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World News

Highlights of Clinton's AIPAC speech on Israel

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday gave a major address on U.S.-Israel relations, saying Israel’s policy of expanding Jewish settlements was an impediment to Middle East peace.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waves as she arrives to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee annual policy conference in Washington, March 22, 2010. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The following are highlights from the text of Clinton’s speech to AIPAC, an influential pro-Israel lobby group.

U.S.-ISRAEL RELATIONS

“Given the shared challenges we face, the relationship between the United States and Israel has never been more important ... And we firmly believe that when we strengthen Israel’s security, we strengthen America’s security.”

“For President Obama, for me, and for this entire administration, our commitment to Israel’s security and Israel’s future is rock solid.”

“Guaranteeing Israel’s security is more than a policy position for me. It is a personal commitment that will never waiver.”

“Under President Obama’s leadership, we have reinvigorated defence consultations, redoubled our efforts to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge, and provided nearly $3 billion in annual military assistance. In fact, that assistance increased in 2010 and we have requested another increase for 2011.”

ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN RELATIONS

“The status quo is unsustainable for all sides. It promises only more violence and unrealized aspirations.”

“It is true that heightened security measures have reduced the number of suicide bombings and given some in Israel the hope that the status quo could be sustained. But the dynamics of demography, ideology and technology make this impossible.”

“The way forward is clear: two states for two peoples living side by side in peace and security, with peace between Israel and Syria, and Israel and Lebanon, and normal relations between Israel and all the Arab states.”

“These proximity talks are a hopeful first step, and they should be serious and substantive. Ultimately, of course, it will take direct negotiations to work through all the issues and end the conflict.”

“We are making progress and we are working hard to keep the proximity talks moving ahead.”

ISRAELI SETTLEMENTS

“Like every administration for decades, (we) underscored that the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. As Israel’s friend, it is our responsibility to give credit when it is due and to tell the truth when it is needed.”

“The United States recognizes that Jerusalem is a deeply important issue for Israelis and Palestinians, and for Jews, Muslims, and Christians. We believe that through good faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem, and safeguards its status for people around the world.”

“New construction in East Jerusalem or the West Bank undermines mutual trust and endangers the proximity talks that are the first step toward the full negotiations that both sides want and need. It exposes daylight between Israel and the United States that others in the region could hope to exploit. And it undermines America’s unique ability to play a role -- an essential role, I might add -- in the peace process. Our credibility in this process depends in part on our willingness to praise both sides when they are courageous.”

IRAN

“For Israel, there is no greater strategic threat than the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. Elements in Iran’s government have become a menace, both to their own people and in the region. Iran’s president foments anti-Semitism, denies the Holocaust, and threatens to destroy Israel.”

“In addition to threatening Israel, a nuclear-armed Iran would embolden its terrorist clientele and would spark an arms race that could destabilize the region. This is unacceptable.”

“There is growing international consensus on taking steps to pressure Iran’s leaders to change course. Europe is in agreement. Russia has moved in this direction. And although there is still work to be done, China has said it supports the dual track approach of applying pressure if engagement does not produce results.”

“We are working with our partners in the United Nations on new Security Council sanctions that will show Iran’s leaders that there are real consequences for their intransigence ... Our aim is not incremental sanctions but sanctions that will bite.”

“It is taking time to produce these sanctions, and we believe that time is a worthwhile investment for winning the broadest possible support for our efforts. But we will not compromise our commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring these weapons.”

Editing by Bill Trott

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