Hillary Clinton showed more spine with Netanyahu than Obama has

Israel/Palestine
on 35 Comments

Yesterday we did a post on a news report that Hillary Clinton wanted to push for a Middle East peace deal as secretary of State, but President Obama was uninterested. This is a followup. –Ed.

I have no trouble believing that Hillary Clinton was willing to press Netanyahu harder than Obama allowed her to do. There were at least four marked occasions in the years 2009-2012 when she stood out front, saying the firm thing he preferred not to say himself.

First on the “natural expansion” settlement units, in the days before Obama’s courageous but very broad and general Cairo speech, it was the secretary of state who told the Israeli prime minister that there must be “no exceptions,” none at all, to the proposed settlement freeze.

Again, Hillary Clinton initiated a 45-minute “furious” phone call to Netanyahu to warn him that he was breaking the U.S.-Israeli understanding by the announcement (timed for Joe Biden’s visit to Jerusalem) of the plans for new settlement units in early March 2010.

Once more, Clinton expanded on this severe judgment in a speech at the Saban Center, December 10, 2010; a speech much stronger than anything Obama has ever said on the subject, where she simply declared: ”We do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity.” Her voice is grave throughout this speech. She is the bearer of honest difficult news to an ally. Unfortunately, the text of the December 2010 speech has been removed from both the Saban Center and the State Department sites, but some impressive excerpts can be found elsewhere:

“The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and between Israel and Arab neighbors is a source of tension and an obstacle to prosperity and opportunity for all the people of the region. It denies the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people and it poses a threat to Israel’s future security. It is at odds also with the interests of the United States. . . .

“The long-term population trends that result from the occupation are endangering the Zionist vision of a Jewish and democratic state in the historic homeland of the Jewish people. Israelis should not have to choose between preserving both elements of their dream. But that day is approaching. . . We conclude without a shadow of a doubt that ending this conflict once and for all and achieving a comprehensive regional peace is imperative for safeguarding Israelis’ future. We also look at our friends the Palestinians, and we remember the painful history of a people who have never had a state of their own, and we are renewed in our determination to help them finally realize their legitimate aspirations. The lack of peace and the occupation that began in 1967 continue to deprive the Palestinian people of dignity and self-determination. This is unacceptable, and, ultimately, it too is unsustainable.”

Yet another phone call with Netanyahu, also described as furious, but this one initiated by the Israeli prime minister, occurred just before Obama delivered his May 19, 2011 speech affirming the importance of the “1967 lines” as the point of departure for negotiations between Israel and Palestine.

In view of the Clinton record, then, which is consistent if not continuous from mid-2009 through mid-2011 (after which Obama canceled all interest in the issue of Israel/Palestine for the rest of his term), the claims made on her behalf by members of her staff must be counted as credible. 

Her complete reversal at the November 30, 2012 Saban Center Gala Dinner, where she blamed the Palestinians for the lack of progress in negotiations and said of Netanyahu “the fact was it was a 10-month settlement freeze and he was good to his word” –this certainly showed a more calculating and politic side of Clinton, and there was nothing admirable about the performance; but by then she must have judged that Obama had given up on Palestine. For her to stand alone on such an occasion would be a meaningless gesture from a departing government official.

If one adds it up, the evidence suggests that for as long as Obama fought any sort of battle against Israeli expansion and militarism, his secretary of state was the strength and stamina of his policy. Obama, of course, bore the ultimate responsibility for the policy, but he appears to have been a more hesitant and recessive figure in U.S. dealings with Israel.

About David Bromwich

David Bromwich teaches literature at Yale. He is a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post and has written on politics and culture for The New Republic, The Nation, The New York Review of Books, and other magazines. He is editor of Edmund Burke's selected writings On Empire, Liberty, and Reform and co-editor of the Yale University Press edition of On Liberty.

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35 Responses

  1. seafoid
    February 4, 2013, 11:17 am

    “I have no trouble believing that Hillary Clinton was willing to press Netanyahu harder than Obama allowed her to do.”

    link to youtube.com

    No change on the ground. Big deal if Hil said something.

  2. Kathleen
    February 4, 2013, 11:23 am

    Was really unaware of Clinton’s 2010 Saban speech and how clear and powerful the piece that you posted is. Going to read the whole thing. Was totally aware of her 2012 Saban speech and from that had assumed any other speeches were total public roll overs like that one. Thanks for this post

    • James Canning
      February 4, 2013, 3:31 pm

      Kathleen – – We didn’t see a great amount of press coverage of Hillary Clinton’s efforts to block the illegal colonies from growing, did we?

    • ritzl
      February 4, 2013, 9:24 pm

      How do you get from here:

      Her complete reversal at the November 30, 2012 Saban Center Gala Dinner, where she blamed the Palestinians for the lack of progress in negotiations and said of Netanyahu “the fact was it was a 10-month settlement freeze and he was good to his word” –this certainly showed a more calculating and politic side of Clinton, and there was nothing admirable about the performance;…

      to here (the very same sentence)?:

      …but by then she must have judged that Obama had given up on Palestine. For her to stand alone on such an occasion would be a meaningless gesture from a departing government official.

