Exile and the Prophetic: The Clinton Presidency(s)

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 12 Comments

This post is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

Am I pessimistic about the prospects for movement in the Middle East in Obama’s second term? Even in his first run, I didn’t hold out much hope for change in Israel/Palestine. Of course, I supported Obama and still view his victory as historic. It’s a generational thing.

Hillary’s on board now as the next Presidential sweepstakes begins to churn. She’s as progressive and hawkish as they come in the Democratic middle. Right now she’s the Democrat’s best hope for the next Presidential round. I’d have to support her. Hillary’s victory would be historic, too.

But if you’re looking for a President to stand up to Israel, I doubt she’s the one. Like Obama – and her husband – Hillary is indebted to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. That wing is heavily minority and Jewish. The old grand Democratic coalition remains. It’s just more diverse and colorful.

True, Hillary might bow out. Or fade out. Much of her power depends on how active her husband remains in the next few years. Bill has recovered from his 2008 primary low and is, once again, riding high. As Super Surrogate, some pundits think the former President was the deciding factor in Obama’s re-election. His ties to Jewish funding are legendary.

If Hillary is going to make a run she has to test the waters soon. This means Bill has to test the waters with her. If Hillary runs and wins, it means that the Clintons would have been major political actors for more than sixteen years. If successful, add four to eight years. A quarter of a century is a long time in American politics. As well, it’s a huge chunk of Israel’s existence as a state.

If we contrast President’s Carter and Clinton on the Middle East, you see how far America’s dealing with the Middle East has changed in recent years.

Obviously, their respective Presidencies saw significant differences in policies and accomplishments regarding Israel and the Middle East. Their post-Presidential years are equally telling. Released from the confines of the Presidency, Carter ventured into a deeply critical understanding of Israel/Palestine. Clinton retreated into silence. We can only speculate if he would have gone Carter if Hillary wasn’t still in the political game.

After losing his reelection bid, Carter retired from politics – or was retired. Carter had nothing to hold him back from speaking the truth. For Hillary, but also for his own ego, Clinton remained in the political game. Going out on the Israel/Palestine limb isn’t conducive to remaining active in the American political landscape. If nothing else, Clinton is intelligent. Why dig his own political grave with the epitaph: ‘Principle.’

If we think about politics seriously, self-interest has to be considered elemental. Ask yourself, why President Obama or Hillary or former President Clinton would seriously challenge Israel in the coming years. What possible benefit could accrue to them by such a challenge? Who would jump on their bandwagon and have their back?

There are only political negatives for a commitment to a just peace for Israel/Palestine. Every politician interested in saving his or her skin would immediately declare such a policy change heretical.

Simply because the American system is unable to move doesn’t mean that history stands still. History is open. We need to be prepared if and when events make movement of the ethical compass possible.

Strange, that President Obama and Hillary Clinton, as historic figures, can mean so much and so little at the same time. It just goes to show that breakthroughs in history in one arena can also mean stalemate in another.

We like to think that it all goes together. Justice for one is justice for all. Unfortunately, in history, it rarely it happens that way.

Another Election Day life lesson.

About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is retired Director and Professor of Jewish Studies at Baylor University and author of Burning Children: A Jewish View of the War in Gaza which can be found at www.newdiasporabooks.com

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12 Responses

  1. LeaNder
    November 8, 2012, 12:54 pm

    Ok, I get your point. If I had connected all the dots to your earlier articles, maybe I wouldn’t have used the word melancholic for the the two-instead-of-four-years considering pressure from party politics, and while maybe still struggling with never quite gone hope would have preferred the term realistic?

  2. Scott
    November 8, 2012, 1:03 pm

    Very interesting idea, that Clinton might have “gone Carter” without Hillary’s career to think about. I suspect the whole Zionist fundraising thing will be a bit weaker next time– that there will be room to run without kowtowing to it. Nevertheless the idea of a Hillary candidacy makes even the left side of the Yankee infield seem youthful.

