Secretary Clinton will be giving a speech on Middle East policy at 8 p.m. this evening at the Brookings Institution here in D.C. The speech will be part of the forum on "U.S.-Israeli Relations: Facing Hard Choices," to be put on by the think tank's Saban Center for Middle East Policy.
The State Department's news release states that the fourm "will focus on the critical decisions that American and Israeli leaders will confront in the coming year to move the Israeli-Palestinian peace process forward, as well as deal with Iran's nuclear challenge."
Sadly, the Middle East peace process is deadlocked, though Clinton met with chief Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molho yesterday to get "a perspective on the Israeli side of how to move forward," according to State Department spokesman Philip Crowley.
It'll be interesting to see what she says after this rough week for the peace process.
Update, Dec. 14, 2010, 4:40 p.m.: The video of Clinton's speech is below. Overall, it was a lot of the bland same-old, same-old. Clinton used the word "unwavering" twice to describe the United States' commitment to Israel. She reiterated that the United States "[does] not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity." Nothing new.
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Secretary Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are in New York today to discuss Mideast peace. Not that they haven't been doing so anyway. Before the two met, Netanyahu told journalists that he and Clinton had been talking "quite intensively" by phone during the past few weeks.
During their talks today, Clinton is sure to bring up her disappointment about Israel's recent announcement of 1,300 new housing units in Arab East Jerusalem. Yesterday, when announcing $150 million in U.S. budget assistance to the Palestinian Authority, Clinton said, "The United States was deeply disappointed by the announcement of advanced planning for new housing units in sensitive areas of East Jerusalem. This announcement was counterproductive to our efforts to resume negotiations between the parties. We have long urged both parties to avoid actions which could undermine trust, including in Jerusalem."
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In a videoconference with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad yesterday, Secretary Clinton announced the transfer of $150 million in U.S. direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority to help it build a viable Palestinian state as part of the two-state solution. Clinton said the latest infusion of money brings the United States' total direct budget assistance to $225 million for 2010 and overall U.S. support and investment to almost $600 million for 2010.
"This figure underscores the strong determination of the American people and this administration to stand with our Palestinian friends even during difficult economic times," the secretary of state said in announcing the transfer of funds.
The money -- whose use will be carefully monitored by the United States, the World Bank, and the IMF -- will go toward the important task of building a well-functioning Palestinian state. Clinton explained, "This new funding will help the Palestinian Authority pay down its debt, continue to deliver services and security to its people, and keep the progress going. It will support our work together to expand Palestinians' access to schools, clinics, and clean drinking water in both the West Bank and Gaza. And it will allow Prime Minister Fayyad's government to build and modernize courthouses and police stations, train judges and prosecutors, and launch new economic development initiatives."
This emphasis on building a viable Palestinian state accords with some of Elliott Abram's advice for President Obama, as detailed in his recent FP piece, "Build Up the West Bank." Abrams writes that instead of focusing on an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, Obama should instead spend the rest of his term helping build a Palestinian state in the West Bank. He writes:
If you build it, they will sign. The only way to reassure Palestinians that a state is possible is to make one, and the only way to reassure Israelis that their security will be enhanced rather than diminished is for them to see it with their own eyes. That won't happen for either side at Camp David or Oslo or Annapolis -- only right there on the ground in the West Bank.
Here is a video of Clinton's and Fayyad's remarks:
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When it comes to Mideast peace, Secretary Clinton appealed yesterday to all who care about the issue: "Please don't give up in the face of difficulty."
She made the remark last night in a keynote speech at a gala event hosted by the American Task Force on Palestine. She acknowledged that moving foward with peace talks is tough and that there's no "magic formula" to overcoming obstacles: "I cannot stand here tonight and tell you there is some magic formula that I have discovered that will break through the current impasse. But I can tell you, we are working every day, sometimes every hour, to create the conditions for negotiations to continue and succeed."
Clinton also acknowledged that coming to peace is tough psychologically for the parties involved because it requires moving past so much historical animosity. To rounds of applause, she quoted Palestinian poet Naomi Shihab Nye as saying, "I'm not interested in who suffered the most. I'm interested in people getting over it"; then after the applause, Clinton went on to say, "And that is the biggest obstacle of them all. I know people cannot forget. I know most people cannot forgive. But I do know also that the future holds the possibility of progress, if not in our lifetimes then certainly in our children's."
