Clinton: 'Time is Ripe' for Mideast Peace

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SHARM EL-SHEIKH - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Monday evening for Tuesday's meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

En route Clinton told reporters the Obama administration is urging Israel to extend the construction freeze in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), set to expire on September 26.

Clinton claimed the "time is ripe" for Mideast peace and "there are a lot of ways to get to the goal" in face-to-face talks.

"Remember, the goal is to work toward agreement on core issues like borders and territory that would, if agreed upon, eliminate the debate about settlements," she said.

Now that the construction ban, which was meant to woo the PA to restart talks with Israel, is almost over, the Palestinians are demanding it be extended.

"Choosing to continue with settlements in any form means destroying the negotiations," chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat said again on Tuesday.

Netanyahu is caught between his promise not to extend the temporary ban and his desire to continue with negotiations.

"The aim of this trip and the meeting with Abu Mazen [Abbas] is to find a way to continue the talks, not to blow them out of the water," one senior Israeli official said.

Meanwhile, Israeli residents of Judea and Samaria urged the Obama administration to stop pressuring Netanyahu to "commit national suicide."

"He [Obama] is trying to twist Netanyahu's arm into tearing apart the land of Israel and risking Israel's very existence," Yesha Council head Naftali Bennett said.

The Yesha Council is an umbrella organization representing Jews living in Judea and Samaria.

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AP contributed to this report.

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