  3. Rusty Pipes
    November 8, 2012, 1:43 pm

    Progressive? Bill Clinton is a founder of the “third way” Democratic Leadership Council — the only thing Progressive about the DLC is the name of its thinktank, the Progressive Policy Institute. The DLC has always been a strong link between the goals of the Israel Lobby and fundraising from major Zionist donors to the Democratic Party. Hillary further strengthened those ties during her years as a senator from New York, with her well-known skill at getting donations from “the Democrats’ ATM.” During the 2008 primaries, Obama made some major deals with the Clintons in order to get her endorsement and to serve as SOS. Whatever Obama’s Middle East plans may be, as long as Clinton is SOS (considering her 2016 ambitions), he will not be upsetting the Israel Lobby and DLC donors too much. If there is any change in Obama’s ME policy, I doubt it will be obvious before she is replaced in January.

    • Citizen
      November 8, 2012, 5:31 pm

      Of those named as possible, wouldn’t it be a real change if Obama selected Chuck Hagel for SOS? link to nationalinterest.org

      • Rusty Pipes
        November 14, 2012, 10:58 am

        Just getting around to checking your link. Hegel would be a refreshing change and Obama could claim that it is made in the spirit of bipartisanship. (The Petraeus suggestion was made just before the scandal broke).

  4. pabelmont
    November 8, 2012, 2:30 pm

    Bill Clinton made himself a prisoner (or more of a prisoner than otherwise) when Hilary ran for Senate, etc. At that point, he couldn’t “jump ship”.

    Obama makes himself a prisoner if he doesn’t “jump ship” and act independent of The Lobby (and also, probably, independent of Congress, Democratic candidates for 2016, etc.)

    I don’t expect him to “jump ship.”

    BUT: how he can act on America’s FIRST and GREATEST problem (GLOBAL WARMING) and OTHER big problem (BANKING and too big to fail, and bringing the world economy down on top of itself) without “jumping ship” and making himself independent of big-money, I cannot imagine, for big money is in control, whether it be big-banks, big-fossil-fuels, or big-Zion.

    • Rusty Pipes
      November 8, 2012, 3:23 pm

      Interesting interview with John Nichols on Democracy Now this morning about the election giving Obama a mandate against Big Money, particularly Citizens’ United. Nichols points to current election results (which are expected to give Obama an even larger margin when completed) as far more supportive of Obama than when Dubya claimed his re-election gave him a mandate. Nichols questions whether Obama will use that support to claim a mandate (because of Obama’s history of compromising) and says that Progressives must push Obama to stand up for the will of the electorate.

    • LeaNder
      November 8, 2012, 4:07 pm

      and OTHER big problem (BANKING and too big to fail, and bringing the world economy down on top of itself) without “jumping ship” and making himself independent of big-money

      As far as I know Obama had no big support from the banking sector in his reelection. They clearly supported Romney.

      I am not an expert on the topic, and needed quite a bit of time to accept Harper’s perspective, but this was interesting. There seems to be movements in the right direction HARPER: ANOTHER GLASS STEAGALL MOMENT.

      You know, Obama the communist. ;)

  5. DICKERSON3870
    November 8, 2012, 10:39 pm

    RE: “But if you’re looking for a President to stand up to Israel, I doubt she’s the one. Like Obama – and her husband – Hillary is indebted to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.” ~ Marc Ellis

    MY COMMENT: It’s far worse than that! ! !

    ● SEE: “Haim Saban”, by Matthew Yglesias, The Atlantic, June 10, 2007

    [EXCERPT] If you’re interested in the foreign policy views of major Hillary Clinton financial backer Haim Saban (who is also a “funder of the Democratic Party” – J.L.D.), there’s no need to follow the Atrios path of attempting guilt by association with Kenneth Pollack.
    He [Saban] discussed his views on the Middle East and Persian Gulf region in great detail in a reasonably recent interview with ‘Haaretz’:
    When I see Ahmadinejad, I see Hitler. They speak the same language. His motivation is also clear: the return of the Mahdi is a supreme goal. And for a religious
    person of deep self-persuasion, that supreme goal is worth the liquidation of five and a half million Jews.
    We cannot allow ourselves that. Nuclear weapons in the hands of a religious leadership that is convinced that the annihilation of Israel will bring about the emergence of a new Muslim caliphate? Israel cannot allow that. This is no game. It’s truly an existential danger.” . . .

