Clinton meeting in Israel with Bibi in bid to press cease-fire


JERUSALEM (JTA) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately upon her arrival in Israel.

At a short news conference before the meeting at 11 p.m. Tuesday, Clinton said that President Obama asked her to convey that "America’s committment to Israel’s security is rock solid and unwavering, that is why we believe it is essential to de-escalate the situation."

Clinton, one of several world leaders who has come to Israel to press for a cease-fire, added that the current goal in negotiations is a "durable outcome that promotes regional security" that takes into account the "aspirations" of both the Israelis and the Palestinians. "There is no substitute for security and for a just and lasting peace," she also said.

Netanyahu told Clinton that "Israel will have to take whatever actions are neccessary to defend its people."

Clinton said she will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday before heading to Cairo, where cease-fire negotiations are taking place.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived Tuesday in Israel from Cairo, where he told reporters that an Israeli ground operation in Gaza would be a "dangerous escalation." 

"Immediate steps are needed by all to avoid a further escalation, including a ground operation which will only result in further tragedy," Ban said. He did add that Israel has "legitimate security concerns." 

Ban also called for negotiations toward a two-state solution and "an end to the occupation."

In Israel, he is scheduled to meet with Netanyahu and Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Netanyahu met Tuesday with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who said in a statement after the meeting that "Germany stands by our friends in Israel, and Israel has every right to defend itself and protect their own citizens against these missile attacks from Gaza into your country." Westerwelle also called for all sides to take all steps necessary to put a cease-fire into place. 

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