Yitzhak Benhorin
January 22, 2010 - 1:00am

WASHINGTON - "With respect to the Middle East, I think that you know we're absolutely committed. It doesn't matter whether it's round two or round 20," US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday in reference to the stalled peace process.

During a joint press conference with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Clinton said, "We believe that this is a situation that deserves constant, persistent attention; that the absence of such attention perhaps created some of the difficulties that we are now encountering.

"But ultimately, as the president also said in his interview, this has to be between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The United States, the UK, the EU, the Arab League, everyone can work together to try to create the conditions for a resolution of the outstanding issues between the Israelis and the Palestinians, but at the end of the day, they must make that decision," the top US diplomat said.

"So we are going to continue to do everything we can to create an environment in which that is possible. We have urged both the Israelis and the Palestinians to get back to the negotiating table and to start hashing out the very difficult but, we believe, solvable problems that stand in the way of security for the state of Israel and a state for the Palestinians."

Earlier Thursday, US President Barack Obama said his administration overestimated its ability to persuade the Israelis and Palestinians to resume meaningful peace talks.

He said both parties have been unwilling to make the bold gestures needed to move the process forward. If the US had anticipated that earlier, the American leader said, he might not have raised his expectations so high.

Everyone affected
Clinton also discussed the Iranian issue, telling reporters "this is not happening in a vacuum, this whole effort that we're engaged in regarding influencing and restraining the Iranians' nuclear program.

"The prospects of the instability that would potentially ensue from Iran pursuing and achieving a nuclear breakout capacity or even a nuclear weapons program would be so intensely destabilizing, there is not a country in the world that is in the neighborhood, the region, relying on the oil market, that would not be directly affected," she said.

Meanwhile, officials in Jerusalem said Israel would continue to support the American peace initiative in order to boost its status within the international community. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told special US envoy George Mitchell during their meeting Thursday night that he does not believe indirect talks with the Palestinians under US mediation were necessary.

Ahead of the meeting with Mitchell, Netanyahu said, "For us it is easiest to impose more and more conditions on the Palestinians, such as not discussing the refugees or the status of Jerusalem. But we are not doing this, and we expect the Palestinians not to impose any additional conditions either."

Roni Sofer contributed to the report


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017