Clinton urges Israel to make concessions

March 23, 2010|By Paul Richter | Tribune Newspapers

WASHINGTON — - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday urged Israelis to make unpopular concessions for peace, warning that the lengthening reach of militant rockets and an expanding Israeli Arab population make it impossible to maintain the status quo.

Speaking to a powerful pro-Israel lobby, Clinton said the militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah are acquiring more sophisticated rockets that are reaching ever deeper into Israel's heartland.

Meanwhile, the fast growth of the Palestinian population in Israel means the country may not be able to continue as a democracy if it also wishes to be the Jewish homeland, she told the annual gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

In this setting, "the status quo is unsustainable for all sides," Clinton said.

The preferable path, she said, is creation of a separate state for the Palestinians. Yet the message is a tough sell for Israelis, most of whom are not optimistic at the moment about the chances for a negotiated solution to the fundamental Israel-Palestinian issues.

Clinton also sought to explain the Obama administration's condemnation of Israeli plans for a 1,600-unit housing construction project in disputed Jerusalem.

Though the announcement of the construction plans, coming during a goodwill trip to Israel by Vice President Joe Biden, enraged U.S. officials, "this was not about wounded pride," she said. Rather, such announcements shake the confidence of Palestinians, undermine the U.S. ability to help negotiate peace, and strengthen Arab enemies of peace, she said.

"We objected to this announcement because we are committed to Israel and its security," Clinton insisted.

Clinton also declared that the United States is strongly committed to Israeli security. She was planning to meet later Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will meet with President Barack Obama today.

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