Clinton also encouraged people to be look forward, not backward, saying, "People on all sides of this conflict must choose to move beyond a history they cannot change to embrace a future they can shape together." She also urged people to adopt a glass-half-full, as opposed to glass-half-empty, mentality: "Now, in any tough negotiation, it is natural to focus on what we are being asked to give up. But it is important to keep in mind what you, the Palestinians and Israelis, stand to gain."
Clinton was also optimistic in her assessment of prospects of an independent Palestinian state, saying:
It is easier than ever to envision an independent Palestine able to govern itself, uphold its responsibilities to provide for its own people, and ensure security. This gives confidence to negotiators on both sides and hope to those who have long looked forward to that day.
Under President [Mahmoud] Abbas and Prime Minister [Salam] Fayyad's leadership, and under Prime Minister Fayyad's two-year plan, the Palestinian Authority is going beyond rhetoric and actually building a new reality. It is reversing a history of corruption and working hard to produce results that matter in Palestinians' daily lives.
Clinton also pointed out promising news from the World Bank:
The World Bank recently reported that if the Palestinian Authority maintains its momentum in building institutions and delivering public services, it is, and I quote, "well-positioned for the establishment of a state at any point in the near future."
Below is the video of her remarks:
Screen shot from U.S. State Department video
Secretary Clinton worked the phones assiduously this weekend, and held talks with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials, but to no avail: The 10-month moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank expired at midnight local time (6 p.m., U.S. Eastern time). The New York Times reports that her last-minute efforts at getting the moratorium extended included two phone calls today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and another with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, now representative of the Middle East "quartet." Describing talks between U.S., Israeli, and Palestinian officials this weekend, an unnamed U.S. official told the Associated Press, "They are talking. Intense efforts are ongoing."
Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has said he'll leave the peace talks that Clinton launched this month if the mortorium isn't extended, said he'll wait until after Oct. 4's Arab League meeting to decide what to do.
The ending of the moratorium has got to be a disappointment for Clinton. For now, the talks are limping ahead, writes my colleague Blake Hounshell. Hopefully, Clinton and U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell will find a way to help get the talks back on solid footing and moving steadily toward a lasting peace.
(In the Sept. 26 photo above, settlers in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Netafim mark the end of the moratorium by pouring a cement cornerstone for a new kindergarten.)
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Want a breakthrough in Mideast peace negotiations? Open the talks to women -- that's the nontraditional approach that two women from the Institute for Inclusive Security advise in a recent opinion piece.
Of course Secretary Clinton, a woman, is already facilitator in chief for the peace talks, taking place today in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. But the opinion piece, by Carla Koppell and Rebecca Miller, argues for the direct and indirect inclusion of women, women's groups, and other civil-society organizations. When such groups are included, the peace process becomes more transparent and the "fog of pessimism" brought on by secrecy lifts. The authors write:
Research shows that when women are included in negotiations, they regularly raise key issues otherwise ignored by male negotiators. Women often facilitate cross-conflict talks on the margins of formal negotiations that cultivate public investment in negotiations. When formally involved, women often help talks gain traction.
Importantly, the authors argue that transparency, not secrecy, drives peaceful resolution, and they point to research by Darren Kew and Anthony Wanis-St. John that demonstrates a correlation between the degree of involvement of civil-society groups during peace negotiations and the likelihood that a peace agreement will hold. (I think it's this study.)
Koppell and Miller advise Clinton that she can be more inclusive of women and civil-society groups by doing the following:
•Soliciting topics for the negotiating agenda from civil society and women;
•Organising public consultations with women and civil society organisations to hear their perspectives on the core issues;
•Creating a formal consultative mechanism for civil society groups to feed input indirectly into negotiations;
•Appointing gender advisers or civil society liaisons to assist official delegations; and
•Offering negotiating teams additional seats at talks if women are added.
You never know. This outside-the-box approach just might work. At the very least, it can't make things worse.
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This weekend, Elliott Abrams, a deputy national security advisor to U.S. President George W. Bush, offered three pieces of advice to Secretary Clinton -- OK, actually the U.S. government, but Clinton is the one facilitating the project -- on Middle East peace negotiations. The three pieces of advice, published in the Washington Post, are:
1. Stand back. Don't intrude excessively into what should be a two-party negotiation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
2. Care about the West Bank. If conditions deteriorate there, then Palestinians aren't going to be supportive of the talks and the Palestinian Authority will have difficulty enforcing any agreement.
