U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Israeli and Palestinian leaders need to take concrete steps to make progress toward a two-state solution.
Speaking at a forum on Middle East policy in Washington D.C. late Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to get to the heart of their conflict and settle issues hindering a two-state solution.
"It is time to grapple with the core issues of the conflict: on borders and security, settlements, water and refugees, and on Jerusalem itself. And starting with my meetings this week, that is exactly what we are doing," she said. "We will also deepen our strong commitment to supporting the state-building work of the Palestinian Authority and continue to urge the states of the region to develop the content of the Arab Peace Initiative and to work toward implementing its vision."
Clinton said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have met face-to-face multiple times in recent months. She characterized her own private talks with leaders as "meaningful," and said she came away with greater clarity about the divides that must be bridged. She met separately Friday with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
Clinton said the sources of disagreements are both real and persistent, and leaders must compromise.
"They must agree to a single line drawn on a map that divides Israel from Palestine, and to an outcome that implements the two-state solution, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt," she said. "The Palestinian leaders must be able to show their people that the occupation will be over. Israeli leaders must be able to offer their people internationally recognized borders that protect Israel's security."
Clinton underscored that the United States will not allow Israel's security to be put at risk, and that once borders are drawn, security arrangements must deal with emerging threats. She said the U.S. has helped the Jewish nation build upon its military edge through advances such as a short range rocket defense system and exchanges with the U.S. military.
But even as the secretary of state spoke of an unwavering commitment to Israel, she criticized the Jewish state for its continued settlement activity.