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Heard Around the Hillary-Sphere: The Middle East Edition

September 5, 2010

Hope everyone is having a good Labor Day weekend.

Here is a round-up of news about Secretary Clinton and a few links to news stories not involving her:

First, Secretary Clinton will be traveling to the Middle East for the second round of US-sponsored direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will travel to the Middle East on September 14 to participate in a second round of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, according to a senior State Department official.

George Mitchell, the Obama administration’s Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, will join Clinton on the trip.

Clinton will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt before traveling to Jerusalem to continue the peace talks.

Hillary has clearly helped increase the number of high-level women who deal with security and non-proliferation issues:

When Rose Gottemoeller began negotiating the new nuclear treaty with Moscow, the US diplomat got questions on the usual topics: missile defense, warheads, inspections.

And then there was this one from the Russian generals: “How come you’ve got so many women?’’

To the Russians’ astonishment, an array of American women faced them across the negotiating table. Gottemoeller led the American team during the negotiations, which concluded in March. Her deputy was Marcie Ries, another diplomat. The top two US scientists were female. And helping to close the deal on the agreement was Ellen Tauscher, a State Department undersecretary.

The US delegation reflected a little-noticed shift in the tough-guy world of national security. Twenty-five years after White House aide Donald Regan famously opined that women were “not going to understand throw-weights,’’ American women clearly get nuclear policy.

They also run it.

Or a lot of it, anyway. Women hold senior nuclear positions at the Pentagon and White House. Search out the old office of General Leslie Groves, the Manhattan Project’s “indispensable man,’’ and you will find a woman. She is Karin Look, who helped oversee the dismantling of Libya’s nuclear weapons program.

“From me to the secretary, it’s all female,’’ said Look, a senior verification official whose chain of command extends up to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

By now I am sure all of you have heard about the Hillary in 2012 political ad:

While voters are being inundated with television spots for candidates in this year’s midterm elections, viewers in some markets will also see an ad for the 2012 presidential vote with the slogan, “Where there’s a Hill there’s a way.”

The “Hillary Clinton for President” commercial began its run in New Orleans this week and the man behind the campaign, William DeJean, said he will also pay for it to air in Washington, New York, Los Angeles and possibly Houston, CNN reported.

DeJean, a Chicago dentist, said he paid $5,000 to make the ad because he doesn’t think “this country is headed in the right direction,” and he told CNN he believes Hillary Clinton is the one who can set things straight.

And of course, analysis of Secretary Clinton’s important role in Mideast Peace:

There was an article in the NYT yesterday which was both positive and negative. Positive because it acknowledged how unconditionally committed she is negotiating a lasting peace between the parties. Negative because it seems to imply that if an agreement isn’t reached, somehow her credibility will suffer and as far as I’m concerned, that is patently ridiculous given this conflict has been going on for decades and if there is failure this time, it will most likely be due to saboteurs, the parties themselves and perhaps an unworkable US political situation which disallows any pressure to be applied to Israel.

I also found it interesting how the NYT article is written entirely from the perspectives of the US vis-a-vis Israel and the American Jewish community. It’s almost as though the Palestinians hardly exist as far as the NYT is concerned, when in fact, part of the challenge for Secretary Clinton will be to deftly maneuver within the landmine of U.S. domestic politics (ie. not upsetting the AIPAC crowd) while also convincing the “Arab Street” that the U.S. is aware of, and committed to, acknowledging the concerns of the Palestinians and ensuring a just resolution in the eyes of both parties. There’s also a weird side-comment in the article about how it “doesn’t hurt” that Clinton’s new son-in-law is Jewish.

One of the things Secretary Clinton doesn’t get enough credit for is her outreach to Muslim communities and I am always amazed when I watch her interviews with Arab television- it is clear that she does have the concerns of Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular, in mind. I wish she’d do more interviews because when she speaks directly to the people (as opposed to having media like the NYT interpret her message), I think U.S. credibility is increased.

I think the article is largely very positive, but again, I don’t agree that if the talks fail, it will in any way be a result of any lack of diplomatic skill on her part. I know I am a bit biased on this but I really believe that Secretary Clinton can only help, and not hurt at this point.

Anyhoo, here is a short excerpt:

Mrs. Clinton will be in the thick of the negotiations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, when they meet on Sept. 14 in Egypt. Her role, several officials say, will be to take over from the administration’s special envoy, George J. Mitchell, when the two sides run into serious obstacles.

It may prove the greatest test yet for Mrs. Clinton, one that could cement her legacy as a diplomat if she solves the riddle that foiled even her husband, former President Bill Clinton. But it could also pose considerable risks to any political ambitions she may harbor.