3. Don't pursue a "framework agreement." Getting the two sides to declare their "fundamental compromises" -- as U.S. Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell phrased it -- amounts to revealing their bottom lines prematurely and committing "political suicide."
Well, on the first piece of advice, Clinton has no intention of being intrusive. She's just going to be facilitator in chief. As she said to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in her opening remarks on Sept. 2 (with my emphasis in italics):
For our part, the United States has pledged its full support for these talks, and we will be an active and sustained partner.… But we cannot and we will not impose a solution. Only you can make the decisions necessary to reach an agreement and secure a peaceful future for the Israeli and Palestinian people.
And though there will be some trilateral meetings with the Israeli, Palestinian, and U.S. sides all present, there will be plenty of direct talks between the Israeli and Palestinians with the United States out of the room and not breathing down their necks. Already on Sept. 2, Netanyahu and Abbas had a private meeting, and more will take place, about every two weeks.
On the second piece of advice, Clinton is definitely concerned about the financial crisis with the Palestinian Authority. In a Sept. 3 interview with Palestine TV and Israel's Channel 2, she said:
And the United States, as you, I'm sure, know, has increased dramatically our direct support for the Palestinian Authority. And I have encouraged and urged all the donors to do that and more. Last year was a good year. We got a very robust amount of contributions. This year, we are upping our request to all of the donors to support the peace process by supporting the Palestinian Authority.
Abrams makes a good point that oil-rich Arab countries could be contributing much more, and it appears that Clinton will be ceaseless with her phone calls to get them to pony up. A Sept. 5 New York Times article reports that she made "relentless phone calls" to get Arab support for the talks and that two-thirds of her phone calls to foreign officials since March have been about the Middle East. Clinton will surely be working the phones (3 a.m. and otherwise), cajoling and browbeating Arab countries to step up aid so the Palestinian Authority doesn't have a meltdown.
As for not having a "framework agreement" -- which Mitchell said during Sept. 2's briefing is intended to "establish the fundamental compromises necessary to enable the parties to then flesh out and complete a comprehensive agreement that will end the conflict and establish a lasting peace" -- the Israeli and Palestinian sides both say they want one. And if that's what they both want, then Clinton should not be intrusive (see Advice No. 1) and not discourage it. Mitchell said during the briefing, "And the parties themselves have suggested and agreed that the logical way to proceed, to tackle them [the core issues] is to try to reach a framework agreement first."
So, it appears Clinton is following Abrams's first two pieces of advice and intelligently disregarding the third. As pessimistic as most people seem to be, these talks could be a success. Stephen J. Hadley, who was national security advisor to Bush, told the New York Times, "One of the best indications that this could succeed is that Hillary Clinton is willing to get involved.… 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."
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Secretary Clinton's political experience could be a plus for her as America's diplomat-in-chief during Middle East peace negotiations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas not only have to agree on smart policies, but they have to go with policies that are palatable to their people. These leaders aren't tackling negotiations purely from the perspective of what is good policy in itself, but what will be politically acceptable with their people.
As a former senator and presidential candidate, Clinton has plenty of experience with having to come up with good policy that's also good politics and approaching policy debates with an eye for what's politically sellable. In that sense, she has an asset that many of her predecessors -- Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and Madeleine Albright -- don't. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, now a representative of the Middle East "Quartet," told ABC News, as seen in the video below, that Clinton has the "best type of political mind" because it "knows where you meet the point of principle and knows where you need the subtlety and the compromise."
Of course, this is the first time Clinton has been a mediator in such a formidable challenge, so you never know how it'll go. "I think she has credibility. Now whether that translates into diplomatic skills, I don't know. Frankly, she's untested as a mediator," Shibley Telhami, a University of Maryland professor who recently wrote a piece for FP, told ABC News, as seen in the video below.
Still, Clinton's political experience counts for something. Plus, she has this relationship with this fellow who has engaged in Mideast peace talks -- maybe she has learned some lessons from his experience.
Jason Reed-Pool/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton relaunched direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians this morning with opening remarks in which she said to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, "I fervently believe that the two men sitting on either side of me, that you are the leaders who can make this long-cherished dream a reality, and we will do everything possible to help you."*
After Clinton spoke, Netanyahu and Abbas also made opening remarks. Presently, they should be in a trilateral meeting in Clinton's outer office.
As seen above, Netanyahu and Abbas shook hands during the relaunch. So, Clinton has something started. It would be especially great if after a year of negotiations, we see a handshake that's September 1993-esque.
