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Secretary of State Clinton Delivers Speech at the Center for Middle East Peace

April 16, 2010

Secretary Clinton delivered remarks at a dinner for the dedication of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace last night – I was expecting some hint of what the administration planned to do given the current impasse. Perhaps not surprisingly, she tiptoed around Israel, condemned Hamas, argued for support of the PA and praised the so-called “security wall.” To her credit she gave the Palestinian Authority some long-overdue credit for its efforts to fight corruption, deter violence and combat terrorism. But sometimes it’s not just what is said that is important, but also what is left unsaid. And what was left unsaid is the fact that while it is politically incorrect to point out, it has become increasingly apparent to all who at least try to remain somewhat objective that Israel right now is the main obstacle to peace due to their refusal to suspend the building of settlements in the disputed areas of East Jerusalem (primarily beyond the Green Line)- areas which the Palestinians hope to be part of a future Palestinian state. Is there more the Palestinians could do? Sure. Have they engaged in some provocative actions of late? Yes. Is Hamas an ongoing problem? Yes. Does Israel have a right to defend itself? Of course. All of that is so obvious it shouldn’t even need to be pointed out, but lest one is accused of being “anti-Israel” or worse, unfortunately it needs to be oft repeated.

More and more I am worried that the Obama administration has become mired in the same political quicksand that every other administration has become mired in- the need to walk on egg shells in order to avoid offending anyone’s sensibilities regarding the devastating effects of the ongoing crisis in the Mideast. When this happens, the status quo is maintained and those resistant to taking any real political risks for peace are under no pressure to do so.

I am not sure how the administration plans to get around the fact that Netanyahu has vocally repeated over and over again, most recently at the AIPAC Summit, that he has no intention of ever dividing Jerusalem. That would seem to imply that while he has given lip service to a two state solution, he doesn’t really support it in practice. I am not sure why Secretary Clinton continues to give Netanyahu the benefit of the doubt on this, at least publicly. Actually, scratch that, I do know why- because the outcry against the administration would be fierce if she came out and stated the obvious.

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SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I should just quit while I’m ahead at least. (Laughter.) My goodness, those were wonderful words from my dear friend Danny and from the former congressman but certainly now the president of this extraordinary center, and bringing so much energy and commitment to this cause. There are so many longtime friends and people whom I admire here in this audience that I can’t possibly go down the line. I know that Sara Ehrman acknowledged so many of the members of the Diplomatic Corps and other distinguished participants, and I echo everything that Sara said. Sara has been a friend of mine for a very considerable length of time. (Laughter.) And Sara, you don’t know this, but when you were standing up here, it was one of those Queen Elizabeth moments, because from where I was sitting, we could only see your eyes. (Laughter.) It was a priceless –

MS. EHRMAN: No respect. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s wonderful being with Sara and Danny because they always put you in your place. (Laughter.)

I am very pleased to have this occasion. Danny has not only written a book called Peace is Possible, he wrote his autobiography which is titled Everything is Possible. I know Danny spent a number of years living in Israel and there wasn’t a more enthusiastic, dedicated citizen of Israel during the time that Danny was there. And he’s often talked to many of us how his passion for Middle East peace is rooted, as Robert said, in his devotion to Israel and in his commitment to Israel’s future and Israel’s security.

And if you read his autobiography, you can’t bet against Danny Abraham. And I am one of those people who does believe that peace is possible, not out of any misplaced idealism or whatever remnants of naiveté may still pulse somewhere in one or two cells left in my body – (laughter) – but because it has to happen. It has to happen. And I think it’s that meeting of the passion and the love and the devotion with the hard-headed reality and clear-eyed view of the future that Danny Abraham so well embodies.

He has worked for decades along with his great friend, the late Congressman Wayne Owens, and I am so pleased that his son and granddaughter are here, because Danny and Wayne started on a journey long before many people even anticipated that such a moment could ever be a reality. And whether you’re in Washington or Jerusalem or Cairo or Riyadh, people call Danny a friend, they call him a confidante, and they do call him a visionary.

Now, this is the second time Danny has asked me to help dedicate a new center. And the last time was at Princeton, which I deeply enjoyed, and I’m pleased that the dean of the Woodrow Wilson School, my friend and great colleague at the State Department, Anne-Marie Slaughter, is here, because that was a memorable event as well. But I love the way Danny does these things. He came to see me at the State Department and he goes, you know, we’re going to have this little thing, you just come, cut a ribbon – (laughter) – and we’ll have a new center with a new president.

