Condoleezza Rice urged Israel and the Palestinians to agree on borders as soon as possible.
The U.S. secretary of state spoke Thursday on her way to London, where she was attending a meeting of the Quartet, the grouping of the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union, which guides the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
She said Israel’s West Bank settlements were unhelpful to the process but said the clearest way out was to determine the borders of a Palestinian state – implicitly reaffirming President Bush’s 2004 recognition of some settlements as remaining Israel’s in a final-status deal.
“Ultimately, the best answer here is to determine what’s going to be in Israel and what’s going to be in Palestine,” she said. “And since I do not, and the United States government does not, accept that anything that is done prior to an agreement can, in fact, now present a fait accompli or determine the final outcome of this, I think that needs to be understood, too. But the best thing we can possibly do is finally, finally determine what those borders are going to be.”
Rice suggested that her emphasis in London and subsequently in the Middle East is to urge donor nations to make good on pledges of assistance to the Palestinians. She also said Israel plays the lead role in easing conditions for the Palestinians.
“It’s not just a matter for Israel, although, obviously, Israel has a very important responsibility, probably the lead responsibility, in helping to improve the lives of the Palestinian people,” she said. “But it’s a shared responsibility. And by the way, it’s a responsibility that is shared by the Palestinian leadership itself. It needs to continue to fight corruption.”
She reiterated her view expressed earlier this week to the American Jewish Committee that time is running out on a two-state solution, and cautioned Israel not to let budding negotiations with Syria overtake the Palestinian track, in part because Syria must meet its obligations to relinquish its influence in Lebanon.
“The Annapolis process made clear that the Palestinian track is the most mature; it is the one that must be pushed forward, whatever else is pursued,” Rice said, referring to the renewed U.S. push for Israeli-Palestinian peace launched last November. “And I might just note, too, that Lebanon, which is still awaiting Syria’s demarcation of its border, which is still awaiting proper diplomatic representation, an ambassador from Syria to Lebanon, must not be left at the sidelines, whatever else takes place in this process.”