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
To watch a live broadcast of Secretary Clinton's relaunch of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, visit the U.S. State Department's website at 10 a.m. (U.S. Eastern time) this Thursday, Sept. 2. Clinton will make opening remarks, along with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Afterward, the three will proceed to Clinton's outer office for a private trilateral meeting.
During the negotiations, Clinton might be channeling some of the experience of her husband, former U.S. President Bill Clinton. When asked by a journalist today whether the secretary has been reaching out to her predecessors who've worked on bringing the Israeli and Palestinian sides together, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley replied:
Well, she's had the opportunity to interact directly with a number of veterans. Some of them are still on the team or -- and some of them are on the other teams. So for example, she has this relationship with this fellow who has spent some time talking to leaders, President Clinton, and she has benefited from his direct experience.
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The Mideast peace talks this week in Washington are a high-risk, high-reward endeavor for Secretary Clinton. Should the direct negotiations eventually culminate in a historic agreement, it would be a defining moment for Clinton, especially if topped with a public signing ceremony such as the Sept. 13, 1993, one for the Oslo Accords that husband/President Bill Clinton presided over with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat.
On the other hand, if the negotiations fail -- and most people seem pessimistic -- it could be disastrous. It might even dog her the way her failed 1990s attempt at health-care reform does. The Pittsburg Post-Gazette's Dan Simpson, a former U.S. ambassador, writes that if the talks don't work out, Clinton could "suffer the diplomatic equivalent of her disastrous 1990s venture into health care reform." (And even if a historic agreement were hammered out, implementation -- which could take as many as 10 years -- could be derailed, as FP's Stephen Walt points out.)
I think it's doubtful, though, that if the negotiations fall through, it would be as bad as Clinton's fiasco with health-care reform. Most people are expecting the talks to fail because of the intransigence of the Mideast parties involved, and critics are more likely to pin a fiasco on President Obama, not Clinton, because, well, he's the president.
Clinton has a lot of pushing, prodding, cajoling, and strong-arming to do this week. For the sake of world peace, let's have the audacity to hope that progress, even a little bit, will be made.
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Secretary Clinton has condemned the killing of four Israelis in the West Bank Tuesday as "savage brutality has no place in any country, under any circumstances." Hamas has claimed responsibility for the killings, which it says are the first in a series of attacks in its assault on the Middle East peace talks starting this week in Washington. Clearly, Clinton won't let such senseless violence derail the talks.
Clinton's complete remarks, made Tuesday before her meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are below:
Well, let me express our deepest sympathy to the families who have lost their loved ones. This kind of savage brutality has no place in any country, under any circumstances. The forces of terror and destruction cannot be allowed to continue. It is one of the reasons why the prime minister is here today: to engage in direct negotiations with those Palestinians who themselves have rejected a path of violence in favor of a path of peace. We have to not only stand against the kind of horrific murders we saw today on behalf of the four who were lost and, as the prime minister said, the seven orphans who have been brutally deprived of their parents, but on behalf of all people -- Israelis, Palestinians, everyone who knows that there is no answer when violence begets violence. And I thank the prime minister for his leadership in seeking a different future for the children of Israel. And we pledge to do all we can, always, to protect and defend the State of Israel and to provide security to the Israeli people. That is one of the paramount objectives that Israel has that the United States supports in these negotiations.
(In the Sept. 1 photo above, family and mourners express grief at a memorial service for the four deceased.)
America's top diplomat, Secretary Clinton, made sure Tuesday that everyone's clear on what the expectations are for Mideast peace negotiations later this week. She held preparatory meetings with several parties that'll be involved in the direct negotiations, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (as seen above), the Jordanian and Egyptian foreign ministers, "Quartet" representative Tony Blair, and finally at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday evening, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley put it at Tuesday's press briefing, it was a way of helping to "tee up" meetings with the presidents and prime ministers. He said:
It is not unusual when you have a meeting of presidents and prime ministers that the secretary of state will help to tee up those meetings and make sure that we have the same expectations about -- on both sides -- about what will constitute a successful meeting. So the secretary is following up on the work that George Mitchell, Dennis Ross, Dan Shapiro, David Hale, and others have had in recent days and weeks, all to make sure that the relaunch of negotiations get off on the right foot.
If I have time Wednesday, I'll post photos from the other preparatory meetings Clinton held, including those with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Quartet representative Tony Blair, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (I can't post them now due to technical difficulties.)