Well, this is a testament to the cause of his life and the cause of the lives of so many of you here, Arab and Israeli, Palestinian, American – everyone in this room shares this cause. And the United States and President Obama share it as well. We have long recognized that a strong, secure, and successful Israel is our common goal, but it is also vital to America’s strategic interests. Our countries and our peoples are bound together by our shared values: freedom, equality, democracy, the right to live free from fear, and our common aspirations for a future of peace, security, and prosperity.

This week we are commemorating the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps. Rob mentioned that in addition to everything else, Danny is a World War II veteran. And with every passing year, fewer survivors and fewer liberators are still with us, but their stories remain as powerful and compelling as ever. Each one is a reminder of why a secure homeland for the Jewish people is not an abstraction, not a wish, but a necessity. And next week will be Israel’s Independence Day, when once again Israelis and those who support Israel will renew our commitment to ensure that Israel will always remain independent, secure, free, and flourishing.

Now, for President Obama, whose grandfather marched in Patton’s Army – and I sometimes look at the President when I’m with him and talking about some issue or another, and think about a grandfather who marched in Patton’s Army and a great-uncle who helped to liberate Buchenwald. And I know how rock solid and unwavering his commitment is to Israel’s security and Israel’s future. And from our first day in office, we have made the pursuit of a comprehensive peace a top priority because we are convinced that Israel’s long-term future as a secure and democratic Jewish state depends upon it.

The lack of peace between Israel and the Palestinians threatens that future, holds back the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people, and destabilizes the region and beyond.

I told some of you this, that one of the striking experiences that I had becoming Secretary of State and now having traveled something on the order of 300,000 miles in the last 15 months and going to dozens and dozens of countries, is that when I compare that to my experience as First Lady, where I was also privileged to travel around the world, back in the ‘90s when I went to Asia or Africa or Europe or Latin America, it was rare that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was raised. Now it is the first, second, or third item on nearly every agenda of every country I visit.

What does that mean? Well, it means that this conflict has assumed a role in the global geostrategic environment that carries great weight. And it also means that there is a yearning on the part of people who have never been to Israel and never met a Palestinian that somehow, some way, we create the circumstances for this to finally be resolved.

As Rob said, last month at AIPAC’s national conference, I spoke about the challenge that Israel faces. And tonight I want to focus on how a struggle despite the difficulty to achieve comprehensive peace is critical, not just to Israel and not just to the Palestinians and not just to the United States, but to the future of this world we share.

And what I worry about is that a failure to act now when there are changed circumstances, including the Arab Peace Initiative, including the very broadly shared fear of Iran’s intentions and actions, will not just set us back, but may irreversibly prevent us from going forward. The failure to pursue a comprehensive peace takes place in an ideological struggle for the future of the Middle East. Because make no mistake about it: Those in the region most hostile to peace, those in the region most opposed to compromise and coexistence, are those who do not have Israel’s best interests at heart and do not have the Palestinians’ best interests at heart.

There are so many actors right now who are willing to make commitments and take actions that would have been unthinkable one, two, three, four years ago. I see my friend the foreign minister of Jordan, Nasser Judeh. He and I talk all the time about the imperative of moving this forward. And yet we know that those who benefit from our failure of leadership traffic in hate and violence, and give strength to Iran’s anti-Semitic president and extremists like Hamas and Hezbollah.

Every step back from the peace table and every flare-up in violence undermines the positive players across the region who seek to turn the page and focus on building a more hopeful and prosperous Middle East. It undercuts the reformers attempting to develop functioning institutions and accountable governments, the entrepreneurs and economists trying to foster broad-based growth, the civil society organizers and activists working for common ground and mutual understanding, and all the mothers and fathers who hope for peace for their children and grandchildren.

So all of us do have a stake in the outcome, but there are only two peoples who can make the decisions. Danny Abraham can’t want this more than the leaders of Israel and of the Palestinians. President Obama can’t work harder than the people of Israel and the Palestinian territories. The goal of a comprehensive peace and all the benefits that we believe that would bring hangs in the balance. Because peace and progress must be driven from both above and below. They require leaders – yes – willing to take risks, populations that demand results, and institutions that can deliver tangible benefits for people’s lives. That is why the United States supports two tracks in the Middle East – negotiations between the parties aimed at reaching a two-state solution and institution building that lays the necessary foundation for a future state for the Palestinians and security guarantees that provide for the security of the state of Israel. But none of these efforts, no matter how sincerely pursued, can be successful if extremists win the argument.

