Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Innocents Abroad Revisited or the Clinton Follies in the Near East: a brief comment

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: No, there has not been a precondition for entering or continuing with the peace process between us and the Palestinians. There’s not been a demand coming from the Palestinians that said we will not negotiate with you unless you freeze all activity – something that is problematic in so many ways, judicial and in other ways. I won’t get into that. But this is a new demand. It’s a change of policy, the Palestinian policy. And it doesn't do much for peace. It doesn't work to advance negotiations. It actually – this uses a pretext, or at least does something as an obstacle that prevents the reestablishment of negotiations.

Now, mind you, the issue of settlements, the issue of territories, the issue of borders – these will be engaged in the negotiations, and they’ll have to be resolved for a peace agreement to be achieved. But you can’t resolve it in advance of the negotiations, and you certainly shouldn’t pile it on as a precondition.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I would add just for context that what the prime minister is saying is historically accurate. There has never been a precondition. It’s always been an issue within the negotiations. What the prime minister has offered in specifics of a restraint on the policy of settlements, which he has just described – no new starts, for example – is unprecedented in the context of the prior two negotiations. It’s also the fact that for 40 years, presidents of both parties have questioned the legitimacy of settlements.

But I think that where we are right now is to try to get into the negotiations. The prime minister will be able to present his government’s proposal about what they are doing regarding settlements, which I think when fully explained will be seen as being not only unprecedented but in response to many of the concerns that have been expressed. There are always demands made in any negotiation that are not going to be fully realized. I mean, negotiation, by its very definition, is a process of trying to meet the other’s needs while protecting your core interests. And on settlements, there’s never been a precondition, there’s never been such an offer from any Israeli government. And we hope that we’ll be able to move in to the negotiations where all the issues that President Obama mentioned in his speech at the United Nations will be on the table for the parties to begin to resolve.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Thank you very much.

American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, "Remarks with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu", 31 October 2009, Jersusalem, in

"Secretary Clinton : "Our policy on settlements has not changed. And I want to say it again: our policy on settlement activity 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, and that is what we have put forth, and that is what we have continued to support. What we have received from the Israelis to halt all new settlement activity – and I’ll repeat that again, too – to halt all new settlement activities and to end the expropriation of land, and to issue no permits or approvals, is unprecedented."

American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, "Remarks with Egyptian Foreign Minister
Ahmed Ali Aboul Gheit,"
4 November 2009, Cairo, in

"If truthfulness be the first essential for the ideal diplomatist, the second essential is precision. By this is meant not merely intellectual accuracy, but moral accuracy. The negotiator should be accurate both in mind and soul. The professional diplomatist is inured, from his earliest days as an attache, to rules of precision. It is the amateur diplomatist who is apt to be slovenly. Even politicians, even cabinet ministers, have been known to overlook the fact that diplomacy, as its name implies, is a written rather than a verbal art and the great high-roads of history are strewn with little shrines of peace which have either been left unfinished, or have collapsed when completed, for the sole reason that their foundations were built on the sands of some verbal misconception."

Sir Harold Nicolson, Diplomacy. 1939.

There is little to add than what one may read in say the Financial Times, or indeed, if one reads carefully, the American State Departments own web site, to the near complete Clinton debacle this past five days. Originally, the American Secretary of State was going to be making various stops in the Near and Middle East, for purposes of endeavoring to (in the words of an unnamed State Department official):

"get a clear picture of where the two sides stood before she met Arab foreign ministers at a development summit in Morocco next week to try to drum up regional support for peace moves. 'She reported to the president last week that the process is going through a difficult patch and she is using the opportunity, being in the region, to consult with the leaders, see where they are, and how we can get the process moving forward again,'"

"Abbas rebuff to Clinton's Peace Push," 30 October 2009, in

Any likelihood of success in that effort, completely collapsed after the press conference with the Israeli Prime Minister on the following day. It was pur et simple a complete wreak of any possibility of moving the peace process forward. Either with the Palestinian Authority or with the Arab governments in the region. Of course, this is not to imply that the peace process was going anywhere prior to the events of the 31st of October. They were not. As, by the bye, gentle reader I predicted in this journal would be the case almost one year ago. There is no history of Democratic Party, American President's putting pressure on Israeli leaders over the peace process (or anything else), particular in the first years of their term. And, so it has proven to be the case with the new American administration. With a keen insight into his antagonists, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, understood this completely. Notwithstanding the fears in certain sectors of the Israeli press five to six months ago, about the Right-wing Likud government being cast adrift by the new American administration over the former's defence of their settlement policies, Netanyahu, did not blink, merely offering up a few sugary words for American consumption, and, voila! We have those wonderful mots of Madam Secretary Clinton of the week-end just past. The fact she has post-facto tried to take those words back, does not obviate the fact that she has enraged the PA authority and kicked the entire 'peace process', over aboard. Need I say any 'I told you so', about appointing someone with almost no diplomatic experience as Secretary of State, as I did about eleven months ago? Well, now we all know the end-result of such truly American hiring practices. Perhaps the Americans will reconsider them in the future? Lest more mistakes be made unnecessarily.


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