Israel and the U.S. are "on the same page" in terms of how to confront Iran, and Washington "will use all elements of American power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday during a press conference in Jerusalem.
Speaking at the David Citadel Hotel in the capital after meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak earlier in the day, Clinton said, "the entire world has an interest in preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Because of our work to rally the international community, Iran is under greater pressure now than ever before. That pressure will continue and increase so long as Iran fails to meet its international obligations. We all prefer a diplomatic resolution and Iran’s leaders still have the opportunity to make the right decision. The choice is ultimately Iran’s. Our own choice is clear: We will use all elements of American power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."
The secretary of state explained that the U.S. approach toward Iran follows two simultaneous tracks — the diplomatic track and the sanctions track.
"My discussions today are part of a very long, in-depth, ongoing consultation," Clinton said. "We always compare notes on Iran, and today’s consultations were particularly timely because our two-track policy of diplomacy and pressure is in full move here ... We know the sanctions are biting. Israel and the United States agree on that."
She continued, "and we talked about concrete steps that we can take to continue to build the pressure. And as to the diplomatic track, I made very, very clear that the proposals we have seen from Iran thus far within the P5+1 negotiations are nonstarters. Despite three rounds of talks, it appears that Iran has yet to make a strategic decision to address the international community’s concerns and fulfill their obligations under the IAEA and the U.N. Security Council."
Clinton also alluded to the Iranian issue during her meeting with Peres earlier Monday. "It is a time of uncertainty but also of opportunity ... it is in moments like these that friends like us have to think together, act together," she said at a joint press conference with the President.
The secretary of state also called on Israel to advance two diplomatic processes of its own: one with the Palestinians and the other with Turkey, which downgraded relations with Israel in September 2011.
Regarding the Palestinians, Clinton called for immediate action to be taken by both sides to reach an agreement. "...To those who say the timing isn’t right, the other side has to move first, or the trust just isn’t there, I say peace won’t wait and the responsibility falls on all of us to keep pressing forward," she said.
"Peace among Israel, the Palestinian people and all of Israel's Arab neighbors is crucial for Israel's long-term progress and prosperity," Clinton said.
Clinton also met Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in east Jerusalem, but she could not report any progress toward an accord that might secure an independent Palestine and an Israel at peace with its neighbors. In a departure from the usual pattern for top U.S. diplomats, she did not travel to the Palestinian Authority's West Bank seat of government in Ramallah. The Palestinians said a visit was unnecessary because Clinton had met with the Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, just a few days earlier in Paris.
During Monday's press conference in Jerusalem, Clinton also urged Israel to work toward rapprochement with Ankara. She reportedly said that ongoing tensions with Turkey were undermining shared interests in the region and international unity against Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Responding to requests by Israeli officials and Knesset faction heads made in recent days for Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard's release, Clinton stated emphatically, "With respect to Mr. Pollard, he was, as you know, convicted of spying in 1987. He was sentenced to life in prison. He is serving that sentence, and I do not have any expectation that that is going to change."
Her position was slammed by MK Zevulun Orlev (New National Religious Party), who called Washington's unwillingness to release Pollard "an extreme insensitivity and political score-settling that is beyond human principles."
"None of the spies who were convicted of espionage in the U.S. and who jeopardized the country's security were ever imprisoned for such long sentences and some were even released early," a statement from his office said. Orlev called on Peres and Netanyahu to increase pressure on Obama in particular ahead of the presidential elections in the U.S. He also called on the American Jewish leadership to inform the Democratic Party that if Pollard is not released by the elections, the Jewish community as a whole will not support the Democratic candidate. He called Pollard's release "a supreme, moral test for the Jewish people."
Clinton's trip followed a weekend visit by Obama's national security adviser Tom Donilon. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected to visit Israel soon.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is also expected to visit Israel in the coming days. Clinton's visit was seen by many here as a politically-motivated attempt to pre-empt the Romney visit.