- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday that Israel must prove it is committed to the Mideast peace process with actions, brushed aside suggestions that U.S.-Israeli relations are in crisis and reaffirmed America’s steadfast commitment to Israel’s security.

Mrs. Clinton said U.S. and Israeli officials are in intense talks about how to repair the damage caused by last week’s Israeli announcement of new Jewish housing in east Jerusalem while Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. was visiting the country. She said the goal was to restart stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

“We are engaged in very active consultations with the Israelis over steps that we think would demonstrate the requisite commitment to the process,” she told reporters at a joint State Department news conference with visiting Irish Foreign Minister Michael Martin.

“It’s been a very important effort on their part as well as ours,” Mrs. Clinton said. “We know how hard this is — this is a very difficult, complex matter — but the Obama administration is committed to a two-state solution; we are committed to a resumption of the negotiations between the parties.”

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The announcement of the approval of 1,600 new Jewish homes in east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want to be the capital of a future state, while Mr. Biden was in Israel deeply embarrassed the U.S. administration, and Mrs. Clinton has called it an insult. The uproar has led many to believe that U.S-Israeli ties may be at their lowest point in history.

Mrs. Clinton restated U.S. “dismay and disappointment” with the announcement but disputed the perception of the relationship in crisis.

“I don’t buy that,” she said. “I have been around a long time — not that long — but a long time. We have an absolute commitment to Israel’s security. We have a close, unshakable bond between the United States and Israel and between the American and Israeli people, who share common values and a commitment to a democratic future for the world.”

Mrs. Clinton said she remained confident that the U.S. special Mideast peace envoy, George Mitchell, who abruptly postponed a visit to the region this week, would return soon and begin shuttling between the Israelis and Palestinians for indirect negotiations.

“We’ll see what the next days hold, and we’re looking forward to Sen. Mitchell returning to the region and beginning the proximity talks,” she said. She added that she thought Mr. Mitchell’s “legendary patience will win the day as the process gets started again because there is just too much at stake for both the Palestinians and the Israelis.”

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