WASHINGTON (JTA) — Hillary Rodham Clinton told a Palestinian-American audience that the only path to statehood is through direct talks with Israel.
The U.S. secretary of state’s remarks Wednesday to a gala dinner of the American Task Force on Palestine comes as the Palestinian Authority reportedly is seeking international recognition in case it decides to unilaterally declare statehood.
"As much as the United States and other nations around the world want to see a resolution to this conflict, only the parties themselves can take the difficult steps that will lead to peace," Clinton said. "That is why the Obama administration is working so hard to support direct talks that offer a forum for both sides to grapple with the core issues in good faith. There is no substitute for face-to-face discussion and, ultimately, for an agreement that leads to a just and lasting peace. That is the only path that will lead to the fulfillment of the Palestinian national aspirations and the necessary outcome of two states for two peoples."
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas suspended the talks last month, barely a month after they were renewed, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to extend a 10-month partial freeze on settlement building.
President Obama has called for an extension of the freeze, and has offered Netanyahu a wide-ranging package of security and diplomatic guarantees if he changes his mind. Netanyahu has been telling interlocutors that unless the Palestinians stop making arrangements for a unilateral declaration, he will not reinstate the building freeze.
Clinton’s address did not mention the U.S. government’s calls to extend the freeze and instead emphasized the need to return to direct talks — an implicit rebuke of Abbas.
She also said a final status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians will reflect "developments" subsequent to the Six-Day War. An end-of-conflict agreement "reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps and Israel’s goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israel’s security requirements," Clinton said.
Israel secured a letter in 2004 from the Bush administration recognizing some settlement blocs as "realities on the ground." These were never specified, but are thought to include the Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem, Maaleh Adumim to its east and possibly settlements along the West Bank border north of Jerusalem. Israeli officials have been seeking a reiteration of the commitment from the Obama administration.
Clinton called on Arab states to contribute more concretely to advancing the process.
"It takes far more than commitments and plans to support making the state of Palestine a reality," she said.
Clinton called for the release of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier kidnapped in Israel in 2006 and held since by Hamas-affiliated terrorists in the Gaza Strip. Her call was applauded by the audience.
The American Task Force on Palestine lobbies for two states and believes in engaging a broad array of Jewish groups.