Clinton, lawmakers pushing for peace talks without conditions
WASHINGTON — Calls are mounting in Washington for the launch of new Israeli-Palestinian talks.
After meeting Jan. 8 with Jordanian and Egyptian officials in Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she was calling for talks without preconditions focused on all the final-status issues, including not only borders but also Jerusalem, refugees and water rights.
Clinton’s comments came as George Mitchell, President Obama’s top Middle East negotiator, headed to the Middle East for meetings aimed at accelerating talks.
Members of a bipartisan delegation of U.S. Congress members who visited the region last week hammered home the same message.
“The more time that goes on without those negotiations and without progress taking place, the more Hamas is strengthened,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), a deputy whip, in a conference call Jan. 7 toward the end of the group’s Middle East tour.
The Palestinians are resisting returning to talks until Israel makes total its partial freeze on West Bank settlement and expands it to eastern Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to keep talks to the border issue without reference to Jerusalem or refugees, while the Palestinians want to discuss all issues.
Clinton also wants all issues on the table.
“Resolving borders resolves settlements,” she said. “Resolving Jerusalem resolves settlements.”
Wasserman Schultz said that Palestinian Authority strides in transparent government and security created the basis for immediate peacemaking.
“I was really incredibly impressed with the progress when we went to Ramallah that has occurred within the Palestinian Authority,” she said. “The economic and security progress that has gone on there has made it a lot more likely and puts the Palestinian Authority in a position where they are a more prepared negotiating partner.”
Wasserman Schultz’s assessment was echoed by others in the group, which included Reps. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), Jim Matheson (D-Utah), Adrian Smith (R-Neb.), Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.).
PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad “really has made consistent and clear strides cleaning up the government and introducing infrastructure that will help the West Bank be a successful state,” Lummis said.