In reading the transcript of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton’s remarks during the recent Democratic debate, I was struck by a major waffle in her position on a Palestinian state. To paraphrase John Kerry: she supported one before she didn’t. And all in the same debate.
Here is her first pass at the subject, where she robotically repeats the standard line:
You have a right to defend yourself.
That does not mean that you don’t take appropriate precautions. And, I understand that there’s always second-guessing anytime there is a war. It also does not mean that we should not continue to do everything we can to try to reach a two-state solution, which would give the Palestinians the rights and the autonomy that they deserve.
Note, that even in her standard two-state shpiel, she doesn’t so much embrace it as wink at it as the ideal, but hard to achieve, outcome. In other words, she’s saying: sure, we’d like a two state solution. But we can’t do more than we’re already doing to get there. And if we don’t get there, then who can blame us? This is essentially the continuation of the same failure of the Obama administration over the past eight years.
Also note, that Hillary steers far clear of talking of a Palestinian nation. Instead she uses the far vaguer terms “rights.” Then she levels the death knell by invoking the tepid term, “autonomy.” This is yet another Likudist locution which lets Israel off the hook quite nicely in its battle against Palestinian nationhood.
In his follow-up, Sanders correctly notes that her Aipac speech didn’t contain a single word about the Palestinians. With her back is against the wall, all she can manage is this:
I was absolutely focused on what we needed to do to make sure that the Palestinian people had the right to self-government. And I believe that as president I will be able to continue to make progress and get an agreement that will be fair both to the Israelis and the Palestinians without ever, ever undermining Israel’s security.
These are two qualitatively different statements. The Israeli far right, which has governed the country for most of the past forty years, also favors Palestinian “self-government.” In fact, it claims that the current Palestinian Authority constitutes self-government. It refuses to offer anything further that comes remotely close to a Palestinian state.
So in back-pedaling from a two-state solution, Clinton is deliberately throwing red meat to her pro-Israel supporters in New York. She can now point to two locutions on the subject, one that mollifies liberal Zionists and the other which mollifies the far-right Israel Lobby organizations. She believes she’s satisfied everyone, but really satisfied no one. This type of triangulation will continue the same festering rot which has led to thousands of Palestinian dead, and hundreds of Israeli dead over the past eight years.
It now appears that barring any major scandals or melt-downs on her part, that Hillary Clinton is likely to become the next president. Working on such an assumption, her policy toward Israel-Palestine will, if it’s possible, be even worse than Obama’s. The waffling in the debate will be precisely the sort of tap-dancing she’ll try to get away with as president. She will put a gloss on peace without making a dent in the issue.
My teen-age son reminded me of a timely saying by John F. Kennedy, which I’ll recast in this context: “Those who resist a two-state solution, make a one-state solution inevitable.” Hillary is doing, and will do nothing to bring about a two-state solution. It will be eight totally wasted years. As a result, a one-state solution is inevitable.
Her chief donor/policy consigliere will be Haim Saban. Of course, he’s smart enough to stay out of the kitchen. He’ll exert his control in a careful, calibrated fashion. He will ensure his appointees are selected to run Israel-Palestine policy. But he won’t decide he knows how to prepare a French tart better than the chefs. But he’ll make sure to hire the chefs and tell them which ingredients they should use.
His control of the levers of power will mean the return of the Zio-Mandarins, Dennis Ross and Aaron David Miller. Or if they’re deemed too much the eminences grise, their younger disciples will take a similar role. There will be no George Mitchell’s in a Hillary White House. You should expect no new ideas. Instead you should expect more, far more death and destruction including new wars by Israel against Lebanon and Gaza.
It’s also worth noting that during the Bush administration, then Rep. Jane Harman desperately wanted to be named head of the House Intelligence Committee. So did Aipac and apparently the Israeli government. Justice Department officials even murmured about an Israeli “asset” intervening on Harman’s behalf with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. That individual was Saban. So in the next administration where will Saban’s allegiance lie? With Hillary or Bibi? It will be a fine line he tries to walk. Ultimately his allegiance is to Israel and not to Hillary or the U.S. But he, like most Israel Lobby disciples, doesn’t view there being any difference between the two. But that’s another problem for another day.
Now that Hillary has swept the field, leaving Bernie no path to win the nomination, she’s resorting to magical thinking in claiming Bernie’s supporters will flock to her. How do we go from a Revolution to a coronation? Does she think her virtue alone will persuade Bernie voters that she’s worthy? After reading what I wrote above, can anyone who cares about the Middle East believe she has anything to offer? Why would any such person vote for her?
Bibi Just Spilled the Beans About Syria
Like Hillary, Israel’s prime minister just let slip some disturbing news revealing a major change in policy–this one toward Syria. For years, Israel has sworn to a policy of neutrality regarding the Syrian conflict. The world and Israeli media have dutifully followed this false line. Even as they reported major Israeli air strikes on Syrian territory, they repeated the mantra of neutrality. Very few of them reported that Israel was offering full intelligence and logistical support to the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, the al-Nusra Front as it fought for control of the Syrian side of the Golan. This was Israel’s attempt to carve out its own sphere of influence on its northern border, just as it did decades before in southern Lebanon. In other words, Israel opposed Assad along with his major allies Iran and Hezbollah.
Now, as its allies grow weaker and Assad and his Russian allies are in the ascendancy, Netanyahu has taken the gloves off. While observing a military drill on the northern border, Netanyahu finally fessed up, admitting that Israel had struck Syria “tens of times.” Here is Shmuel Meir’s reporting of this story in 972 Magazine. All this means that the prime minister is laying down a marker for the Russians, telling them that Israel will restrain itself as long as neither Russia nor Assad moves against it in the Golan.
It’s a typically bluff, brazen Israeli move. If you’re a little dog, but bark like you’re a big one, then maybe the big guys will back off and let you have your way, even though it’s not in their interest to do so.
This article was published at Tikun Olam.