U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Jerusalem on Tuesday during Israel’s conflict in Gaza that Washington’s commitment to the Jewish state’s security remains “rock solid.”
But Clinton also stressed that Washington expected a quick de-escalation to a seven-day conflict that has shaken the already volatile region, and now threatens to spill over into an all-out ground war.
“The American commitment to Israel’s security is rock solid and unwavering,” Clinton said at a brief press appearance with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the two entered closed-door talks.
“That is why we believe it is essential to de-escalate the situation” in the Palestinian territory, said Clinton, who welcomed Egyptian mediation efforts.
Clinton spoke only moments into a regional tour that will take her Wednesday to the West Bank city of Ramallah, and on to Cairo for talks with Egypt’s President Mohammed Mursi.
Her arrival in Jerusalem coincided with furious speculation that a Gaza truce announcement by the two sides was in the works and could come as early as late Tuesday.
But Clinton made no reference to an agreement, and indicated that she expected negotiations to stretch over several days.
“In these days ahead, the United States will work with our partners here in Israel and across the region for an outcome that bolsters security for the peace of Israel, improves conditions for the people of Gaza and moves toward a comprehensive peace for all people of the region,” said Clinton.
She also reaffirmed Washington’s message that much of the onus rested on a Hamas leadership which rules Gaza but is officially branded a terrorist network by the United States.
“The rocket attacks from terrorist organizations inside Gaza on these (Israeli) cities and towns must end and a broader calm restored,” said Clinton.
“The goal must be a durable outcome that promotes regional stability and advances the security and legitimate aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians alike.”
Netanyahu for his part said he was ready to agree to a “long-term solution” as long as the rocket attacks from Gaza stopped.
“If there’s a possibility of achieving a long-term solution for this problem by diplomatic means, we prefer it. But if not, I’m sure you understand that Israel will have to take every action necessary to defend its people,” he said.
U.S. blocks U.N. action on conflict
Meanwhile, the United States on Tuesday blocked a U.N. Security Council statement condemning the escalating conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, setting the scene for a possible showdown between Washington and Russia on the issue.
The United States opposed the statement - which had to be approved by consensus - because it “failed to address the root cause,” missile attacks by Hamas - of the escalation in fighting between Israel and Hamas fighters in Gaza, said Erin Pelton, spokeswoman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations.
Israel said it was these Hamas rocket attacks that prompted its major offensive against the fighters in Gaza on Wednesday.
“We made clear that we would measure any action by the Security Council based on whether it supported the ongoing diplomacy toward de-escalation of violence and a durable outcome that ends the rocket attacks on Israeli cities,” Pelton said.
“By failing to call for the immediate and permanent halt to rocket launches from Gaza into Israel, this press statement failed to contribute constructively to those goals,” she said. “As such, we could not agree to this statement.”
Russia said on Monday that if the 15-member council could not agree on a statement then it would put a resolution - a stronger move by the council than a statement - to a vote later on Tuesday to call for an end to the violence and show support for regional and international efforts to broker peace.
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said later on Tuesday his resolution had been put on hold amid negotiations on a truce between Israel and Hamas, but if a ceasefire was not reached he might still put it to a vote.
“I think we should have said something (on the conflict) a long time ago,” Churkin said. “We will assess the situation (on Wednesday morning).” The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to meet to discuss the conflict on Wednesday afternoon.