Condoleezza Rice told thousands of Jewish communal activists that the president of the Palestinian Authority is a true partner for peace. The U.S. secretary of state, addressing delegates in Nashville at the General Assembly of the United Jewish Communities, also said progress toward a Palestinian state was vital to beating back an Iranian-led surge in extremism.
“What is at stake is nothing less than the future of the Middle East,” Rice said Tuesday.
“Violent extremists, with the government of Iran increasingly in the lead, are doing everything in their power to impose their fear, their resentments and their hate-filled ideologies on the people of the Middle East,” she said, adding that “this makes the two-state solution even more urgent than ever.”
Rice said she fears that if “Palestinians reformers” fail to deliver on the Palestinian peopleâ€™s hope for a state, then “the moderate center could collapse and the next generation of Palestinians will become lost souls of unbridled extremism.”
“It is not a time for half measures,” she said.
Rice was cheered multiple times when discussing the need to defend Israel, fight anti-Semitism and confront Hamas and Iran. But the crowd was silent as she described the P.A. president, Mahmoud Abbas, as a true partner for peace and said now there was â€œresponsible leadershipâ€ with which Israel could deal.
In an exclusive interview with JTA prior to the speech, Rice praised several steps taken by Abbas and his loyalists in the West Bank to fight terrorism.
Asked about fears that failure at an upcoming peace meeting in Annapolis could spark a new wave of violence, the secretary of state said that “no one can afford to failure here” and “not acting is failure in these circumstances.”
“When you have a Palestinian partner who is dedicated against violence and against terrorism, and whoâ€™s struggling against an alternative view for the Palestinians,” Rice told JTA, “not acting I think has a much, much more significant risk than acting.”
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