Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. will use all elements of American power to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
“We all prefer a diplomatic resolution, and Iran’s leaders still have the opportunity to make the right decision,” Clinton told reporters last night in Jerusalem. “The choice is ultimately Iran’s to make. Our own choice is clear: We will use all elements of American power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
Clinton departed Israel for Washington today after a nine-country, 12-day trip. She met with Israeli leaders on issues including Iran, upheaval in the Arab world, the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the political transition in Egypt, where she spent a day and a half before coming to Jerusalem.
Relations between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been strained over matters including the response to Iran’s nuclear work. Speaking yesterday in Jerusalem at a press conference with Clinton, President Shimon Peres said Israel will do whatever it can to prevent Iran from “endangering the freedom of other people, from endangering the lives of other people.”
The Obama administration has urged Israel to refrain from a threatened military attack on Iran to see if negotiations and economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. and its European allies will work. The proposals Iran has made to date have been “non-starters,” Clinton said yesterday. Iran says its program is solely for civilian use.
Clinton is the third U.S. official to come through Jerusalem in the last week, following White House National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is planning to visit within weeks.
Clinton’s meetings also had U.S. election implications. She was here two weeks before a scheduled visit by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Netanyahu and Romney have known each other for years, having both worked as advisers at Boston Consulting Group in the 1970s.
Israel faces challenges beyond Iran as unrest and change sweep through the Mideast. Syria is 16 months into a bloody uprising that has claimed at least 10,000 lives, while Egypt’s transition to democracy has been marred by violence and a political struggle between Islamists and the military. The Israeli-Palestinian peace process has been stalled since September 2010.
“We’re living in a time of unprecedented change, a lot of challenges for us both,” Clinton told Netanyahu before the two sat down for a working dinner. “We will continue to consult closely as we have on an almost daily basis between our two governments to chart the best way forward.”
Before the dinner, Netanyahu said he had talked to Clinton about “how turbulent and how swiftly changing the world is, and our part of the world in particular.” They were planning to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and efforts “to make sure that Iran not achieve its ambition with nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said.
Clinton flew in from Egypt, where she urged Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the military council, and newly elected President Mohamed Mursi to honor the country’s 33-year-old peace treaty with Israel.
Clinton said her message to Egyptian leaders, publicly and privately, was that the world expects them to “play a constructive, leading role in advancing regional peace and security, in particular by upholding the peace treaty with Israel.”
The U.S., Israel and Egypt all have a stake in the treaty, said Clinton, who described it as “the backbone” of regional stability for more than three decades. Egypt and Israel fought four wars from 1948 to 1973.
Israeli Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom told Army Radio yesterday that “the rise of President Mursi to power has aroused great concern.”
In his remarks to Clinton before their dinner, Netanyahu said the issue “is something that is uppermost in both our minds, and I appreciate the efforts of your investment to this end.”
Since being sworn in on June 30, Mursi has vowed to uphold Egypt’s international commitments, though he has also pledged support for the Palestinians in their quest for a homeland.
Clinton said she spoke to Netanyahu and others about the “alarming” situation in Syria, which borders Israel to the north. “We discussed what Israel can do, and what we can do together, to support regional security and progress,” Clinton said.
Israel’s Channel 2 reported that Clinton told Israeli officials that they need to repair their strained relationship with Turkey, because it’s interfering with efforts to maintain a united front with allies against Iran and Syria.
Clinton, who met Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Paris on July 6, also reviewed the status of the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
“We know that the status quo is unsustainable,” Clinton said. “The proof is in the security threats Israel faces: rocket attacks, terrorist threats, challenges in Gaza and nearby borders.”
Clinton met with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad during her 24-hour stop in Jerusalem. She said she focused on economic challenges, institution building, training needs and the political situation.
In response to a question at her press conference, she said convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, an American intelligence analyst, isn’t likely to be freed from his 1987 life prison sentence for passing classified information to Israel.
“I do not have any expectation that is going to change,” said Clinton, who has been asked repeatedly about Pollard during the trip.