WASHINGTON â€” If there ever was a question that the Bush administration and the Israeli government are of one mind on Mideast peacemaking and Iranâ€™s nuclear programmes it is fading during talks Israelâ€™s foreign minister is holding here.
Both the ministers, Tzipi Livni and the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, have issued identical demands that any Palestinian unity government renounce violence against Israel and accept its right to exist.
And Livni and Rice are on the same page in their distrust of Iranâ€™s intentions. â€œThe world cannot afford a nuclear Iran,â€ Livni said Wednesday after meeting with Rice at the State Department.
While Rice did not repeat the long-held belief within the administration that Iran is on a fast track to building nuclear weapons, Rice said Iranâ€™s cancellation of talks this week with the Europeans is further reason for the United Nations to consider applying sanctions on Tehran.
That is topic A on Riceâ€™s agenda for her meetings at the UN beginning next week. â€œIt is a natural time to see where we are,â€ Rice said as American diplomats try to pull the Europeans, Russia and China together to punish Iran with a series of increasingly harsher economic and political sanctions.
The end of the conflict between Israel and Hizbollah fighters in Lebanon, meanwhile, has renewed interest in prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, is trying to work out a unity government that would include Hamas and possibly other groups in a power-sharing arrangement.
â€œStagnation is not the Israeli government policy,â€ Livni said, in registering Israelâ€™s intention to move ahead towards an accord with the Palestinians that would ensure them a state.
â€œWe will take all of the efforts,â€ she said, while also reaffirming Israel is interested in dealing with Abbas, who is considered a moderate.
But, she said, any Palestinian government must fully and completely meet international demands that it recognise the existence of Israel.
â€œThese requirements are not negotiable,â€ Livni said.
Rice, while cautious about how the unity negotiations might turn out, was emphatic that a new Palestinian government must meet those requirements.
â€œThey embody the very essential elements of how we would get eventually to a two-state solution,â€ she said.
â€œIt is hard to have a partner for peace if you donâ€™t accept the right of the other partner to exist,â€ Rice said, referring to Hamasâ€™ hard-line stance against Israel.
Like Livni, Rice spoke positively of Abbas. He has accepted those important principles, Rice said, and â€œis someone with whom we can work and with whom we are working.â€ Before meeting with Rice, Livni called on Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser, at the White House.
President George W. Bush dropped in unexpectedly. According to Hadleyâ€™s spokesman, Frederick Jones, the president assured Livni of his strong support for Israelâ€™s security and discussed with her â€œthe threat posed by the Iranian and Syrian regimes.â€ Thursday was Livniâ€™s day to spend on Capitol Hill, meeting with Democratic and Republican members of Congress and later with Vice President Dick Cheney.