US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (file photo)BY ROBERT BERGER – There has been a largely unenthusiastic reaction among Israelis and Palestinians to a Middle East policy speech by America’s top diplomat.

Israel’s Cabinet discussed last Friday’s speech by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in which she expressed frustration with the impasse in the Middle East peace process.

The Palestinians suspended peace talks in late September, when Israel refused to extend a 10-month moratorium on settlement construction.

After the United States failed to persuade Israel to reconsider, Clinton said it is time for a new approach; she said the next phase of negotiations should focus on the future borders of a Palestinian state.

“Both sides must agree to a single line, drawn on your map, that divides Israel from Palestine and to an outcome that implements the two-state solution,” said Clinton.

The proposal got a cold shoulder from Israel’s nationalist Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who said “whoever thinks the problem can be resolved through borders is wrong.”  He added that in 2005, Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip “to the last millimeter”, and instead of peace, he said, it “got more terror, more rockets and more extremism.”

Lieberman said Israel is prepared to return to peace talks, but without preconditions.

The Palestinians expressed disappointment that Clinton blamed both sides for the deadlock. Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said Israel chose settlements over peace.

“As far as the direct negotiations, we hold the Israeli government responsible for their derailment.”

U.S. envoy George Mitchell is due in the region on Monday, to try to push the parties back to the negotiating table.

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