Last night, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy Seventh Annual Forum in Washington, D.C. The Secretary said:
"...I want to offer the deepest condolences of the American people for the lives lost in the recent fires in Northern Israel. Israelis are always among the first to lend a hand when an emergency strikes anywhere in the world. So when the fires began to burn, people and nations stepped up and offered help. It was remarkable to watch. Turkey sent planes; Egypt and Jordan donated chemicals and equipment; the Palestinian Authority dispatched firefighters and their trucks; and the United States was also part of the effort deploying expert firefighters, C-130 cargo planes, and thousands of gallons of chemicals and suppressants. It was testament once again to the deep and enduring bonds that unite our two countries, to the partnership between our governments, and the friendship between our people.
"The United States will always be there when Israel is threatened. We say it often, but it bears repeating: America's commitment to Israel's security and its future is rock solid and unwavering, and that will not change. From our first days in office, the Obama Administration has reaffirmed this commitment. For me and for President Obama, this is not simply a policy position. It is also a deeply held personal conviction.
"Over the last two years under President Obama's leadership, the United States has expanded our cooperation with Israel and focused in particular on helping Israel meet the most consequential threats to its future as a secure and democratic Jewish state. Our security relationship has grown broader, deeper, and more intense than ever before. And we have not just worked to maintain Israel's qualitative military edge. We have increased it through new advances like the Iron Dome, a short-range rocket defense system that will help protect Israeli homes and cities. And our military continues to work closely with the IDF through exchanges, training, and joint exercises.
"For Israel and for the region, there may be no greater strategic threat than the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. We just heard my husband speaking to that. And let me restate clearly: The United States is determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. And along with our international partners, we have implemented tough new sanctions whose bite is being felt in Tehran. Iran's leaders face a clear choice, one of those tough choices that Strobe mentioned as the theme of this forum: Meet your international responsibilities or face continued isolation and consequences.
"We have also stepped up efforts to block the transfer of dangerous weapons and financing to terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. But Iran and its proxies are not the only threat to regional stability or to Israel's long-term security. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and between Israel and Arab neighbors is a source of tension and an obstacle to prosperity and opportunity for all the people of the region. It denies the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people and it poses a threat to Israel's future security. It is at odds also with the interests of the United States.
"I know that improvements in security and growing prosperity have convinced some that this conflict can be waited out or largely ignored. This view is wrong and it is dangerous. The long-term population trends that result from the occupation are endangering the Zionist vision of a Jewish and democratic state in the historic homeland of the Jewish people. Israelis should not have to choose between preserving both elements of their dream. But that day is approaching.
"At the same time, the ever-evolving technology of war, especially the expanding reach of the rockets amassed on Israel's borders means that it will be increasingly difficult to guarantee the security of Israeli families throughout the country without implementing peace agreements that answer these threats.
"Continuing conflict also strengthens the hands of extremists and rejectionists across the region while sapping the support of those open to coexistence and cooperation. Radicalization of the region's young people and growing support for violent ideologies undermine the stability and prosperity of the Middle East. The United States looks at these trends. We reflect on our deep and unwavering support of the state of Israel and we conclude without a shadow of a doubt that ending this conflict once and for all and achieving a comprehensive regional peace is imperative for safeguarding Israelis' future.
"We also look at our friends the Palestinians, and we remember the painful history of a people who have never had a state of their own, and we are renewed in our determination to help them finally realize their legitimate aspirations. The lack of peace and the occupation that began in 1967 continue to deprive the Palestinian people of dignity and self-determination. This is unacceptable, and, ultimately, it too is unsustainable.
"So for both Israelis and Palestinians and, indeed, for all the people of the region, it is in their interest to end this conflict and bring a just, lasting, and comprehensive peace to the Middle East based on two states for two peoples.
