Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Secretary Clinton testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committe on 2010 budget, Iran, Israel and so much more

Today Hillary Clinton testified before the Senate Appropriations Sub-Committee on State and Foreign Operations.

During the hearing, she delivered the FY 2010 proposed budget for the State Department, among other topics.

"The President’s 2010 budget is a blueprint for how we intend to put smart power into action. The FY 2010 budget request for the State Department and USAID is $48.6 billion. That’s a 7 percent increase over Fiscal Year ’09 funding. Other accounts that are not directly in the State Department and USAID jurisdiction but are part of our overall foreign policy are also deserving of attention."

This budget supports the State Department and USAID in three critical ways: First, it allows us to invest in our people; second, implement sound policies; and third, strengthen our partnerships. We know it represents a major investment. And we pledge to uphold principles of good stewardship and accountability."

Also during her hearings she called for an end to Israeli settlement activity and urged Arabs to take steps towards peace.

"It is clear that the settlement activity has to cease."
Her comments come on the heels of a visit to Washington this week by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and in advance of a visit next week by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

After the series of meetings, President Barack Obama is expected to lay out his vision for Mideast peace negotiations when he addresses the Muslim world in a speech in Cairo next month.

Clinton said that during Netanyahu's visit, she and Obama reaffirmed the administration's desire for a two-state solution and emphasized negotiations on a deal must must begin with an end to settlement activity.

Not only does settlement activity "change the reality" on the ground, which in turn interferes with negotiations on a final peace deal, it also is "a matter of great symbolic concern" to the Arab world.

She said that the U.S. is trying to advance the Arab Peace Initiative. The plan, proposed by then-Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah in 2003 and endorsed by the Arab league, envisions all Arab states normalizing relations with Israel after Israel returns all territory it considers occupied Arab land.

The Secretary said the the Obama Administration wants both Israel and the Arabs to both take interim "confidence-building steps," including recognition of Israel's right to exist and economic exchanges between Israel and Arab nations.

Clinton said Mideast envoy George Mitchell has "a long list" of the "kinds of actions being sought," but she added the steps would be the product of "intense negotiations" between the United States and Arab states, which will begin next week.

"There is openness to proceeding, but it is an openness that requires on all sides an evidence of good faith and putting ideas down on the table which people can evaluate."

Iran was also a hot topic during today's hearings. She said that Arabs share Israel's concern about Iran's nuclear ambitions, which further presents an opportunity for cooperation between the two.

"At this time in history there is a meeting of the minds of the threat posed by Iran and the importance of working in tandem," she said. "But … in order for us to move forward, it cannot be either or."
The international community, she said, must work on both the Iran situation and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the same time, "and that is what we intend to do." To delve even further on the subject of Iran, the Secretary also said today that a nuclear-armed Iran will "spark an arms race" in the Middle East.

She reiterated the U.S. opposition to Iran getting a nuclear weapons capability. Amid reports that Iran has conducted a missile test, Clinton said that a wide array of threats, including attempts by terrorists to obtain nuclear weapons, represent a "daunting" challenge for the United States.

She also described a nuclear capability in Tehran as an "extraordinary threat," and said the U.S. goal is "to persuade the Iranian regime that they will actually be less secure if they proceed with their nuclear weapons program."

"That is not going to be in the interest of Iranian security... At the same time, we see a growing recognition among a group of countries that they do not want to see this reality take place."

She stated that it was not likely that we would see any progress on this issue soon since Iran has elections coming up and that she didn't know when the U.S. might "see some openness and some willingness to engage on this very important issue." But she remained firm and strong stating "we are going to pursue our diplomatic efforts."

Read Hillary's opening remarks on the Foreign Policy Priorities in the President's FY2010 International Affairs Budget here or watch below:

Read Hillary's remarks on the 2010 Budget for the Department of State here or watch below:

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