Monday, November 2, 2009

Clinton: Israel must do more on settlement issue, but Israel deserved praise for moving in the right direction

(Ynet).US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday moderated her praise for Israel's offer to restrain, but not stop, its building of settlements in Palestinian areas.

She said it falls short of US expectations but would have a "significant and meaningful effect" on limiting the growth of Jewish settlements on land the Palestinians want for their own state.

"The Israelis have responded to the call of the US, the Palestinians and the Arab world to stop settlement activity by expressing a willingness to restrain settlement activity," she told reporters in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh.

"This offer falls far short of what our preference would be but if it is acted upon it will be an unprecedented restriction on settlements and would have a significant and meaningful effect on restraining their growth."

On Saturday her praise of Israel's offer to restrict its settlement activity drew widespread criticism from Arab nations who interpreted it as a softening of the US position on settlements, which stand in the way of a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

During a photo-taking session with her Moroccan counterpart, Clinton was asked by a reporter about the Arab reaction, and she responded by reading from a written statement that appeared designed to counter the skepticism about the Obama administration's views on settlements.

"Successive American administrations of both parties have opposed Israel's settlement policy," she said. "That is absolutely a fact, and the Obama administration's position on settlements is clear, unequivocal and it has not changed. As the president has said on many occasions, the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements."

She also called on the Israelis to do more to improve "movement and access" for Palestinians and on Israeli security arrangements.

She added, however that Israel deserved praise for moving in the right direction.