State Dept.: US to renew push for peace following elections

State Dept.: US to renew push for peace following elections

Spokesperson calls Israel 'democratic beacon,' refuses to comment on specifics of outcome of last Tuesday's vote

US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Victoria Nuland (photo credit: US Department of State)
US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Victoria Nuland (photo credit: US Department of State)

The US will wait for Israeli politicians to form a new coalition government, but “as soon as the parties are ready, we want to make a renewed push to try to get them back to the table,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said at a press briefing Friday.

“We are at the stage now, as you know, where we’re going to have to wait and see what the makeup of the Israeli government is going to be and how it approaches the longstanding critical issues that we share,” she said. “We know where we want to go and we know where we believe they also want to go. If we can be helpful, we will continue to try.”

Asked if the State Department finds it reassuring that, in Tuesday’s elections, Israelis voted for parties that agree with the principles espoused by the US, Nuland responded: “I think what we find reassuring is that Israel continues to be a democratic beacon out there in the world and to have a very vibrant system and process for ensuring that the people’s voices are heard in the political process. But how that’s going to translate in terms of either government formation or government policy is to be determined.”

Asked to comment on a statement by US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, who reportedly said that the election results were an indication that the peace process with the Palestinians is not on the Israeli public radar, Nuland said she had no “indication from Israel that that is the case.”

Despite repeated requests by reporters to comment on the election results, Nuland refused to speculate as to how they are going to translate into either coalition formulation or the policies of the government “until the Israelis have had a chance to make those decisions.”

Israeli politicians were engaging in the early stages of coalition formation talks on Friday, but the two major partners have already been established based on election results.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is all but assured four more years in office, but will have to face resistance to the formation of a Palestinian state among the rank and file of his own right wing Likud party as well as with members of Yisrael Beytenu, the party led by former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman, which ran in a joint list with Likud that won 31 seats in the January 22 elections.

The inclusion of political newcomer Yair Lapid and his centrist Yesh Atid, that won a surprising 19 seats in the Knesset and is now Israel’s second largest party, may assist Netanyahu in making the argument that advancing the peace process with the Palestinians is vital for the stability of the coalition.

Likud minister Silvan Shalom indicated on Friday that a new government, led by Netanyahu, would indeed seek to renew dialogue with the Palestinians.

“The effort to renew political negotiations with the Palestinians is one of the principles of the government we will form,” Shalom said.

Yoel Goldman contributed to this report

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