U.S. Secretary of Statereminded Arabs on Thursday (Jan 13) that Israel had made far-ranging moves for peace by withdrawing from Gaza and southern Lebanon but these steps had been met by thousands of terrorist rockets and missiles aimed at its civilians.
In an impassioned response to an Al-Jazeera reporter accusing the United States of double standards in the way it treated Israel and Arabs, Clinton emphasized Israel’s security needs and recalled its withdrawals from southern Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza in 2005.
"You often make decisions based on your own experience and history," she said. "And when the Israelis pulled out of Lebanon they got Hezbollah and 40,000 rockets, and when they pulled out of Gaza they gotand 20,000 rockets," Clinton said.
"Israel is a sovereign country and it makes its own decisions," she added.
Clinton delivered the remarks to Arab diplomats and civic leaders at a regional development conference in Qatar’s capital of Doha. She warned that ignoring rampant corruption and a lack of human rights among other problems in the Arab world could lead to growth in Islamic radicalism.
"Those who cling to the status quo may be able to hold back the full impact of their countries' problems for a little while, but not forever," Clinton said. "If leaders don't offer a positive vision and give young people meaningful ways to contribute, others will fill the vacuum."
The Secretary of State also rejected charges that the U.S. has not pushed hard enough for a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Palestinians walked out of the talks last September and are refusing to return unless Israel freezes all construction in the West Bank.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was quoted on Thursday as saying he would not return to the talks unless the United States agreed to recognize a Palestinian state within 1967 borders. He criticized the Obama administration for not doing enough to make a Palestinian state a reality.
Clinton picked out rampant corruption as the single biggest problem Arab countries and holding back their progress.
"Extremist elements, terrorist groups and others who would prey on desperation and poverty are already out there appealing for allegiance and competing for influence," she said. "This is a critical moment and this is a test of leadership for all of us."