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton returned to Washington yesterday evening after six weekdays with no public appointments on her schedule. Back from her work-from-home vacation, she has a big day today, meeting with some high-profile people from the Middle East:
12:30 p.m.: Clinton holds a bilateral meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
2 p.m.: Clinton holds a bilateral meeting with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.
3 p.m.: Clinton holds a bilateral meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.
4 p.m.: Clinton meets with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and John Hardman, CEO of the Carter Center.
6:15 p.m.: Clinton meets with Quartet representative Tony Blair.
7:45 p.m.: Clinton holds a bilateral meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
(Update, Aug. 31, 9:56 p.m.: Her meeting with Jimmy Carter today was about North Korea, not about Mideast peace, but who knows, he might have offered her some advice based on his experience with the Camp David talks.)
This is a bit of old news, but I'm getting caught up after having been away on vacation.
Secretary Clinton, in inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, as well as other relevant parties, to Washington to relaunch Middle East peace negotiations, is urging everyone to "persevere, to keep moving forward even through difficult times."
Her statement from Friday, the 20th:
Since the beginning of this Administration, we have worked with the Israelis and Palestinians and our international partners to advance the cause of comprehensive peace in the Middle East, including a two-state solution which ensures security and dignity for Israelis and Palestinians. The President and I are encouraged by the leadership of Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas and fully share their commitment to the goal of two states – Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.
After proximity talks and consultations with both sides, on behalf of the United States Government, I’ve invited Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Abbas to meet on September 2nd in Washington, D.C. to re-launch direct negotiations to resolve all final status issues, which we believe can be completed within one year.
President Obama has invited President Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah of Jordan to attend in view of their critical role in this effort. Their continued leadership and commitment to peace will be essential to our success. The President will hold bilateral meetings with the four leaders followed by a dinner with them on September 1st. The Quartet Representative Tony Blair has also been invited to the dinner in view of his important work to help Palestinians build the institutions of their future state, an effort which must continue during the negotiations. I’ve invited Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas to join me here at the State Department on the following day for a trilateral meeting to re-launch direct negotiations.
As we move forward, it is important that actions by all sides help to advance our effort, not hinder it. There have been difficulties in the past; there will be difficulties ahead. Without a doubt, we will hit more obstacles. The enemies of peace will keep trying to defeat us and to derail these talks. But I ask the parties to persevere, to keep moving forward even through difficult times, and to continue working to achieve a just and lasting peace in the region.
As we have said before, these negotiations should take place without preconditions and be characterized by good faith and a commitment to their success, which will bring a better future to all of the people of the region.
TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton made the following remarks on June 1:
On the Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound ship (made in a news conference after meeting with Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi, as seen in the video above):
The United States supports the Security Council's condemnation of the acts leading to this tragedy.… We support in the strongest terms the Security Council's call for a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation.
… Iraq's electoral commission and security forces successfully organized and carried out a credible and competitive election. Since then, the electoral commission has worked in a careful, professional way to bring the process to this concluding point. This experience demonstrates that Iraqis want to use the political process to choose their leaders and settle differences.
On Italy's Republic Day (June 2):
… I congratulate the people of Italy as you celebrate your 64th Republic Day.…
Today we are NATO allies working side by side to seize the opportunities and meet the challenges of the 21st century. From supporting the refocused mission in Afghanistan to curbing nuclear proliferation, combating climate change, and spurring global economic recovery, we are working together as partners to advance peace, security, and prosperity around the world.
In her remarks on the Israeli raid of a Gaza-bound ship, Secretary Clinton said yesterday:
The United States supports the Security Council's condemnation of the acts leading to this tragedy.…
We support in the strongest terms the Security Council's call for a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation. We support an Israeli investigation that meets those criteria. We are open to different ways of assuring a credible investigation, including international participation.
The situation in Gaza is unsustainable and unacceptable. Israel's legitimate security needs must be met, just as the Palestinians' legitimate needs for sustained humanitarian assistance and regular access for reconstruction materials must also be assured.
Guess how some Iranian protesters decided to vent their anger against the deadly Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound ship? They cut up and stomped on Hillary Clinton pictures!
Yesterday in front of the U.N. building in Tehran, dozen of protesters threw rocks, burned Israeli flags, chanted "Death to Israel" -- and destroyed Clinton pictures. In the photo above, an Iranian woman stomps on a Clinton portrait. In the photo below, the woman, wrapped in a Palestinian flag and bedecked with photos of Iranian leaders, cuts up a Clinton picture. In the last photo, the torn and forlorn image lies on the ground.