Now, this struggle plays out starkly among the Palestinians themselves. For nearly 20 years, Fatah and Hamas have vied for the right to chart the future for the Palestinian people. And today they articulate opposing arguments for how best to realize Palestinians aspirations. To those disillusioned by a peace process that has delivered too little, Hamas peddles the false hope that a Palestinian state can somehow be achieved through violence and uncompromising resistance. And across the divide, President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad and the Palestinian Authority argue for the two-track approach of pursuing a political settlement and institution building.

Hamas claims any failure of the peace process as vindication of their rejectionist view. The Palestinian Authority has the harder job: to convince a skeptical people that peace is not just possible, but the surest route to bettering their lives and achieving their aspirations.

And the results of these competing approaches can be seen every day in Palestinian streets and neighborhoods, sharpening the choices that confronts the Palestinian people and answering those who suggest there is little difference between the two.

In Gaza, Hamas presides over a crumbling enclave of terror and despair. It stockpiles rockets intended for Israeli cities while the people of Gaza fall deeper into poverty.

Unemployment runs as high as 38 percent – and even higher among young people – yet Hamas impedes international assistance and the work of humanitarian NGOs, and does little to promote sustainable economic growth. Hamas has revealed itself as uninterested in development, institution building, peace, or progress.

Hamas claims to seek peace, prosperity, and a state for its people, but it refuses to take the first necessary steps: renunciation of violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements. Those are the building blocks for a viable, independent, and contiguous Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel – and we urge Hamas to embrace those steps. And I will repeat what I have said many times before: Gilad Shalit must be released immediately and returned to his family. That is unfinished business that must be accomplished.

But unfortunately, Hamas appears set on continued conflict with Israel with little regard for what that will mean for the Palestinian people. Only by exploiting the frustration and hostility created by the conflict can Hamas hope to distract its people from its failure to govern.

President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad have produced very different results in a relatively short period of time.

The PLO has emerged as a credible partner for peace. It has rejected violence, improved security, made progress on combating incitement, and accepted Israel’s right to exist.

The Palestinian Authority’s two-year plan envisions a state that is based on pluralism, equality, religious tolerance, and the rule of law, created through a negotiated settlement with Israel, and capable of meeting the needs of its citizens and supporting a lasting peace. Under the leadership of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad, the PA is addressing a history of corruption and building transparent and accountable institutions. The United States has partnered with the PA to improve the effectiveness of its security forces, and General Dayton is here this evening and I want personally and publicly to thank him for his efforts. (Applause.)

Reforms have increased public confidence in the courts – last year they handled 67 percent more cases than in 2008. The PA is building schools and hospitals and training teachers and medical staff, and even developing a national health insurance program. (Laughter.)

Sound fiscal policies, support from the international community – including hundreds of millions of dollars this year alone from the United States, which continues to be the PA’s largest bilateral donor – and improving security and rule of law have led to significant economic growth. More and more Palestinians in the West Bank are finding jobs, starting businesses, and reversing the economic stagnation that followed the outbreak of the Intifada in 2000. The number of new business licenses issued in the West Bank in the fourth quarter of 2009 was 50 percent higher than in the same period in 2008. And three new venture capital funds are set to launch this year with the support of American, Arab, and European investors.

Now, considerable work remains. The PA must redouble its efforts to put an end to incitement and violence, crack down on corruption, and ingrain a culture of peace and tolerance among Palestinians. The leadership should refrain from using international organizations, particularly the United Nations, as platforms for inflammatory rhetoric. And we strongly encourage President Abbas and his government to join negotiations with Israel now. Because Israelis must see as well, that pursuing the path of progress and diplomacy can and will lead to peace and security. But there is no doubt that, so far, the progress we are seeing in the West Bank is encouraging.

Last year I visited a classroom in Ramallah where Palestinian students were learning English through a U.S.-sponsored program that has taught thousands of Palestinian young people. I happened to be there when they were studying Women’s History Month and Sally Ride, the first woman astronaut, was the subject. The students, especially the girls, were captivated by her story. And when I asked for a single word to describe Sally and her accomplishments, one student responded: “hopeful.”

Well, today hope is stirring in the West Bank because of strong leadership and hard work. And people are beginning to see differences in their daily lives which enables them then to imagine a different future for their children.

