SECRETARY CLINTON: Now, I have, as many of you -- and I look around and see people who have been following this for decades -- have been asked repeatedly -- I look (inaudible) --have been asked repeatedly what are the prospects for success, how can we evaluate? And I can only say this: that there is no prospect for success in the absence of direct negotiations; there is absolutely no way that the legitimate needs of Israel can be satisfied for the long term, nor that the aspirations of the Palestinians can be achieved.
So for me, it is a question of: how can we work toward making these direct negotiations break through the clear and difficult obstacles that stand in the way toward achieving a comprehensive peace? And the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are part of what has to happen in the region that would include an agreement between Syria and Israel, and Lebanon and Israel. But we have to begin and we felt encouraged by the -- both the words and the body language and the commitments made by the two leaders when we met with them in Washington.
I am completely aware of all the challenges that we confront, but I have said, and I will repeat, that I think that the time is right for a lot of reasons for these two leaders and their people to work diligently and productively toward a resolution. So when we meet in Egypt tomorrow we will be having individual bilateral meetings, including with President Mubarak, and we will have then a trilateral meeting among the Palestinians, Israelis, and the U.S. The next day, we will continue those meetings in Jerusalem and we will push the parties to come to grips with a lot of the issues that have to be sorted out.
But for me, this is a simple choice: no negotiations, no security, no state. Negotiations at least hold out the potential for reaching the agreement that both parties have pledged that they wish to pursue despite the difficulties that they face from both within and without.
So with that, let me --
QUESTION: Would you take one on the looming expiration of the settlement moratorium? Nothing that Prime Minister Netanyahu or his aides have said has suggested that he’s willing to extend it, and as you’re well aware, President Abbas has taken the position that if it is not extended, he may walk out of the talks. The President on Friday seemed to suggest that there might be a way for Netanyahu to extend it if Abbas might do some things. Do you see any scintilla of evidence that Netanyahu is interested in extending it such as it is?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Arshad, as the President said on Friday, we believe that the moratorium should be extended.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) a little louder, please, (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: As the President said on Friday, the United States believes that the moratorium should be extended. At the same time, we recognize that an agreement that could be forged between the Israelis and the Palestinians on actions that would be taken by both sides that would enable the negotiations to continue is in the best interests of both sides. This has to be understood as an effort by both the prime minister and the president to get over a hurdle posed by the expiration of the original moratorium in order to continue negotiations that hold out the promise of resolving all the core issues.
And some of you may remember that when I pushed for and then went and stood with Netanyahu on behalf of the moratorium, it was summarily criticized roundly and consistently by everyone in the region. And I took my fair share of that criticism for saying what happened to be the fact that it was an unprecedented decision by an Israeli government. And now, we’re told that negotiations can’t continue unless something that was viewed as being inadequate continues as well.
So I think there’s a lot of ways to get to the goal. Remember, the goal is to work toward agreement on core issues like borders and territories that would, if agreed upon, eliminate the debate about settlements, because some areas would be inside Israel and some areas would not be inside Israel. So I think that there are obligations on both sides to ensure that these negotiations continue, and we’re going to be discussing that in depth with both of them over the next two days.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, what are you asking the Palestinians to do in terms of a gesture towards the Israelis for them to be encouraged to perhaps limit settlement construction?
And a second question, if I may. You’ve been involved in this from far or close for a long time. We’ve all watched it for decades as well. There have been so many stumbling blocks before. What is it that is new that you may be thinking about that could help move out of the deadlock that we’re seeing? Is there anything creative; is there anything new that you’re putting on the table that will make a difference this time?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Kim, let me say this: I don’t want to get into the positions that either side may be looking at or considering. That is for them to do. They are the only ones that can agree to continue in the negotiations. And our goal has been to help create an atmosphere that is conducive to negotiations and to request and encourage each party not to do anything that would interfere with the continuity of those negotiations. So I think that in the next two days, there will be a lot that will be discussed by both sides about what they need or what they can offer to keep going.
But I would answer your second question by saying I think if you listen to both leaders, they recognize that time is not on either of their sides. The prime minister has made it clear that the security challenges that Israel faces because of advanced technology and because of state-sponsored support for Hezbollah and Hamas on both of Israel’s borders poses increasing risks to Israel that have to be addressed.
I think on the side of the president, the Palestinians have been committed to a two-state solution and seeking it for a few decades now. But they have to prove that you can get a state through negotiations as opposed to violent resistance. So it does seem to me that for both of these men, this is a moment of great opportunity as well as challenge, and what we are attempting to do is to encourage them to pursue this chance for peace this year, because neither of them can predict the consequences if this effort does not continue forward.