Clinton has said some harsh things about Iran -- and rightfully so -- and I'm sure she knows that this type of response just comes with the job. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has already made it clear that Clinton is an "enemy of Iran."
Photos: BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton gave a speech this morning at the AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) policy conference in which she declared, "For President [Barack] Obama, for me, and for this entire administration, our commitment to Israel's security and Israel's future is rock solid," according the text of her speech that was released by the State Department.
Alluding to Israel's recent "insulting" announcement of a new housing project in East Jersulem, Clinton said, "As Israel's friend, it is our responsibility to give credit when it is due and to tell the truth when it is needed."
Here's what Clinton should have said, based on the contest over at Tom Ricks's Best Defense blog.
Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images
From left, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair (special envoy for the "quartet" on Middle East peace), Secretary Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton attend a news conference after talks in Moscow today. The quartet on Middle East peace -- the United States, the United Nations, the European Union, and Russia -- urged the Israeli government to "freeze all settlement activity" and was "deeply concerned" about "the continuing deterioration in Gaza," Ban said.
Complete remarks are here.
YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images
From the Washington Post:
In an effort to defuse a bitter spat with the United States, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday night to propose confidence-building measures to get Middle East peace talks back on track, U.S. and Israeli officials said."
Meanwhile, Clinton told BBC TV that the tough stand she has taken after Israel's announcement of a new East Jerusalem housing project* last week is "paying off":
I think we're going to see the resumption of the negotiation track and that means that it is paying off because that's our goal."
*Update, March 23: The phrase "announcement of a new East Jerusalem housing project" corrects the original phrasing of "settlements announcement."
DAN BALILTY/AFP/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Secretary is en route to Russia right now to discuss the new START treaty and meet with the diplomatic "quartet" on Middle East peace. Meanwhile, here are some recent Clinton headlines.
•"With subtle shift in nuance, Hillary Clinton reiterates U.S. stance on Israel" (Washington Post)
•"Clinton to call Netanyahu soon amid row" (Agence France-Presse)
•"Foreign minister: 'Not reasonable' to stop building in East Jerusalem" (CNN)
•"Mrs. Clinton's hissy fit" (Washington Times)
•"Nirupama Rao briefs US on talks with Pakistan" (Indo-Asian News Service)
•"Pakistan, Afghanistan high in Rao's talks in US" (Indo-Asian News Service)
•"Clinton, Okada to meet in Washington or Canada in late March" (Associated Press)
•"Okada unlikely to present Clinton with Japan's plan on Futemma" (Associated Press)
•"Clinton looks forward to an inclusive Iraqi government" (Kuwait News Agency)
•Yesterday, Clinton met with 22 female Iraqi provincial council leaders. Her remarks are here.
Just what did Secretary Clinton ask from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during her stern, 43-minute phone call with him last Friday, in the wake of the East Jerusalem housing-project* announcement that Clinton described as "insulting"?
For the answer, check out this report from FP staff writer Josh Rogin over The Cable.
Update, March 23: The phrase "East Jerusalem housing-project announcement" corrects the original phrase, "settlements announcement."
A quick list of all things Hillary Clinton:
•ISRAEL: On Friday, Secretary Clinton made a stern call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the East Jerusalem housing-project* announcement made during Vice President Joe Biden's visit last week. Clinton also told CNN's Jill Dougherty that Israel's announcement was "insulting" to the United States. (See video below.) Clinton also spoke with NBC's Andrea Mitchell about the same topic (with transcript here and video excerpt here).
•RUSSIA/NUKES: Clinton is headed to Russia this week, where she'll meet with President Dmitry Medvedev to discuss negotiations that have been going on for the new START arms-reduction treaty.
•HUMAN RIGHTS: Remember how I mentioned that the United States isn't on the list of country's in the State Department's annual "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices"? Well, it turns out that Clinton announced that the State Department will be preparing a human rights report on the United States itself.
•HAITI: This morning, Clinton (as seen above) hosted an appreciation event for employees, diplomats, and volunteers from the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, for their work after January's devastating earthquake. (Right before than, Clinton attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for employee showers at the State Department's Harry S. Truman Building.)
•WOMEN: CNN's Jill Dougherty asks, "How can Clinton help women?"