But this progress is tenuous. Without increased support from the international community, including from the Arab states, without larger, steadier, and more predictable financial support, the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to build institutions and spur growth could run out of steam. Because if the PA cannot overcome corruption and smuggling, development will fall short. And if it fails to control violence, progress will slow to a halt.

Extending and sustaining this positive development also requires Israel to be a partner. The Netanyahu government has lifted roadblocks and eased movements throughout the West Bank. These also are encouraging moves that will improve the quality of life, but Israel can and should do more to support the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to build credible institutions and deliver results. Both sides would benefit from a real partnership that fosters long-term growth and opportunity.

Because ultimately the fate of these efforts hinges on the peace process. In contrast to Hamas, the Palestinian Authority has staked its credibility on a path of peaceful coexistence. Even more than economic opportunities, that path for the Palestinians must lead to a state of their own, for the dignity that all people deserve, and the right to chart their own destiny. If President Abbas cannot deliver on those aspirations, there’s no doubt his support will fade and Palestinians will turn to alternatives – including Hamas. And that way leads only to more conflict.

Now, I’ve had friends of mine – Israelis – say, but you know we can’t determine what happens and we just have to hold firm to the positions we hold. As I said in my AIPAC speech, there are three problems with that position: demography, ideology, and technology.

So for Israel, accepting concrete steps toward peace – both through the peace process and in the bottoms-up institutions building I have described – are the best weapons against Hamas and other extremists. Prime Minister Netanyahu has embraced the vision of the two-state solution. But easing up on access and movement in the West Bank, in response to credible Palestinian security performance, is not sufficient to prove to the Palestinians that this embrace is sincere. So we encourage Israel to continue building momentum toward a comprehensive peace by demonstrating respect for the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians, stopping settlement activity, and addressing the humanitarian needs in Gaza, and to refrain from unilateral statements and actions that could undermine trust or risk prejudicing the outcome of talks.

Now, Israel has worked hard to improve security. And along with the increased capacity and commitment of Palestinian security forces and the construction of the wall, which I have defended as a senator and I defend as the Secretary of State, the number of suicide bombings – thankfully – has dropped significantly. And as a result, some in Israel have come to believe that they are protected by walls, buoyed by a dynamic economy, and can avoid having to do anything right now. Because these are hard choices that they are confronting.

But that would mean continuing an impasse that not only carries tragic human costs and denies Palestinians their legitimate aspirations, but which threatens Israel’s long-term future as a secure and democratic Jewish state. Israelis and Palestinians alike must confront the reality that the status quo has not produced long-term security or served their interests, and accept their share of responsibility for reaching a comprehensive peace that will benefit both sides.

So too must the Arab states, many of whom are represented here tonight, who worry about the destabilizing impact of extremists like Hamas but don’t do enough to bolster the efforts of the Palestinian Authority. It is also in the interest of Arab states to advance the Arab Peace Initiative with actions, not just rhetoric, make it easier for the Palestinians to pursue negotiations and achieve an agreement. If the Arab Peace Initiative is indeed, as Rob said, the genuine offer it appears to be, we should not face threats by certain Arab states that it will be “taken off the table” each time there is a setback. We look forward to a deeper conversation about implementing the Initiative and the concrete results it would bring to the people of the region. And we are very encouraged by the work of a number of NGOs and civil society groups, including some who are represented here, to articulate a more complete vision of those benefits of peace.

Now, for our part, the United States understands the need to support the reforms of the Palestinian Authority and continue efforts to restart substantive negotiations. We not only know we cannot force a solution, we have no interest in forcing a solution. The parties themselves are the only ones who can resolve their differences. (Applause.) But as a good friend, we believe that through good-faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree to an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the ‘67 lines, with agreed swaps, and Israel’s goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israel’s security requirements.

This will require all parties to make difficult but necessary choices. And it will take leadership. Now, we’ve seen this before. We’ve seen it over the last years from the time when Sadat and Begin extended a hand of peace because they knew it would make their people stronger.

Reflecting on one of his many conversations with Egyptian President Mubarak, Danny once observed that, “There is no question that… many of the leading figures in the Arab world know what benefits a full peace with Israel will bring to their countries, but they also know that in the prevailing political climate it is dangerous to state such a truth.”

