Rassegna Stampa Elezioni Israeliane 2009

Monitoraggio attraverso i media internazionali delle elezioni in Israele del Febbraio 2009

Clinton Not Optimistic About Iran-U.S. Thaw

Posted by gaetanoditommaso su 2 marzo, 2009

JERUSALEM — Expressing doubts about one of the Obama administration’s key diplomatic initiatives, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told an Arab foreign minister on Monday she did not expect Iran to respond positively to an American offer of direct negotiations.

The comments, made by Mrs. Clinton in a meeting with the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan, stole some of the attention at a conference devoted to the reconstruction of Gaza.

“We’re under no illusions; our eyes are wide open,” Mrs. Clinton said, according to a senior State Department official.

This is not the first time Mrs. Clinton has privately expressed pessimism about Tehran’s receptivity to the United States. American officials say a negative Iranian reaction could be useful because it would put Tehran on the defensive in its international dealings.

But Mrs. Clinton’s reference to it in talks with an Arab state was noteworthy because it offered an international audience an early glimpse into the calculations of the Obama administration.

Mrs. Clinton also sought to open a fresh American chapter in the Middle East, declaring to an audience of Arab and European leaders that the United States was “committed to a comprehensive peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, and we will pursue it on many fronts.”

The United States pledged more than $900 million in aid to the Palestinians, $300 million of it for humanitarian relief to Gaza. The international donors’ conference, held in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh, raised a total of $4.28 billion, according to the Egyptian hosts.

Mrs. Clinton did not signal any shifts in American policy, but the broad scope of her remarks suggested the Obama administration was open to new approaches toward an intractable problem.

“Time is of the essence,” she said. “We cannot afford more setbacks and delays, or regrets about what might have been.”

Her speech, with its expansive tone and lack of new policies, underscored the dilemma the Obama administration confronts in its early days. The White House is eager to show a new face abroad. But on particularly sensitive issues — like whether to deal with a Palestinian unity government that includes the militant group Hamas — the United States is yet not ready to shift course.

Mrs. Clinton reaffirmed that the United States would only deal with a Palestinian unity government that renounced terrorism and recognized the right of Israel to exist. That would appear to exclude Hamas, which, she noted, continues to launch rockets at Israeli towns.

The American aid money, she said, would only go to the Palestinian Authority and would have strings attached to guarantee it “does not end up in the wrong hands” – another reference to Hamas.

Some European countries are more receptive to dealing with a unity government, even if it includes Hamas. Europeans have also pressed Israel harder than the United States to open border crossings to Gaza, something it has refused to do out of a fear that it would strengthen Hamas.

After a day of meetings, European officials seemed confident the United States would increase its pressure on Israel, when Mrs. Clinton meets with Israeli leaders on Tuesday in Jerusalem.

“She will certainly make the case for that, that we are making,” said Benita Ferraro-Waldner, the European commissioner for external relations. “We are not yet satisfied with the openings.”

Egypt’s foreign minister, Aboul Gheit, said a unity government could be composed of technocrats rather than political figures, and should be acceptable to the United States and Europe.

“We expect the international community will deal with this government,” he said at a news conference.

The American aid was not the only money with strings. Arab countries donated more than $1 billion to Palestinians, but directed that the money be channeled through the Gulf Cooperation Council, a group of six states on the Persian Gulf. That angered members of the Palestinian Authority, who had previously received aid directly from their Arab neighbors.

During her meetings with Palestinian leaders in the West Bank on Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton will hear anger over Israel’s ongoing construction of Israeli settlements on occupied land there.

Nearly 300,000 Israelis live in such settlements in addition to another 250,000 in East Jerusalem, also on land captured in the 1967 war. The Palestinians hope to build their state on that land and argue that settlement building drives that goal further and further away.

Peace Now, an Israeli advocacy group that opposes settlements and monitors their building closely, issued a report on Monday alleging that tens of thousands of new settlement housing units are in the planning stage.

The report, clearly issued to coincide with Ms. Clinton’s arrival, said that some 6,000 new units have been approved and another 58,000 are awaiting approval. “If all the plans are realized,” the report said, “the number of settlers in the territories will be doubled.”

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Likud leader who is putting together the next Israeli government, may end up with a narrow right-wing coalition that favors settlement expansion.

Nonetheless, Mr. Netanyahu has said he would oppose building any new settlements, although favor expanding existing ones. A Housing Ministry spokesman, Kobi Bleich, characterized the report as alarmist, saying it confused potential building sites with actual plans.

Ethan Bronner and Tahgreed el Khodary contributed reporting.




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