    SOURCE – link to theatlantic.com

    ● ALSO SEE: Thinktank [Foundation for Defense of Democracies] that promoted war w/ Iraq (& now Iran) was funded by Steinhardt, Saban, Bronfman, Feith and Marcus (of Home Depot)link to mondoweiss.net

    ● P.S. “FREE DON” SIEGELMAN PETITION – link to change.org

    • DICKERSON3870
      November 8, 2012, 10:57 pm

      ● P.P.S. ALSO SEE: “The man with the golden gut”, By Stephanie N. Mehta, Fortune senior writer, 5/01/07
      How Haim Saban, a flinty self-made billionaire, plans to turn Univision into the next great network – and put Hillary Clinton in the White House. Fortune’s Stephanie Mehta reports.

      [EXCERPT] . . . Saban wasn’t even interested in politics until he met Bill Clinton during his first term as President. The meeting was brief, but the friendship grew as Clinton made dozens of trips to California during his presidency. Clinton, Saban says, ignited his interest in using his resources to find solutions to strife in the Middle East. He soon became the Democratic Party’s largest single donor. “I don’t say this lightly,” says Terry McAuliffe, head of the Democratic National Committee at the time. “Haim Saban saved the Democratic Party.” . . .

      ENTIRE ARTICLE – link to money.cnn.com

    • DICKERSON3870
      November 9, 2012, 5:02 pm

      P.P.P.S. Personally, I intend to fight like hell to keep the Clinton-Sabans from reoccupying the White House! ! !

      SEE: “Haim Saban, Bill Clinton to Host Fundraiser for Democratic Convention”, By Ted Johnson, Variety, 5/24/12

      [EXCERPT] President Bill Clinton is headlining a fundraiser to raise money for the Democratic National Convention at the home of longtime Democratic donors Haim and Cheryl Saban.
      The event is raising money for the Committee for Charlotte 2012. According to the invite, tickets are $100,000 per couple, which includes a photo and lunch, as well as a “convention package” of the donor’s choice. One offers two hotel rooms and four credentials, the other offers one “premier uptown hotel room” and two “premier credentials.” Other tickets to the lunch go for $50,000 and $25,000, offering credentials to the convention. . .

      SOURCE – link to wilshireandwashington.com

  6. HHM
    November 9, 2012, 11:44 am

    Please. No Killary.

    What if thousands of us stopped playing the good cop/bad cop game and voted Green?

    link to gp.org

    The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

    Our Green values oblige us to support popular movements for peace and demilitarization in Israel-Palestine, especially those that reach across the lines of conflict to engage both Palestinians and Israelis of good will.

    a. We reaffirm the right of self-determination for both Palestinians and Israelis, which precludes the self-determination of one at the expense of the other. We recognize the historical and contemporary cultural diversity of Israeli-Palestinian society, including the religious heritage of Jews, Christians, Muslims and others. This is a significant part of the rich cultural legacy of all these peoples and it must be respected. To ensure this, we support equality before international law rather than appeals to religious faith as the fair basis on which claims to the land of Palestine-Israel are resolved.

    b. We recognize that Jewish insecurity and fear of non-Jews is understandable in light of Jewish history of horrific oppression in Europe. However, we oppose as both discriminatory and ultimately self-defeating the position that Jews would be fundamentally threatened by the implementation of full rights to Palestinian-Israelis and Palestinian refugees who wish to return to their homes. As U.S. Greens, we refuse to impose our views on the people of the region. Still, we would turn the U.S. government towards a new policy, which itself recognizes the equality, humanity, and civil rights of Jews, Muslims, Christians, and all others who live in the region, and which seeks to build confidence in prospects for secular democracy.