      Everyone knows the politics of her reversal. One might actually subscribe to the notion of her principled stand within the admin (I don’t), but gawd, if you actually believe that HRC has principles on this issue, how does blaming Obama blocking progress explain some weak-ass, ostensibly-frustrated, 180 deg. flip to a view in concert with Obama’s excruciatingly expedient political view (which you say she opposed), in front of a Zionist (fundraising) audience, support that contention?

      To me, if she was one principled way while within the admin, she would be the same way as she was exiting. Only more adamantly so (i.e. liberated to express her true beliefs/disagreements). She’s not. My [maybe not so] cynical take says HRC was politically and conveniently contrarian while at State, such that distinctions (obfuscations?) like this could be drawn to advance her future prospects. That is NOT to say You are doing that intentionally here, but the engineered distinctions are there to be drawn.

      Similarly, there was a recent article [Barak Ravid] at Haaretz* saying HRC’s tenure at State was a “missed opportunity” for peace. That’s Pure Enabler Baloney, imo, laying the foundation for HRC’s upcoming claim that she is “the One” to solve this.

      I don’t know, maybe someone (HRC) who was so deeply embedded in all the calculus by this admin on this issue can “come out” and pose that she was the ignored “change agent” within the admin, yet flip flop on that in the Saban (again, fundraising) event, and still be credible, but I don’t think so.


      * link to haaretz.com

      • ritzl
        February 4, 2013, 9:26 pm

        Sorry Kathleen. The above was supposed to be addressed to the author and go to the end.

  3. chris_k
    February 4, 2013, 11:35 am

    This is not a departure from the Obama m.o., which is to appropriate the language of the peace activists and do nothing. W. Bush made similar statements about the need to resolve the I-P conflict. That’s great, but they have executive power and they do the opposite. She tried everything she could to keep Mubarak in power, but the Egyptians had another idea.

    You left out of this report, David, that the UN voted last November 138-9 to make Palestine a non-member observer statement, with Hillary reproaching the rest of the world saying it’s “unfortunate and unproductive… We have been clear that only through direct negotiations between the parties can the Palestinians and Israelis achieve the peace they both deserve: two states for two people with a sovereign, viable independent Palestine living side by side in peace and security with a Jewish and democratic Israel,”

    That’s straight out of Israel’s PR. When the UN wants to do something, they can’t, because “only negotiations” are appropriate, when people ask for negotiations, oh, well, we thought it over and decided to have a one-sided war instead.

    There’s countless examples like that of her obstructing anyone who tried to expedite the peace process.

    • seafoid
      February 4, 2013, 3:29 pm

      There was zero progress on peace during Obama 1. The process died during his administration. When push came to shove Obama didn’t have the balls to do anything. Alternatively perhaps he wants to let Israel hang itself with its own rope.

      • James Canning
        February 4, 2013, 4:47 pm

        Clearly Obama “blinked” first, in his stare-down with Netanyahu. Sadly. And apparently thanks to bad advice from Dennis Ross.

    • James Canning
      February 4, 2013, 3:30 pm

      chris – – It does seem beyond question Hillary Clinton changed her tune in her last months at State, presumably to grease the skids of another run at the White House.

      • chris_k
        February 4, 2013, 4:31 pm

        Let’s start with this. Candidate Hillary in 2008:

        “I want the Iranians to know, if I am the president, we will attack Iran. And I want them to understand that, because it does mean that they have to look very carefully at their society, because at whatever stage of development they might be with their nuclear weapons program in the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them.”

        She has a first amendment right to say those words. She is over 35, born in the US, so she has a right to run for president. If you support her, you are giving an electoral mandate for the killing of 73 million people, which you have a right to do. But that’s unambiguously what you’re doing. There are no qualifications to that statement and there have been no retractions. Don’t complain about any murderer in the history of human governance because your support of killing 73 million tops them all.

        It was just in the news that Hillary developed a plan to arm the rebels in Syria and Obama shot it down, which is consistent with the war talk of her diplomatic missions in her tradition of moving to the right on US intervention that led her to vote for the Iraq War. As I said, she tried to protect Mubarak as long as possible. This is a site about the Middle East, but on a lot other regions, she has pushed the administration into untenable positions that have led to failure, death, and hatred for the US.

      • tree
        February 4, 2013, 5:04 pm

        chris K, Let’s be honest and start with the first sentence you omitted from that quote.

        “Well, the question was if Iran were to launch a nuclear attack on Israel, what would our response be? ”

        Followed by “And I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran…. “etc.

