Clinton slams Israeli expansion plan ahead of Netanyahu visit

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday stressed U.S. opposition to Israel's policy of expanding Jewish settlements.

Clinton slams Israeli expansion plan ahead of Netanyahu visit

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday stressed U.S. opposition to Israel's policy of expanding Jewish settlements.

Netanyahu was scheduled to meet President Barack Obama, Clinton and other senior U.S. officials on the three-day trip, which follows a rocky stretch in U.S. relations with its key Mideast ally.

The United States and Israel have been at loggerheads after Netanyahu's government announced a new expansion of a Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem, embarrassing visiting U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and spurring Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to threaten to pull out of indirect talks that had only just been launched.

Clinton called the announcement "insulting" and demanded that Netanyahu outline specific steps to restore confidence in the negotiation process.

Clinton, in a speech to the influential pro-Israel AIPAC lobby group on Washington on Monday, said Israel faced "difficult but necessary choices" on Mideast stability and called Israel's settlement policy a problem.

"New construction in East Jerusalem or the West Bank undermines mutual trust and endangers the proximity talks that are the first step toward the full negotiations that both sides want and need," Clinton said.

"It exposes daylight between Israel and the United States that others in the region could hope to exploit. And it undermines America's unique ability to play a role -- an essential role, I might add -- in the peace process.

Before his departure for Washington, Netanyahu appeared defiant on settlements, saying Israel would not stop Jewish settlement construction in areas around East Jerusalem occupied by Israel in 1967.

Netanyahu will address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference on Monday before meeting Obama at the White House on Tuesday.

Clinton said on Monday the United States still regarded continued Jewish settlements as illegitimate.

U.S. envoy George Mitchell urged "a period of calm and quiet" after meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the Jordanian capital Amman on Monday.

Along with the settlement dispute, growing violence of Israeli troops in the occupied West Bank -- where Israeli forces have killed four Palestinians in two days -- has deepened the gloom surrounding Mitchell's peace efforts.

Reuters

Güncelleme Tarihi: 23 Mart 2010, 01:04
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