Friday, April 24, 2009

Clinton Reinforces Iran-Settlements Linkage

Secretary of State Clinton reinforces that the Obama administration will link any assistance on Iran with the issue of illegal Israeli settlements:

Progress on establishing a Palestinian state must go "hand-in-hand" with efforts to stem Iranian influence in the Middle East, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said yesterday, implicitly rejecting the emerging position of the new Israeli government.

Aides to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said this week that the Israeli government will not move ahead on the core issues of peace talks with the Palestinians until it sees progress in U.S. efforts to stop Iran's suspected pursuit of a nuclear weapon and limit Tehran's rising influence in the region. Netanyahu, who is skeptical of efforts to create a Palestinian state, plans to visit Washington next month; aides said he was preparing to outline his emerging policy to President Obama.

Asked about those comments during an appearance before a panel of the House Appropriations Committee, Clinton said she did not want to "prejudge the Israeli position until we've had face-to-face talks." But she then cautioned that Israel was unlikely to gain support for thwarting Iran unless there were visible efforts to achieve Palestinian statehood.

"For Israel to get the kind of strong support it's looking for vis-a-vis Iran it can't stay on the sideline with respect to the Palestinian and the peace efforts, that they go hand-in-hand," Clinton said.

That's about as clear as a message can get. Netanyahu has his own message of course, which is that there will be no progress on settlements until the Obama administration moves on Iran, and that the idea of a Palestinian state is dead in the water. The meeting between Obama and Netanyahu next month should be...interesting.

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