Clinton calls Israeli settlement concessions 'unprecedented'
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday at a press conference in Jerusalem that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's statement on limiting construction in the settlements was "unprecedented."
A senior government source in Jerusalem said Clinton told the prime minister, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak that she had demanded that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas remove his preconditions and renew talks immediately.
Netanyahu said Israel would not build new settlements or break additional ground, and would act with restraint with regard to construction - which would continue to allow for normal life in the settlements.
Clinton was in Israel for a five-hour visit last night after meeting with Abbas in Abu Dhabi.
In an apparent first confirmation that the American administration accepts Israel's position on renewing talks with the Palestinians without preconditions, Clinton said: "What the prime minister has offered in specifics on restraints on a policy of settlements ... is unprecedented in the context of prior to negotiations."
She supported Netanyahu's statement that the Palestinian demand for a construction freeze in the settlements before talks resume is new.
A government source in Jerusalem said that during her talks Clinton called for additional concessions to support Abbas.
Lieberman told Clinton he had recommended to Netanyahu that he not begin talks with the PA until the latter withdrew its lawsuits against Israel in world courts and stopped promoting the Goldstone report. Barak told Clinton that lack of progress in talks would lead to a bi-national state and the strengthening of Hamas.
Clinton told Abbas yesterday that the United States supported renewed talks with a partial construction freeze, allowing construction of 3,000 housing units and construction of public buildings. She said Washington wanted to see the establishment of a Palestinian state within 24 months.
However, Abbas told Clinton yesterday that he rejected the proposal by American special envoy George Mitchell for a compromise with Israel on construction, adding that such an agreement would lead to widespread protest against him.