    c. We reaffirm the right and feasibility of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in Israel. We acknowledge the significant challenges of equity and restitution this policy would encounter and call on the U.S. government to make resolution of these challenges a central goal of our diplomacy in the region.

    d. We reject U.S. unbalanced financial and military support of Israel while Israel occupies Palestinian lands and maintains an apartheid-like system in both the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in Israel toward its non-Jewish citizens. Therefore, we call on the U.S. President and Congress to suspend all military and foreign aid, including loans and grants, to Israel until Israel withdraws from the Occupied Territories, dismantles the separation wall in the Occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem, ends its siege of Gaza and its apart­heid-like system both within the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in Israel toward its non-Jewish citizens.

    e. We also reject U.S. political support for Israel and demand that the U.S. government end its veto of Security Council resolutions pertaining to Israel. We urge our government to join with the U.N. to secure Israel’s complete withdrawal to the 1967 boundaries and its compliance with international law.

    f. We support a much stronger and supportive U.S. position with respect to all United Nations, European Union, and Arab League initiatives that seek a negotiated peace. We call for an immediate U.N.-sponsored, multinational peacekeeping and protection force in the Palestinian territories with the mandate to initiate a conflict-resolution commission.

    g. We call on the foreign and military affairs committees of the U.S. House and Senate to conduct full hearings on the status of human rights and war crimes in Palestine-Israel, especially violations committed during Israel’s 2008-2009 invasion of Gaza (“Operation Cast Lead”) as documented in the 2009 “UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict” (“The Goldstone Report”) authorized by the UN Commission on Human Rights.

    h. We recognize that despite decades of continuous diplomatic attempts by the international community, it has failed to bring about Israel’s compliance with international law or respect for basic Palestinian human rights; and that, despite abundant condemnation of Israel’s policies by the UN, International Court of Justice, and all relevant international conventions, the international community of nations has failed to stop Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights in Israel and the OPT, while Israeli crimes continue with impunity. We recall that ending institutionalized racism (apartheid) in South Africa demanded an unusual, cooperative action by the entire international community in the form of a boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against apartheid South Africa, and that BDS can become the most effective nonviolent means for achieving justice and genuine peace between Palestinians and Israelis, and for the region, through concerted international pressure as applied to apartheid South Africa; and that Palestinian resistance to ongoing dispossession has mainly been nonviolent, including its most basic form – remaining in their homes, on their land; and that while Palestinian armed resistance is legitimate under international law when directed at non-civilian targets, we believe that only nonviolent resistance will maintain the humanity of Palestinian society, elicit the greatest solidarity from others, and maximize the chance for future reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. However, we also recognize that our appeal to Palestinians to continue to resist nonviolently in the face of ongoing existential threats from Israel is hypocritical unless accompanied by substantial acts of international support. We recall that in 2005, Palestinian Civil Society appealed to the international community to support a BDS campaign against Israel, and that in response the Green Party of the US endorsed this BDS campaign in 2005. Therefore, we support the implementation of boycott and divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era, which includes pressuring our government to impose embargoes and sanctions against Israel; and we support maintaining these nonviolent punitive measures until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by:

    1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Palestinian lands and dismantling the Wall in the West Bank;

    2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

    3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

    i. We recognize that international opinion has been committed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet, we view the two-state solution as neither democratic nor viable in the face of international law, material conditions and “facts on the ground” that now exist in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Given this reality, we support a U.S. foreign policy that promotes the creation of one secular, democratic state for Palestinians and Israelis on the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan as the national home of both peoples, with Jerusalem as its capital. We encourage a new U.S. diplomatic initiative to begin the long process of negotiation, laying the groundwork for such a single-state constitution.

    j. We recognize that such a state might take many forms and that the eventual model chosen must be decided by the peoples themselves. We also acknowledge the enormous hostilities that now exist between the two peoples, but history tells us that these are not insurmountable among people genuinely seeking peace.

    k. As an integral part of peace negotiations and the transition to peaceful democracy, we call for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission whose inaugurating action would be mutual acknowledgement by Israelis and Palestinians that they have the same basic rights, including the right to exist in the same, secure place.

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