Israel’s parliamentary vote did not end hopes for peace with the Palestinians but instead has opened up a new chance for dialogue, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton argued Tuesday.
“I actually think this election opens doors, not nails them shut,” she said, during a so-called “global townhall” meeting, in which she took questions from Internet-users and broadcasters around the world.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud-Beitenu list emerged from last week’s vote with the biggest single share of seats in the Knesset, but was weakened by a surge in support for Yair Lapid’s centrist Yesh Atid party.
Party leaders are negotiating a new coalition, which is expected to have a center-right bent, and the talks are being watched for signs as to whether it will be more or less able to revive talks with the Palestinians.
Clinton, in one her final public engagements before she steps down from US President Barack Obama’s administration, chose to strike an optimistic note.
She said: “A significant percentage of the Israeli electorate chose to express themselves by saying: ‘We need a different path than the one we have been pursuing internally and with respect to the Middle East peace process.
“So I know President Obama and my successor soon-to-be secretary of state John Kerry will pursue this and will look for every possible opening.”
As Clinton was speaking, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee gave its backing to Kerry’s appointment, clearing the way for the full Senate to confirm him as Clinton’s successor later in the day.
Last week, in his confirmation hearings, Kerry had been less upbeat about the prospects for the Middle East peace process than Clinton was on Tuesday in her farewell online global event, which she delivered from Washington.
“We need to try to find a way forward, and I happen to believe that there is a way forward,” Kerry, a decades-long veteran of successive attempts to reach an elusive deal between Israel and the Palestinians, said on Thursday.
“But I also believe that if we can’t be successful that the door, or window, or whatever you want to call it, to the possibility of a two-state solution could shut on everybody and that would be disastrous in my judgment.”
Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority have theoretically committed themselves to an internationally-mediated “road-map to peace” that would see a “two-state solution” with both living side-by-side within agreed borders.
But direct talks have foundered, with Palestinians decrying ongoing Israeli settlement building on occupied territory and Israel denouncing rocket attacks on its civilians from Gaza, which is controlled by the Hamas militia.