"For two years, you have heard me and others emphasize again and again that negotiations between the parties is the only path that will succeed in securing their respective aspirations; for the Israelis, security and recognition; for the Palestinians, an independent, viable sovereign state of their own. This remains true today. There is no alternative other than reaching mutual agreement. The stakes are too high, the pain too deep, and the issues to complex for any other approach.
"Now, it is no secret that the parties have a long way to go and that they have not yet made the difficult decisions that peace requires. And like many of you, I regret that we have not gotten farther faster in our recent efforts. That is why yesterday and today I met with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators and underscored our seriousness about moving forward with refocused goals and expectations.
"It is time to grapple with the core issues of the conflict on borders and security; settlements, water and refugees; and on Jerusalem itself. And starting with my meetings this week, that is exactly what we are doing. We will also deepen our strong commitment to supporting the state-building work of the Palestinian Authority and continue to urge the states of the region to develop the content of the Arab Peace Initiative and to work toward implementing its vision.
"Over recent months, Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas have met face to face multiple times. I have been privileged to be present during their meetings in Sharm el-Sheikh, in Jerusalem, and in Washington. I have also had the chance to talk with each leader privately. These were meaningful talks that yielded new clarity about the gaps that must be bridged.
"Significantly, both sides decided together to pursue a framework agreement that would establish the fundamental compromises on all permanent status issues and pave the way for a final peace treaty.
"Reaching this goal will not be easy by any means. The differences between the two sides are real and they are persistent. But the way to get there is by engaging, in good faith, with the full complexities of the core issues and by working to narrow the gaps between the two sides.
"By doing this, the parties can begin to rebuild confidence, demonstrate their seriousness, and hopefully find enough common ground on which to eventually re-launch direct negotiations and achieve that framework.
"The parties have indicated that they want the United States to continue its efforts. And in the days ahead, our discussions with both sides will be substantive two-way conversations with an eye toward making real progress in the next few months on the key questions of an eventual framework agreement. The United States will not be a passive participant. We will push the parties to lay out their positions on the core issues without delay and with real specificity. We will work to narrow the gaps asking the tough questions and expecting substantive answers. And in the context of our private conversations with the parties, we will offer our own ideas and bridging proposals when appropriate.
"We enter this phase with clear expectations of both parties. Their seriousness about achieving an agreement will be measured by their engagement on these core issues. And let me say a few words about some of the important aspects of these issues we will be discussing.
"First, on borders and security. The land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean is finite, and both sides must know exactly which parts belong to each. They must agree to a single line drawn on a map that divides Israel from Palestine and to an outcome that implements the two-state solution with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt. The Palestinian leaders must be able to show their people that the occupation will be over. Israeli leaders must be able to offer their people internationally recognized borders that protect Israel's security. And they must be able to demonstrate to their people that the compromises needed to make peace will not leave Israel vulnerable. Security arrangements must prevent any resurgence of terrorism and deal effectively with new and emerging threats. Families on both sides must feel confident in their security and be able to live free from fear.
"Second, on refugees. This is a difficult and emotional issue, but there must be a just and permanent solution that meets the needs of both sides.
"Third, on settlements. The fate of existing settlements is an issue that must be dealt with by the parties along with the other final status issues. But let me be clear: The position of the United States on settlements has not changed and will not change. Like every American administration for decades, we do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity. We believe their continued expansion is corrosive not only to peace efforts and two-state solution, but to Israel's future itself.
"And finally, on Jerusalem which is profoundly important for Jews, Muslims, and Christians everywhere. There will surely be no peace without an agreement on this, the most sensitive of all the issues. The religious interests of people of all faiths around the world must be respected and protected. We believe that through good faith negotiations, the parties should mutually agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations for both parties, for Jerusalem, and safeguard its status for people around the world.
"These core issues are woven together. Considering the larger strategic picture makes it easier to weigh the compromises that must be made on both sides and see the benefits to be gained. We are not moving forward in a vacuum."
Read the Secretary's full remarks here.