[snip]

“One of the best indications that this could succeed is that Hillary Clinton is willing to get involved,” said Stephen J. Hadley, who served as national security adviser to President George W. Bush. “Because that makes me think two things: She thinks it’s possible and, because she is as skilled as she is, it increases the likelihood of success.”

Among the many hurdles that Mrs. Clinton will face is the often tense relationship that this administration has had with Israel. Mr. Obama is viewed with distrust by many in Israel and among some Jewish groups at home, where his outreach to the Muslim world and public criticism of Israeli policies have been denounced by some critics as anti-Israel.

But Mrs. Clinton has preserved her own credibility among these groups, analysts said, which will make her perhaps the administration’s most effective salesperson for the peace process. She also has a politician’s feel for Mr. Netanyahu, her aides say, which could help her push him to make hard choices, provided she is willing.
[emphasis]

Kathleen Parker makes a sort of interesting point in the WaPo that in a connected world, the hope for peace my lie not with the old gray-haired leaders from the past (Abbas, Netanyahu and their American counter-parts) but with the next generation of facebook savy youngsters. And that got me thinking. After all, for the first time ever, a kid in Israel can have a debate with a Palestinian (if he or she has some sort of network access) to debate these issues and actually learn to empathize. You know, rather than shooting at each other. She’s kind of got a point. On a personal note, my own knowledge of these issues has expanded through conversations I have had with Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians etc. on Twitter. No joke. It’s interesting to listen to their take on all of this and while I don’t want to simplify things, I think it’s important that the U.S. realize how perhaps social networking could be used to promote dialogue peace among Arabs and Israelis- particularly among the younger generation- because the real hope lies with them. Excerpt:

At the State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sits between Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. There is much gray hair among them.

Not far away, at a sidewalk cafe near George Washington University, four college students converse amicably. One is Israeli, one Palestinian, another Syrian, the fourth African American. (One of my young tablemates knows and identifies them.) Their iPhones join flatware among platters of couscous and falafel. They are speaking English, laughing, trading news and barbs.

The scene just described is not rare in the nation’s capital or in many other cities where colleges and universities attract diverse populations. I’ve witnessed variations of the same tableau dozens of times. Different faces, ethnicities and nationalities, but the same dynamic and, for members of an older generation, the same revelation.

[snip]

Enter the Facebook generation, for whom el mundo es un pañuelo, as perhaps 500 million people might put it. Translation: It’s a small world. When one can communicate with another with a keystroke or a click, the world is a computer bit.

As I watched these four interact, it occurred to me that in Facebook world, where friends connect, and friends of friends “friend” each other, and networks of associations expand like a circulatory system to all reaches permitted by technology (and governments), it is increasingly unlikely that warring factions can sustain themselves for much longer in the grand scheme of things. Friends don’t kill friends — most of the time…

Over at Mondoweiss, Philip Weiss (who is by no means objective in his criticism of Israel) gives Hillary credit for her ability to even be able to sit in the same room with Abbas and Netanyahu, let alone be the lone voice of reason. He notes that in her remarks the other day she made an appeal not just to the leaders/governments of the Palestinians and Israelis, but directly to the people on the street. Weiss is kinda funny in his take on this saying that she essentially knows the people are ultimately more important in all of this than Abbas and Netanyahu given that when it comes to delivering peace, as Weiss says, “these two [Abbas and Bibi] can’t even deliver a newspaper.” Heh.

Here is a CNN article discussing Secretary Clinton’s view of what may happen if Israel doesn’t prolong the settlement moratorium:

Netanyahu is under pressure from the Palestinians and the Obama administration to extend a 10-month moratorium on building Israeli settlements in the disputed West Bank territory.

That moratorium is set to expire September 26.

Netanyahu’s conservative coalition government wants the Israeli prime minister to end the moratorium.

Elsalameen said that during the leaders’ private discussion, Abbas asked Netanyahu to extend the settlement freeze.
Netanyahu reportedly said, “I cannot extend.”

Elsalameen says Abbas responded, “Then I cannot continue.”

Before the summit even began, Abbas had threatened to abandon final status talks if Netanyahu allowed Israeli settlements to go forward.

Elsalameen said Clinton was asked about what would happen if Israel continued to expand the controversial Jewish settlements. Elsalameen said Clinton responded, as President Barack Obama had publicly stated, “Then all bets are off.”

Despite the standoff between the Palestinian and Israeli leadership, Elsalameen said that starting Sunday, their chief negotiators will meet on a daily basis to try to entertain compromises.