Changing that climate is up to each and every one of us. And it requires the mobilizing of a broad constituency for peace that provides a political counterweight to the forces of division and destruction. There is an ever-more pressing imperative to make the case for peace clearly and publicly. And the most compelling arguments are the benefits that Israelis and Palestinians will see.

I often think about a friend to many of us, Yitzhak Rabin. He wondered how deeply the support for peace ran among his people, because he understood that agreements between leaders are the beginning, not the end of anything. Whether peace takes hold depends upon it becoming a habit of the heart. In order for it to be real, people have to learn to live and work and go to school together. Peace must grow in homes and communities, not just in national capitals. It needs to be nurtured and then passed on to the next generation.

So, Danny, you’re right; peace is possible in the Middle East. But whether it comes to pass depends on us. This center is so well-named today for you, because despite the setbacks, the twists and the turns, you have never given up on your belief and conviction in peace. The worst thing can happen and the phone will ring, Rob. We are all familiar with that. (Laughter.) I don’t know how many times Danny called my husband in the 1990s or how many times he called and said he had to come see me in the Senate or come see me in the State Department. But the message is always the same: You must persist; peace requires you to persist.

And so, Danny, we are here to say we do believe with you that peace is possible. And like you, we will do everything we can to see it happen. And we want you to know that when it finally does come kicking and screaming across the finish line, it’s going to be because you never gave up. And for that, we love you. (Applause.)


15 Comments leave one →
  1. rachel permalink
    April 16, 2010 10:19 am

    Hillary is between a rock and a hard place. How some of us take the speech is not how other took it, I have seen several articles now saying Hillary is still blaming Israel and calling for them to do more and these are from the american press not to mention this article from Israel I am not sure how much more she can hammer Israel, especially when they say they are willing to come to the table and the Palestinians aren’t at this time.

    • April 16, 2010 10:43 am

      I totally agree. With the political climate there’s not much anyone can do- that was my point above when I talked about the usual politics getting in the way of progress- while everyone wants to move forward towards peace negotiations the usual politics always gets in the way- it’s been this way for decades.

      I wasn’t being critical of Hillary, but rather the whole US approach, which I find frustrating. I totally understand she can’t say much about Israel at this point, particularly given each time we have tried to request Israel to do something Bibi has just essentially mocked us. If Hillary or Obama or anyone else were to make any more demands/requests of Israel, it would be pointless because it would just make us look weaker than we already look in light of the fact that we never follow up with consequences.

      As for media coverage- keep in mind that unless the administration comes out and totally blasts the Palestinians just for the hell of it, there are going to be media commentators who will insist that the US is being too hard on Israel because even being slightly critical is considered unacceptable. So I don’t really buy into the idea expressed by some in Israel or the US that this administration has been a) unfair to Israel or b) asking them to do more than we are asking of the Palestinians. I feel that much of the media coverage is overtly political and extremely biased. For any analysts to say that Hillary “blamed” Israel for anything is ridiculous- unfortunately a lot of coverage of this issue ignores facts out-right.

      As for Israel saying they are willing to come to the table- we can disagree on this- but I feel like Israel is just playing hometown politics-Bibi is a very clever politician, I’ll give him that. A while back everyone was just about ready to sit down at the table until Netanyahu refused to cease settlement construction in E. Jerusalem even if just for the duration of the peace talks (his “partial settlement freeze” had so many exceptions it wasn’t even a thaw), putting Abbas in a tricky position. Now that Netanyahu has cleverly managed to get everything he wants and then some (including embarrassing the US admin.) without having to compromise on anything, he is now strutting around talking about how its the Palestinians who refuse to negotiate while he knows damn well Abbas can’t under the current circumstances.

      There were people who months ago said this is exactly what Netanyahu was angling to do- to throw sand in the gears of any potential peace talks but to do so in a way that would allow him to blame it on the Palestinians. People may disagree with my take, but that’s how I see it.

      • rachel permalink
        April 16, 2010 11:47 am

        I agree with a lot of what you said Stacy, yeah the U.S approach hasn’t helped. At this point I agree with what a lot of other people are saying that U.S can want peace more than Israel and the Palestinians. So not quite sure how to procede on this. I feel like Both should at least come to the table, I just don’t see how progress will happen if one side is saying unless you do this we can’t even talk.

