Warming trend: Netanyahu, Clinton talk of U.S.-Israel bond


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel has shown that it is committed to peace after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton affirmed the "unshakable bond" between the two countries.

"We have an absolute commitment to Israel’s security," Clinton said Tuesday during a news briefing in a softening of her rhetoric in recent days. "We have a close, unshakeable bond between the United States and Israel."

"The State of Israel appreciates and respects the warm words said by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding the deep bond between the U.S. and Israel, and on the U.S.’s commitment to Israel’s security," Netanyahu’s office said in a statement released later Tuesday, Haaretz reported.

"With regard to commitments to peace, the government of Israel has proven over the last year that it is commited to peace, both in words and actions," the statement continued.

The statements came a day after U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell put a planned trip to Israel on hold.

Mitchell was scheduled to arrive Tuesday in Israel, but reportedly delayed his trip until Israel meets the conditions set down by the United States in the wake of the crisis fomented by Israel’s announcement last week of a preliminary approval to build 1,600 apartments in a ultra-Orthodox eastern Jerusalem neighborhood.

"We want to make sure that we have the commitment from both sides that when he travels, we can make progress," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said, according to the Washington Post.

The demands include reversing the approval of the construction plan for the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, a "substantial" good-will gesture toward the Palestinians such as releasing Palestinian prisoners, and agreeing publicly to discuss all core issues, including the status of Jerusalem, in upcoming peace talks. One demand, that Israel apologize for embarrassing Vice President Joe Biden in last week’s incident, has been met.

Israel is expected to give a formal answer to U.S. demands on Tuesday, according to the Washington Post.

Mitchell is due Friday in Moscow for a meeting of the Quartet on the Middle East.

Biden and Clinton are scheduled to meet Tuesday to discuss the current crisis between the United States and Israel, The New York Times reported.

Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post reported Tuesday that sources in the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv said that Mitchell’s trip was postponed for "logistical reasons," including consultations in Washington on Tuesday, and that he will come to Israel sometime after the Quartet’s meeting.

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