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August 4, 09

NEWS / The eviction of Palestinian families and demolition of their homes by Israeli authorities in East Je

By Stephen Kaufman
Staff Writer

Washington — The eviction of Palestinian families and demolition of their homes by Israeli authorities in East Jerusalem is “deeply regrettable,” says Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who adds that such unilateral action cannot be used to prejudge the outcome of peace negotiations.

“The eviction of families and demolition of homes in East Jerusalem is not in keeping with Israeli obligations,” Clinton said August 3 in a media availability with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh in Washington. “I urge the government of Israel and the municipal officials to refrain from such provocative actions.”

She said Israel and the Palestinians have responsibilities under the 2003 road map agreement to refrain from taking actions that could make negotiations more difficult and block efforts to reach a comprehensive peace agreement. “Unilateral actions taken by either party cannot be used to prejudge the outcome of negotiations, and they will not be recognized as changing the status quo,” Clinton said.

Both sides are aware of the final-status issues that need to be negotiated, including Jerusalem, and the secretary said, “Everybody knows that neither side is going to get everything it wants.”

According to news reports, Israeli police forced more than 50 Palestinians from two families out of their homes in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood on August 2, claiming they were enforcing a ruling from the Israeli Supreme Court that said the title deeds for the properties were held by Jewish settlers.

Secretary Clinton said after years of previous negotiation efforts, both sides know the outlines of a comprehensive peace agreement.

“I was a lawyer in a prior life,” she said. “Very often people try to stake out even more strong and difficult positions going into negotiations. We understand all of that, and we intend to continue on the path that we are on, and we have a lot of support in achieving what will be a two-state solution.”

She said a decision by both sides to work in good faith and to be committed to the two-state solution, along with support from the region, the United States and other interested parties “holds out great promise.” The Obama administration believes there is now “a very strong chance” of reaching a solution, she added.

What is different in 2009, she said, is the declaration “from the first day” of the Obama administration that “this is among our very highest priorities,” as well as the existence of the 2002 Arab peace initiative that offers Israel full, normalized relations with the Arab and Muslim worlds in exchange for its withdrawal from the occupied territories and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

That initiative “has been reaffirmed … several times, so that the Arab countries are at the table, in effect, as well,” Clinton said.

Foreign Minister Judeh called for “confidence-rebuilding measures” to resurrect faith and create an improved environment for peace negotiations. He condemned the Israeli evictions in Jerusalem as being “not acceptable” and urged an end to Israeli settlement activity.

He also said, “Inflammatory rhetoric on both sides of the divide is equally counterproductive.”

But the foreign minister said “piecemeal approaches” to peacemaking should be avoided in favor of bolder action, saying that with the 2002 Arab peace initiative, “the shape of the future Palestinian state and the parameters for comprehensive peace are quite clear.”

“Our mission, Madame Secretary, should not be to move forward to get to where we were. And our goal must rather be, this time around, to move forward to where we should have been in the late 1990s, as envisioned by the Madrid process [of 1991] and even beyond,” Judeh said.

Tags: secretary of state,


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