  2. Steve permalink
    April 16, 2010 10:50 am

    Bibi has played Obama like a violin. Bibi has a long history of poking the US in the eye and as Stacy said, unless people are going to stand up behind the US administration and demand that Israel start supporting the US as much as the US supports Israel, nothing is going to change. As many, many people have noted, the “special” relationship between the US and Israel has become very one-sided and a tad unhealthy. I assume Hillary Clinton gets this but as both Rachel and Stacy have said, there’s not much the US can do if Congress is going to keep supporting a foreign leader over the POTUS.

    Bibi has NEVER supported a two state solution and he only reluctantly started uttering the words “two state” after some pressure from the US in early 2009- but those are just words and many people in Israel, Europe, the Muslim world etc. have serious doubt about whether Bibi will do anything to push for a two state solution simply because most believe he is absolutely opposed to it. Go back and listen to his AIPAC speech, particularly the bit about Jerusalem and ask yourself if this is a peacemaker.

  3. Tovah permalink
    April 16, 2010 11:37 am

    I agree with all three of you but the fact is, so long as Hamas is in the picture there won’t be peace. I don’t know what the US or Mahmoud Abbas can do about it, but it is what it is. Even if there are two states tomorrow, how does Israel protect itself from Hamas? How does the PA ensure Israel’s security?

    • Steve permalink
      April 16, 2010 11:43 am

      I think the hope is that if two states are created, particularly with East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian State, there won’t be much of a reason for Hamas or other extremists to fire rockets into Israel. Also, Israel has demonstrated ruthless efficiency when it comes to its own security- the same can not be said for the PA.

      The sticky part is Bibi has said any future Palestinian state can’t have a military. I’m not sure how Israel gets to dictate that, particularly given Israel relies very heavily on its sovereign right to defend itself anyway it pleases, international law be damned. That’s tantamount to saying “doing as we say, not as we do.” One thing the international community has never accepted is that the Palestinians are human beings with their own security concerns. It’s pretty extreme how we expect the Palestinians to sit back quietly while they are forcibly removed from their homes, their houses are bulldozed by the IDF and their land annexed without any right to complain or defend themselves or their property. Would we in the US tolerate such governmental action? When I lived in Israel I would have been outraged if someone had done that to me. And yet we provide the nonviolent Palestinians no protection whatsoever. Israeli jails are filled with Palestinian youths, peace activists and quite a few terrorists but all of it goes largely ignored by the US and the West.

  4. April 16, 2010 11:57 am

    Rachel- I think the Palestinians will end up sitting down for talks- at this point, they are in a lose lose situation although politically they have been put in a tricky position.

    I guess I would just say that it matters a lot that the one thing Israel refuses to do directly effects what a future Palestinian state would look like. If it were anything but settlements beyond the Green Line I’d agree that the Palestinians would be being a tad unreasonable under the circumstances but keep in mind the reason Bibi is building fast and furious in East Jerusalem is to prevent the Palestinians from having any part of it in the future. In other words, I think the Palestinians are right to protest about this one particular thing. Also, the buildings are recognized as illegal under international law so why shouldn’t the Palestinians demand the illegal building stop? Again, if this were anything else I’d think the Palestinians were just doing their usual foot-dragging. But for Israel to continue building on land that is the subject of the negotiations is a big problem which is why the US initially said Israel had to stop.

  5. Seamus permalink
    April 16, 2010 1:21 pm

    I like this site, you guys know your shit.

    I look at this situation as sort of similar to what went on here in Ireland/Northern Ireland. Its not the same of course but the controversy over the political wing of of Sinn Fein and the IRA and when or whether to allow Sinn Fein into the talks that led to the Good Friday Agreement reminds me of the divisions among the PA and Hamas.

    As an outsider when I look at American foreign policy I can’t help but be a bit surprised that the U.S., while publicly denouncing them, always seemed to have more tolerance for Sinn Fein and the IRA almost as though you could identify more with the Irish more than the Palestinians even though Great Britain was another one of your great allies. Do you agree? Perhaps I am wrong, but I think Americans don’t have a lot of sympathy for Palestinians in general because of racial and religious factors.

    • April 16, 2010 2:36 pm

      You raise an interesting point with respect to how AMericans view the Palestinians and you also raise an interesting parallel to Sinn Fein although I am willing to bet even though you make a point of saying there are key differences in the two situations (no two conflicts are *exactly* alike), some folks would have a fit if they heard that comparison. But again, I think you raise an interesting point- we certainly identify more with Europeans and Israelis, for obvious reasons, and that certainly plays a role in how we view the treatment of the Palestinians. I would also add that another key factor is that while powerful Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, etc. influence our politics, the Palestinians have no real voice in American politics like the Israelis do. The reasons for this are pretty obvious given the history of Israel’s creation. I am certainly not implying that it’s wrong to identify with Israel so closely- in fact it is very justified- but at the same time I think that those who believe in universal human rights have to step back and ask how our bias is affecting our view of the conflict (and the actions we take).

