Outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says a new coalition government in Israel could lead to resumption of talks toward a two-state peace accord with Palestinians.
During a "townhall" interview in Washington where she fielded questions from young people from around the world, Clinton said Israel's election "opens doors, not nails them shut."
"I think the outcome of the election in which a significant percentage of the Israeli electorate chose to express themselves by saying 'We need a different path than the one we have been pursuing, internally and with respect to the Middle East peace process,'" Clinton said.
That could mean a resumption of stalled talks with Palestinian authorities, something that she said the Obama administration will pursue at "every possible opening."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and ultranationalist allies won 31 seats in the 120-seat parliament, a loss of 11 positions. A more centrist coalition finished second with 19 seats, followed by Labor and smaller religious parties.
Netanyahu, who is expected to retain the leading role in governing, has vowed to form as broad a coalition as possible. Palestinian leaders say they have little faith that Netanyahu will change his hardline policies on continued Israeli settlement building, a key issue blocking the restarting of talks.
The core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is mistrust, said Clinton.
"And somehow we have to look for ways to give the Palestinian people the pathway to peace, prosperity, and statehood that they deserve and give the Israeli people the security and stability that they seek," she said. "I think that still is possible."
Netanyahu says his first priority is preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The incoming U.S. secretary of state, John Kerry, says "the clock is ticking" on international efforts to secure Iran's responsible compliance with its nuclear obligations.
Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful civilian purposes. Kerry says that is easy enough to prove by agreeing to international inspections.