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November 11, 2010 (KATAKAMI / HAARETZ) — PM vows commitment to U.S.-sponsored negotiations despite plans for new Jewish housing in West Bank.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday he was “serious” about talks with the Palestinians as he met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton amid an impasse which threatens to scuttle the U.S.-backed peace negotiations.
“We’ll be talking about how to resume and continue this process to get a historic agreement with peace and security between us and the Palestinians,” Netanyahu said as he began a meeting with Clinton in New York.
“We also hope to broaden it to many other Arab countries … we are quite serious about doing it and we want to get on with it.”
Thursday’s meeting follows Israel’s decision to proceed with a new housing project in part of the West Bank that it annexed to Jerusalem 43 years ago, underscoring Palestinian fears that Netanyahu’s government will push ahead with settlements regardless of the impact on the peace process.
Clinton, who on Wednesday said the Israeli decision on settlement building was counterproductive, said she still believed that both Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas were serious about the talks.
“The prime minister and President Abbas are both very committed to a two-state solution. And we are going to find a way forward,” she said.
Israeli officials say Netanyahu intends to discuss with Clinton the need for forging broad U.S.-Israeli understandings on Israel’s security needs in any eventual peace agreement in light of enormous security challenges expected in the coming decade.
“The chances of reaching a peace agreement will be improved significantly by achieving comprehensive security understandings between Israel and the United States,” Netanyahu said.
Israel wants a long-term military presence in the Jordan Valley along the eastern border of a future Palestinian state as well as financial help to pay for security arrangements that would be necessary if a peace deal is achieved.
The New York meeting comes as the United States works to revive talks that began in Washington on September 2 but were suspended by the Palestinians three weeks later when Netanyahu refused to extend a 10-month limited building freeze in West Bank settlements.
Netanyahu, whose governing coalition is dominated by pro-settler parties, has so far resisted calls for a freeze on settlement construction. But U.S. officials say they still hope to find a formula to revive the talks, which U.S. President Barack Obama has said could yield a deal within a year to set up an independent Palestinian state.
With the peace process in limbo, the Palestinians have stepped up calls for the international community to move ahead and recognize Palestinian statehood now – a move the United States fears could further complicate the situation.(*)