According to U.S., Israeli and Palestinian officials, the hope is that during those talks, some trust and confidence will be developed, and some of the other issues will be settled, possibly making it easier to find a formula for extending the moratorium.

[emphasis added]

Ok, and lastly, can I just take this opportunity to reiterate how I can’t stand Dick Morris? He has no soul. He’s jumping on the “Muslims want to spread Sharia Law throughout the U.S.” hate bandwagon and uses biased statistics (from Islamaphobe Frank Gaffney) to give his readers what they want to hear. Gaffney is the loser who opined that the Missile Defense Agency symbol (of the DoD) had been changed by President Obama so as to resemble an Islamic Crescent (you know, Obama being Muslim and all) when in fact, the symbol changed under Bush and represented pictorial representation of an atom. Idiot. Paranoia self-destroya.

I have received several emails asking about a photo bomb and I will be doing one, but not until later- probably in the evening. I’m running behind. Sorry ’bout that.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. HillaryFan permalink
    September 5, 2010 2:35 pm

    Thanks so much for this. I missed these round-ups. It’s so nice to come here and get all the Hillary news, foreign policy news and great photos. You do a lot of intellectual heavy lifting that a lot of Hillary blogs don’t do in that this isn’t just some fan girl site.

    Just wanted to give you credit b/c I know you put a lot of time into keeping us informed of what the Secretary is up to and also what others are saying about her.

  2. Susan permalink
    September 5, 2010 3:13 pm

    Thanks for taking on the NYT article because when I first read it I didn’t pick up on some of the things you did. Then after reading your take on it, I went back and saw that while the author clearly spoke to some people in Clinton’s circle, the article does tend to make too much of the fact that if talks fail, it’s b/c she failed the “test.”

    I’m also ashamed to say I didn’t pick up on how slanted the article was in not even considering anyone from the Muslim American community and their view of the administration’s role the peace process. I went back and counted how many times the article used the word “Palestinian” and they do so twice: once to describe Abbas as President of the Palestinian National Authority and then again in the phrase Palestinian Liberation Organization. Israel and “Jewish” was mentioned over and over again.

    You have a good eye for this stuff Stacey. No wonder you ruffle feathers at times. And I mean that in the best possible way😉

  3. SpfcMarcus permalink
    September 5, 2010 3:17 pm

    Nice roundup. Very thorough.

    I’m heading back to Afghanistan next week so I may not be around- I know, you’ll miss me and my angry views terribly, right? We do have internet access on some of the bigger centralized bases but sometimes so many people want to use it that you end up waiting hours for a laptop and out in the hills, there’s no of course no wireless coverage so we just listen to music and play games on it, in between getting shot at (when we’re in the mountains).

    • Thain permalink
      September 5, 2010 3:22 pm

      Shit man, be safe. I know I’ll miss your angry views b-cause you’re probably one of the few people here that actually knows how f*ucking bad war actually is.

      Thanxs 4 the round-up Stace. Bibi’s not going to stop settlements. I read something on the Washington Note about how he’s already snookered the US on this. If he doesn’t stop settlements do you think AIPAC and friends will pressure him to extend the moratorium? I don’t think so. If anyone reading this blog is a member of AIPAC or one of those folks who reflexively defends Israel no matter what could you please explain to me why groups like AIPAC and the ADL WON’T pressure Bibi to stop illegal settlements JUST DURING THE TALKS? B/c I don’t friggin’ understand that. I mean come on, time to support the US and quit kissing Likud ass.

    • PYW permalink
      September 5, 2010 8:08 pm

      Thank you or serving our country, and we’ll pray for your safe return!

  4. Tovah permalink
    September 5, 2010 4:25 pm

    Hey, great roundup.

    I agree with you Stacy, Hillary is a huge asset to these talks and when she reaches out to the Muslim world via interviews with Arab TV, she really is able to show that the US does care about the plight of the Palestinians. It IS possible to care about Palestinians while also caring about Israeli security.

    Can’t wait for the photo bomb!🙂

  5. AsherLev permalink
    September 6, 2010 7:20 pm

    Want to know how much of a joke the settlement “moratorium” was? This much of a joke:

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,715614,00.html

    You Americans are so gullible. And to think Hillary came out and praised Israel for this comedy theatre last year. I think the word she used was “unprecedented.” That was a laugh.

    We’ve tripled the number of settlements in only 10 years, thanks mostly to rich American Jewish donors who fund many of them in addition to Israeli government subsidies. In fact, our government pays for American Jews to come live over in these illegal settlements.

    For the US to demand a halt to settlements is laughable- you’ve been encouraging them for decades! Why so glum about them all of a sudden?

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