Washington hopes the new, expanded coalition will enable Israel to take steps to advance peace talks with the Palestinians, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a phone call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Over the past few years, Netanyahu has repeatedly claimed that he couldn’t make certain gestures toward the Palestinians for fear that it would topple his government, which relied on smaller parties to his right.
The Prime Minister’s Office published a laconic press statement about the conversation, which said merely that Clinton had congratulated Netanyahu on setting up the unity government. But sources in the U.S. State Department said the conversation went beyond polite congratulations.
According to a senior State Department official, Clinton told Netanyahu that she had been briefed on the main points of his coalition agreement with Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz, and she welcomed the clause in which they pledged that the government would “advance a responsible peace process.” She said the United States is ready to support both sides in an effort to achieve a two-state solution.
Another senior American official said Clinton told Netanyahu that she is interested in hearing what he intends to do about the peace process now that Kadima has joined his government. In particular, she wanted to know when Netanyahu intends to reply to a letter from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The exchange of letters, she added, must lead to a resumption of continuous talks between Israeli and Palestinian representatives.
For more, go to Haaretz.com