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Clinton Lauds Mideast Leaders as Peace Talks Begin Anew

September 2, 2010 at 6:08 PM EDT

JUDY WOODRUFF: Our next story: making peace between Palestinians and Israelis.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led the way, as Israel and the Palestinians opened their first direct peace talks in two years.

U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: We understand the suspicion and skepticism.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Clinton lauded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for restarting the talks in the face of such doubts.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: You each have taken an important step toward freeing your peoples from the shackles of a history we cannot change, and moving toward a future of peace.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, to get to that future, a litany of issues will need resolution: the status of Israeli-controlled Jerusalem, which Palestinians want partitioned; the end of the 43-year occupation of the West Bank, and the status of Israeli settlements there; the borders of a potential Palestinian state; the rights of Palestinian refugees; the all-important question of water rights in an arid land; and the establishment of security.

That issue was highlighted by shooting attacks on the West Bank this week that left four Israeli settlers dead and two others wounded. Netanyahu acknowledged a long and tough road lies ahead.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Israeli prime minister: Now, this will not be easy. A true peace, a lasting peace, would be achieved only with mutual and painful concessions from both sides.

JUDY WOODRUFF: To that end, the Israeli leader told the Palestinian president, “I see in you a partner for peace.”

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: Pray that the pain that we have experienced, you and us, will enable us to leave from here and to forge a durable, lasting peace for generations.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Palestinian President Abbas responded with a similar wish and with similar, but guarded optimism.

MAHMOUD ABBAS, Palestinian authority president (through translator): What’s encouraging as well, and what’s giving us confidence, is that the road is clear in front of us. We want to have a new era in our region, an era that brings peace, justice, security, and prosperity for all.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Still, Abbas insisted the Israelis must end settlement building in the West Bank. A partial Israeli ban on construction is due to end this month. Secretary Clinton said the U.S. cannot and will not try to impose a final agreement on any of the points. Instead, she echoed what President Obama said last night before a dinner with the leaders, that the moment to make peace is now, if they will grasp it.

U.S PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It is the shoulders of our predecessors upon which we stand. It is their work that we carry on. Now, like each of them, we must ask, do we have the wisdom and the courage to walk the path of peace?

JUDY WOODRUFF: After today’s meeting, the U.S. special envoy for Middle East peace, former Senator George Mitchell, said Netanyahu and Abbas agreed to produce a framework agreement. He rejected the idea that the sheer number of disputes makes success impossible.

GEORGE MITCHELL, special U.S. envoy for the Middle East: But I don’t think that any human problem can be solved if one begins by viewing the problems as insurmountable, as suggesting that the mountains are too high and the rivers are too wide, so let’s not undertake the journey.

JUDY WOODRUFF: This journey will continue in two weeks, reportedly at an Egyptian resort, with Secretary Clinton participating.