Al Jazeera and agencies
17 mars 2010,
The US has affirmed its "unshakeable" and "unbreakable" bond with Israel amid the allies’ most public spat in years over Israel’s announcement that it would build 1,600 new settler homes.
"We have an absolute commitment to Israel’s security. We have a close, unshakeable bond between the United States and Israel," Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said in Washington on Tuesday.
Her comments appeared to be much softer in tone following days of tough rhetoric after Israel announced last week that it would approve construction of a Jewish housing project in East Jerusalem, infuriating the Palestinians and jeopardising newly agreed indirect talks.
Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, echoed Clinton’s conciliatory tone, saying "mature bilateral relationships can have disagreements and this is one of those disagreements - it does not break the unbreakable bond we have" with Israel.
The White House has been criticised by US legislators and pro-Israel lobby groups for its harsh stance towards Israel, which analysts said was very likely one reason for its softer tone on Tuesday.
Last week, Clinton called Israel’s announcement, during a visit by Joe Biden, the US vice-president, "an insult to the United States".
But on Tuesday, she said that the US and Israel "share common values and a commitment to a democratic future for the world, and we are both committed to a two-state solution".
Clinton said that, while the United States had expressed "dismay and disappointment" over the Israeli announcement, it was now time to move forward.
"I think we’ll see what the next days hold and we’re looking forward to Senator [George] Mitchell returning to the region and beginning the proximity talks," she said.
However, Clinton again pressed Israel to show it was serious about making peace with the Palestinians.
"We are engaged in very active consultations with the Israelis over steps that we think would demonstrate the requisite commitment to the process," Clinton said in an appearance with Ireland’s visiting foreign minister.
Mark Regev, an Israeli government spokesman, said : "Israel appreciates and values the warm words of Secretary of State Clinton about the deep ties between Israel and the U.S. and the commitment of the US to Israel’s security.
"Concerning the commitment to peace ; Israel’s government has proved over the past year its commitment to peace, in words and in deeds."
PJ Crowley, a spokesman for Clinton’s state department, told Al Jazeera that the US had "outlined some concerns to the Israelis" and was waiting for them to make a gesture in response.
"We’re waiting for a response from the Israelis, and then from that, that will tell us what level of commitment Israel has to move forward
"What we’re saying to both sides [Palestinians and Israelis] is : you have said you’re ready to move forward, now we need to have action on both sides that allow us to actually do that."
Mitchell, the US Middle East envoy, had announced just last week that Israelis and Palestinians had agreed to enter into indirect talks which the US hoped would lead to a resumption of direct negotiations suspended more than a year ago.
But the Israeli construction announcement undercut the deal just a day later and Mitchell, on Tuesday, again delayed his scheduled return to the region.
Palestinians have demanded that Israel halt the plan to build 1,600 new housing units at Ramat Shlomo, a religious Jewish settlement in an area of the West Bank annexed to Jerusalem by Israel, before the talks can begin, but Israel has balked.
Crowley said Mitchell still hoped to meet Israeli and Palestinian officials "as soon as possible", but this would not happen before Middle East peace mediators meet in Moscow on Thursday and Friday as he had originally planned.