      In Operation Cast Lead last year over 200 Palestinian children were killed and there was nary a peep from the U.S. about it. That’s a lot of children and that makes for a lot of sad, angry, traumatized families in the West Bank- none of which helps improve Israel’s security or makes it more likely that some reluctant Palestinians will embrace Israel. Israel has every right to defend itself with its military when its under attack from rockets, suicide bombers etc. but as I have said over and over, proportional use of force is a key component of international law with respect to armed conflict and Israel has had a tendency to overreach, with the effect that it seems to play a role in creating an environment where more hatred, hopelessness and anger continue to fester and grow.

      The ideal would be that the Palestinians completely reject Hamas but I can’t help but wonder if some who live in the West Bank are afraid to do that? I’m not sure if Hamas could be encouraged to lay down their arms, renounce violence and begin to work only through political action as [some key members] of Sinn Fein eventually did in the late 1990s.

  6. April 17, 2010 8:43 am

    Here is an excellent article from Prof. Juan Cole about the current situation – he points out a recent deportation order from the Israeli military that will essentially up the ante and could possibly even lead to war. It will have the effect of forcibly removing thousands of Palestinians from their homes, causing them to perhaps seek refuge in Jordan. There is something tragically ironic about the Israeli government trying to institute mass deportations against people they consider to be usurpers in their land:

  7. Jillian permalink
    April 17, 2010 8:50 am

    The real tragedy is that if deportations take place it will only empower Hamas, could lead to more violence which is what Bibi and Avigdor Lieberman are hoping as an excuse to wage another war in Gaza and your U.S. government will sit quietly back and simply insist that Israel has a right to defend itself.

    The U.S. has lost all moral authority- the rest of the world no longer looks to you as a shining example of democracy but rather an example of greedy excesses, flagrant hypocrisy and a total lack of understanding of other cultures. If you keep fighting wars on every front without bolstering your economy you will cease to be a superpower altogether and perhaps that is best for all involved. President Obama was going to be different from Bush but he has authorized the assassinations of American citizens abroad- hello? That’s illegal and all it does is bolster support for terror groups.

    What right does your President and Secretary of State have to wag their finger in Iran’s face while the US engages in illegal covert operations, allows Israel to violate international law and secretary arrests and detains people, possibly forever, without any oversight or accountability?

  8. Steve permalink
    April 17, 2010 2:10 pm

    Wanna see an example of how AIPAC operates?:

  9. April 17, 2010 8:46 pm

    I have been reading about the new law which could end up having Palestinians who can’t immediately provide the IDF with papers, being forcibly removed from their homes and sent God knows where- and it really does seem draconian.

    I’m going to go out on a limb here but between the ongoing settlements in E. Jerusalem, the renaming of the holy sites, the continued blockade preventing basic food stuffs, medical and school supplies in to Gaza, Bibi’s AIPAC speech and attitude towards the Obama admin., the poorly timed assassination of the Hamas official and now this latest law- it all is extremely provocative and seems more geared towards appeasing Bibi’s far right wing base in Israel and as strange as it sounds, it almost seems like an open provocation to make it impossible for Abbas to be able to go to the negotiating table with him without totally losing face among Palestinians. Than add to that the claims about Syria arming Hezbollah with Scud missiles, something which the US has delicately said it hasn’t confirmed. It’s interesting because this claim by Israel will likely throw a wrench in the Obama administration’s attempt to engage Syria for the first time in years- the admin. is even trying to get an Ambassador confirmed in the Senate as we speak to go back to Damascus. Now with this latest Israeli announcement, that could be all the ammo some in Congress need to put a stop to it. Many believe that peace in the middle east is not possible without involvement with Syria (b/c of the Golan Heights).

    Bibi could be overplaying his hand. If he keeps upping the ante he could jeopardize Israel’s important relationship with Egypt, Turkey and Jordan. For someone who claims to be so worried about security, it would seem that of late he’s doing things that are rather counterproductive in the long term.


  1. My Idea for Israeli/Palestinian Peace Process – Uhhh, How ’bout Saying What You Really Mean? « Discourse in C# Minor

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