•MEXICO: Clinton offered her "deepest sympathies" to the family and friends of the three people connected to the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, who were murdered over the weekend.
•PAKISTAN/TERRORISM: Clinton extended her "deepest sympathy" for those affected by the multiple bombings in Lahore, Pakistan, on Friday.
*Update, March 23: The phrase "East Jerusalem housing-project announcement" corrects the original phrase, "settlements announcement."
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton will be keynote speaker at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which takes place later this month, FP's The Cable recently confirmed. Read more at The Cable.
(Above, the then-Senator Clinton addresses AIPAC on June 4, 2008.)
Alex Wong/Getty Images
One of Secretary Clinton's "New Year's resolutions" is to redouble her efforts at promoting a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Monday, after meeting with the prime minister (above) of Qatar -- an Arab country that the United States wants onboard in supporting the peace process -- Clinton said:
We're going to be even more committed this year, and we're starting this new year with that level of commitment and we're going to follow through and hopefully we can see this as a positive year in this long process."
On Friday, Clinton and U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell will meet with the foreign ministers of Jordan and Egypt, two countries crucial to the peace process because they're Israel's only Arab neighbors who fully recognize the country. On Sunday, Mitchell will travel to Europe to meet with the "quartet" attempting to facilitate Mideast peace -- the United States, the United Nations, the European Union, and Russia -- and will later this month go to Israel and the Palestinian territories with letters of "guarantees" stating the United States' stance.
This is quite an ambitious New Year's resolution for Clinton, and success depends not just on Clinton's hard work, but on the cooperation of many disparate parties with conflicting interests. Perhaps that's why Clinton had a "bilateral meeting" last month at the North Pole with a "well-known international figure" and sung a wish list that included "Middle East negotiations."
TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton talked with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo today to help smooth out the controversy she sparked this weekend when she made comments that suggested the United States might be backpedaling from its earlier call for a settlement freeze in the West Bank.
After meeting with Mubarak, which appeared to go well based on the smiles in the photo above, Clinton clarified herself on the settlements issue by saying of U.S. policy:
Our policy on settlements has not changed. We do not accept the legitimacy of settlement activity, and we have a very firm belief that ending all settlement activity, current and future, would be preferable."
Referring to Israel's offer to restrain, but not halt, settlement construction, she said:
It is not what we would prefer, because we would like to see everything ended forever. … But it is something that I think shows at least a positive movement toward the final status issues being addressed."
Whether her efforts will get Israeli-Palestinian peace talks going anytime soon remains to be seen. Arabs and Palestinians have demanded a complete settlement freeze as a precondition for talks.
Photo: KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images
In an interview with Al Jazeera today, reports the Politico's Laura Rozen, Secretary Clinton said she was the first American associated with any U.S. administration to call for the creation of a Palestinian state. She said, "I was the first American associated with any admin to call for the establishment of a Palestinian state when I first did it 10 years ago. A lot of people thought that was very radical, now there is consensus we must get to a Palestinian state."
Clinton, seen above today in Marrakech, Morocco, at the Forum for the Future conference, is clearly trying to get back on track after her controversial remarks this weekend about West Bank settlements. The New America Foundation's Daniel Levy dissects the controversy in today's FP piece, "Unsettling Questions."
A few other tidbits of Clinton news:
•Japan apparently scheduled and then canceled a Friday meeting between Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada and Clinton. The reason: infighting within the Democratic Party of Japan.
•Over at the AfPak Channel, a contributor states that Clinton was insensitive when, two days after a terrible terrorist attack in Pakistan, she told a group of Pakistanis, "Al Qaeda has had safe haven in Pakistan since 2002. I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn't get them if they really wanted to." As the New York Times put it, "The remarks upset her hosts, who have seen hundreds of soldiers and civilians killed as Pakistan has taken on a widening campaign against militant groups that have threatened the country from its tribal areas." Well, it certainly isn't the first time Clinton has been hard on Pakistan.
Photo: ABDELHAK SENNA/AFP/Getty Images
Over the weekend at a news conference, seen above, Clinton hailed Israel's "unprecedented" concessions on settlement construction in the West Bank. That didn't go over well with Palestinian and Arab leaders because Clinton had previously called for a total settlement freeze. Today, Clinton appeared to downplay her previous remarks, reports Laura Rozen over at Politico, who's in Morocco, Clinton's location for the day. As usual, anything related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict stirs mass controversy.
Photo: DAN BALILTY/AFP/Getty Images
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