs
Clinton underscored the Obama administration’s “rock solid”
commitment to Israel.

“Guaranteeing Israel’s
security is more than a policy position for me. It is a personal commitment
that will never waver,” she said.

But, she added, it is Washington’s
“responsibility to give credit when it is due and to tell the truth when
it is needed”.

New construction in East Jerusalem
or the West Bank “undermines mutual trust” and “exposes daylight
between Israel and the United States that others in the region hope to
exploit” she said.

Mrs Clinton has demanded Mr
Netanyahu move to restore confidence in the peace process, including extending
the suspension of new building in the West Bank to include East Jerusalem.

However Israel will not discuss a
freeze on settlement construction in Jerusalem.

“As far as we are concerned,
building in Jerusalem is like building in Tel Aviv,” Mr Netanyahu told his
cabinet. But Mrs Clinton warned in her speech to Aipac that the “status
quo is unsustainable for all sides” and “promises only violence and
unrealised aspirations”.

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