Clinton in the West Bank

The Washington Post reported that Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu “on Sunday rejected a total freeze but suggested some flexibility on the issue. He said Israel could not ‘freeze the lives, of residents but would also not begin a massive construction program. Before she arrived here, Clinton told reporters traveling with her that although the United States wants Israel to extend the moratorium, there could be other agreements between the two sides that would improve the atmosphere for talks and permit them to continue. Palestinian officials, for instance, are seeking to begin the discussions by focusing on the potential borders of the two states, which would identify which settlements Israel might keep in a peace deal. Israeli officials want Palestinian recognition of Israel as a ‘Jewish homeland’. ‘There is no prospect for success in the absence of direct negotiations’, Clinton said. ‘For me, this is a simple choice: no negotiations, no security, no state’. The administration had hoped that direct talks would have begun when the construction moratorium was announced, making it harder to let the ban lapse. Now U.S. officials are trying to keep the talks going past the initial phase, making the settlement issue less of a factor in whether the talks continue. Clinton said Monday that the ‘time is ripe’ for the two sides to make a deal”. This is posted here.

Clinton is due to visit Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in Ramallah, then meet again with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, after which she heads for Amman for discussions with King Abdullah II. Will she drive through the Allenby Bridge? [I’ve seen Tony Blair do it, zipping through as if it were a normal place, an open road, a highway…]

UPDATE: Ma’an News Agency is reporting here that “Officials said Israeli crews would be performing maintenance on the Israeli-controlled portion of the border, which would be closed between 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. [But] Sources told Ma’an that the closure was related to the passage of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton through the passage on her way to meet Jordan’s King”…

She still won’t be able to see what the real problems are…

UPDATE TWO: The AP reported later Thursday that Abbas told journalists at the Muqata’a, the presidential headquarters in Ramallah, that “We all know there is no alternative to peace through negotiations, so we have no alternative other than to continue these efforts” … while “Egypt’s leader said in a radio interview that he urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to extend the [settlement] restrictions for three more months to give peacemaking a chance. Mubarak said he told Netanyahu the delay could give the two sides time to draft their future borders. After those lines are agreed, Mubarak reasoned, Israel can build within its future borders and the Palestinians within theirs”. This news report is posted here.

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