By Bridget Johnson - 03/22/10 02:48 PM EDT
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton continued the administration's denouncement of
construction in East Jerusalem while likening the peace process to Jews
following Moses out of Egypt in addressing the AIPAC conference on
Clinton was the White House's representative to American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference. Vice President Joe Biden was sent last year, receiving a warm reception from the crowd, but Clinton's address came after a serious diplomatic clash between Israel and the U.S. after new settlement construction was approved during Biden's visit to the region.
"We objected to this announcement beecause we are committed to Israel and its security," she said. "...Because we do not want to see the progress that has been made in any way in danger."
Clinton received light applause at parts of her speech, such as when she condemned the recent ceremony in which the Palestinian government named a square in Ramallah after Dalal Mughrabi, a Fatah woman who in 1978 led an operation in which 37 Israeli civilians and an American photographer were killed. Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) received a standing ovation Sunday for likewise condemning the honor.
Clinton, in obvious reference to both that incident and the tiff with Israel over settlements, said parties should "refrain from unilateral statements and actions that undermine talks."
She pushed a two-state solution with direct negotiations that the White House hopes results from envoy George Mitchell's proximity talks, and said the U.S. would play an "active and sustained role" in the talks that should include resolutions on borders, refugees and Jerusalem.
"The United States knows we cannot force a soluion," she said. "We cannot command or ordain an outcome."
Clinton, while demanding that Hamas "renounce violence, recognize Israel and abide by previous signed agreements," said neither military action nor restricting access to the Gaza Strip had stemmed the threat against Israel.
"A two-state solution is the only viable path for Israel to remain both a true democracy and a Jewish state," she said. "...The status quo strengthens the rejectionists. All of our regional challenges... become harder if the rejectionists grow in power and influence."
"...Only by choosing a new path can Israel make the progress it deserves," she added. "Only by having a partner willing to work with them will the Palestinians be able to see the same future."
Clinton further went into a story about Jews following Moses into the Promised Land, adding, "This generation must also take up the challenge to do what seems too dangerous, too hard."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be addressing the AIPAC dinner Monday night, along with Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Clinton said that she would be meeting with Netanyahu Monday afternoon, and President Barack Obama would meet with Netanyahu on Tuesday.
"We will follow up on these discussions and seek a common understanding about the way forward," Clinton said, urging that the two sides seek "a future free from the shackles of conflict."