Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Clinton Says U.S. Must Not ‘Give Up’ on Mideast Peace

From The New York Times, January 14, 2009, by DAVID STOUT:

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State-designate Hillary Rodham Clinton signaled on Tuesday that the United States would try to increase its diplomatic contacts with Iran and Syria, and she declared that the vision of Israelis and Palestinians co-existing in peace and prosperity must not be abandoned.

Despite the “seemingly intractable problems” in the Middle East, “we cannot give up on peace,” Senator Clinton said before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is considering whether to confirm her selection as President-elect Barack Obama’s top diplomat.
Mrs. Clinton said America must recognize Israel’s right to defend itself from Hamas rockets but cannot ignore the suffering of Palestinians citizens, as well as Israelis. “Real security for Israel, normal and positive relations with its neighbors” as well as genuine security for Palestinians must continue to be America’s ideal, she said.

The 61-year-old senator, who was warmly received notwithstanding pointed remarks from the committee’s leading Republican about her husband’s fund-raising activities, acknowledged that lasting peace in the Middle East, and the idea of Israel and a Palestinian state living side by side, are dreams that have been elusive.

Noting that “many presidents, including my husband,” have spent years trying to achieve peace in the Middle East, Mrs. Clinton said: “We cannot give up on peace. The president-elect and I understand and are deeply sympathetic to Israel’s desire to defend itself under the current conditions and to be free of shelling by Hamas rockets.

“However,” she went on, “we have also been reminded of the tragic humanitarian costs of conflict in the Middle East and paid by the suffering of Palestinian and Israeli civilians. This must only increase our determination to seek a just and lasting peace agreement that brings real security to Israel, normal and positive relations with its neighbors; independence, economic progress and security to the Palestinians in their own state.”

As for Iran and Syria, Mrs. Clinton said the United States must continue to press them to “abandon their irresponsible behavior” in the region. When the committee chairman, Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, observed that he thought it “counterproductive and almost incomprehensible” that Washington was not more engaged with Iran and Syria, Mrs. Clinton said — as President-elect Obama has repeatedly done — that the United States has “one president at a time.”

“We are not taking any option off the table at all,” Mrs. Clinton said of Iran. But she said the Obama administration would follow “a new, perhaps different approach,” especially to keep Iran from becoming a full-fledged nuclear power.

“We have no illusions,” the senator said of the difficulties of dealing with Tehran’s leaders. “It is going to be United States policy to pursue diplomacy with all its multitudinous tools” to thwart Iran’s nuclear aspirations, she said....
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