Tags: hillary | mideast | borders | war

Hillary Sees Mideast With '67 Borders

Thursday, 04 February 2010 10:04 PM

WASHINGTON — With an inadvertent bit of shorthand, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton set off a buzz in diplomatic circlesy, and may have offered a glimpse into how the Obama administration hopes to revive the stalled peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Answering a question at a news conference about how the talks might be revived, Mrs. Clinton said, “Of course, we believe that the 1967 borders, with swaps, should be the focus of the negotiations over borders.”

Such a concept is not new. For a generation of Middle East peacemakers, Israel’s borders before the Arab-Israeli war are the obvious starting point for negotiations over the shape of a Palestinian state.

But Mrs. Clinton’s mention of them went farther than the Obama administration’s standard script on the Middle East: that the positions of Israel and the Palestinians can be reconciled. Analysts said it could augur a new American emphasis, after a frustrating year in which President Obama failed to jump-start the peace process by pressuring Israel to halt construction of settlements.

In particular, Mrs. Clinton’s reference may appeal to the Palestinians, who have long declared that the 1967 borders should be the basis for negotiations. The United States is trying desperately to persuade the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, to return to the bargaining table.

“The reason why this is important is the context,” said David Makovsky, director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “To have it formulated this way, at this sensitive juncture, gives it a kind of significance.”

A spokesman for the State Department, Philip J. Crowley, said that Mrs. Clinton had not been signaling a shift in policy. She has mentioned 1967 borders before — notably in a statement after Israel announced a 10-month moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank — though always in the context of the Palestinian position. This time, he said, she was merely speaking in shorthand.

“The secretary was reiterating our established policy on borders,” Mr. Crowley said. “She was not sending a signal.”

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Thursday, 04 February 2010 10:04 PM
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