Clinton: Israel's Building Plans Imperil Peace

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated that the U.S. is committed to Israel's security. But in a speech to a pro-Israel lobby, she also repeated U.S. concerns about Israeli building projects on land also claimed by the Palestinians, which she said undermine U.S. peace efforts.

In a speech to the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reassured the thousands gathered in Washington on Monday that the U.S. is committed to Israel's security.

But she also repeated U.S. concerns about Israeli building projects on land that the Palestinians hope will be part of their future state. Clinton said such actions undermine U.S. efforts to promote peace.

The Obama administration has been trying to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Speaking at AIPAC's annual policy conference, Clinton said that Israel is endangering the peace process by announcing new construction in east Jerusalem, in a part of the city that Palestinians claim as their future capital.

"It is our devotion to this outcome — two states for two peoples, secure and at peace — that led us to condemn the announcement of plans for new construction in east Jerusalem," Clinton said.

"This was not ... a judgment on the final status of Jerusalem, which is an issue to be settled at the negotiating table. This is about getting to the table, creating and protecting an atmosphere of trust around it — and staying there until the job is finally done," she said.

Her statement that the Obama administration's "commitment to Israel's security and Israel's future is rock solid, unwavering, enduring and forever" received rousing applause.

Those were reassuring words for Jacob Buksbaum and his wife, Lisa, who came from New York to attend the conference. They had been worried about the Obama administration's very public criticism of Israel.

"I think they are moving beyond it, and I think they are giving it an effective public cover. And whatever happens, it will be done in private with [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and Obama," Jacob Buksbaum said.

Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with Obama on Tuesday at the White House. The Israeli prime minister has already made clear that Israel has no intention of halting construction projects in Jerusalem.

Last year, he announced a partial moratorium on settlement building in the occupied West Bank. Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz said that moratorium never covered Jerusalem, and he said that fact was missing from Clinton’s speech, which he otherwise liked.

"What she failed to say, which is very important, is that the United States made an agreement with Israel under which Israel agreed not to stop building in east Jerusalem, and Hillary Clinton and President Obama praised Netanyahu for an agreement which did not include Jerusalem," Dershowitz told NPR.

Political theater abounded at the conference. Dershowitz drew a crowd when he got in a heated debate with a representative of J Street, a pro-Israel lobby that supports the Obama administration's tough line on settlements.

Outside the Washington convention center, a few protesters from the advocacy group Avaaz wore apartment buildings made of cardboard with signs that read: "Build settlements, wreck peace." The group's spokesman, Ben Wikler, says most Americans support Israel, support peace and support President Obama on peace in Israel.

"Every time a settlement goes up," he adds, "the hopes for peace go down."

Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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