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Two-state solution, Mrs. Clinton? Not so fast

March 2, 2009

Silvan ShalomSilvan Shalom is a man to watch as right-winger Benjamin Netanyahu goes about forming a new Israeli government. Already foreign minister in the last Likud-led government (2003-06), the 50-year-old Shalom is proud of a picture in his 29th-storey office in Tel Aviv showing him meeting a beaming Barack Obama. Along with a shelf of mementos from George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Condoleezza Rice et al, he makes no secret of Israel’s close dependence on the United States. In an interview with us he called Washington “maybe our only ally in the world”. Be that as it may, he and Netanyahu are not prepared to be pressured when Hillary Clinton arrives today on her visit as secretary of state into repeating the undertaking given by successive Israeli governments to working with the Palestinian leadership to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. That, Shalom said, would be to pre-judge the outcome of negotiations. As another Netanyahu aide, Dore Gold, told us last week, the prime minister-designate wants to be sure of limitations on the sovereignty of any Palestinian state before agreeing to its existence.

To see the rest of the interview with Silvan Shalom, listen below.

As for Hillary Clinton, this was what she had to say about the Palestinian issue earlier on Monday at a conference at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt.

Six weeks after Israel called off its offensive in the Gaza Strip the conundrums for peace seem as knotty as ever.

As one senior Western diplomat with long years of service in the region said to me the other day: “I am a professional optimist because I can see all the reasons why things could improve. But personally, I’m pessimistic – because I can see that it never happens.”

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