        So you left off the part that explains that this would be in response to a nuclear attack launched by Iran on Israel, so your statement,

        There are no qualifications to that statement and there have been no retractions.

        is a false one. I hope you simply made it out of ignorance and I hope you would be honest enough to retract your own statement.

        link to isis-online.org

      • chris_k
        February 4, 2013, 5:58 pm

        The source I just pasted it from didn’t include that sentence. Show me where she qualified that “we would be able to totally obliterate them” is only a response to an attack on Israel and I would find it comforting. She was asked about that statement later and she didn’t suggest that there was a strict cause and effect relationship.

        To use the assumption of that question to make a threat doesn’t make it not a threat. Expert after expert for years has called Iran a ‘rational player.’ Iran hasn’t attacked Israel. If she said “I believe in the Mutual Assured Destruction policy” that would be different, because it would be a neutral statement of policy, not a threat directed at 73 million civilians. That’s assuming “obliterate” relates to an attack on Israel, which is not clear or even probable from that paragraph.

        Please show me the retraction I’m missing.

      • James Canning
        February 4, 2013, 7:34 pm

        Rather pathetic pandering to the Israel lobby, by candidate Hillary Clinton. Disgusting and ill-advised too.

      • Blank State
        February 4, 2013, 7:45 pm

        Amazing. Debating over a ridiculous premise….

        “…..if Iran were to launch a nuclear attack on Israel…”

        Thats absurd. Common sense dictates that one knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that not only is Iran incapable of such an action, but that Iran would commit no such act even if it were capable. It would be an act of suicide for the nation of Iran, and surely those of you citing this absurd premise of an Iranian “nuclear attack onb Israel” realize as much.

        The real “ignorance” being bandied openly here is exhibited by giving such an absurd premise the insertion into debate.Why argue crap, when you know its crap?? The query offered to Hillary was disingenuous due to its impossibility, which renders her response equally disingenuous, because she well knows the absurdity of the premise offered in the query.

        Chris, you beseech “Let’s be honest and start with the first sentence you omitted from that quote.”

        Perhaps if you’re interested in “honesty”, you might do well to offer an absurd premise the lack of respect it deserves.

        It amazes me seeing Clinton shoved forward as some sort of tool for peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. If anyone has shown herself to be a purely political animal, and an adoring doter of AIPAC, it is Hillary. I note Mr. Bromwich sees no reason to cite Hillary’s slobbering orations given at AIPAC gatherings, nor her role in helping to grease the skids for the Iraq invasion. And surely I have not seen Clinton protest the numerous slaps that Netanyahu has laid across our President’s face, nor does Bromwich seem to think Hillary’s dereliction is worth citing.

      • Sycamores
        February 5, 2013, 12:30 am

        to be fair that was an important sentence to be omitted.

        with the link you supply if you carry on reading the ‘countdown interview’ you would see that Clinton is a blatant liar and most probably don’t deserve a retraction. i’m referring to the part of the sentence where she says “…the countries in the region are not going to want Iran to be the only nuclear power…” as we all know there is a place in the Middle East that already has ‘nuclear power’.

        i copy and paste the segment to prevent any ommissions.

        [Interview on Countdown with Keith Olbermann of MSNBC: April 21, 2008

        If Iran does achieve what appears to be its continuing goal of obtaining nuclear weapons — and I think deterrence has not been effectively used in recent times…what I think the president should do and what our policy should be is to make it very clear to the Iranians that they would be risking massive retaliation were they to launch a nuclear attack on Israel.

        In addition, if Iran were to become a nuclear power it could set off an arms race that would be incredibly dangerous and destabilizing because the countries in the region are not going to want Iran to be the only nuclear power so I could imagine that they would be rushing to obtain nuclear weapons themselves.

        In order to forestall that, creating some kind of a security agreement where we said, no, you do not need to acquire nuclear weapons if you were the subject of an unprovoked nuclear attack by Iran, the United States and hopefully our NATO allies would respond to that as well.]

      • chris_k
        February 5, 2013, 12:48 pm

        Why is Mondoweiss publishing a one-sided piece about Hillary standing up to Netanyahu over the phone, with no mention of her policies that contradict that image? Is it the same reason why I am called ignorant and implied to be dishonest, and my reply isn’t allowed for, at this point, 19 hours?

      • Annie Robbins
        February 5, 2013, 1:04 pm

        chris, something tells me if you sent in a donation of a couple grand a month the site might be able to afford round-the-clock moderation. as it is i do believe there are possibly whole pockets of comments lost in the back pages waiting to be cleared. who knows. i was just taking a break from working on a few posts for later today..thought i’d catch up and read some front page articles and comment.

        very sorry things aren’t running smooth enough for you. sometimes we’re just backed up.

      • chris_k
        February 5, 2013, 1:50 pm

        Thanks Annie..

      • Mooser
        February 5, 2013, 1:57 pm

        “chris, something tells me if you sent in a donation of a couple grand a month the site might be able to afford round-the-clock moderation”

        Thanks, Annie. I am sick and tired of those complaints about unfair moderation. And I can’t believe they’re honest complaints.

      • Annie Robbins
        February 5, 2013, 2:22 pm

        anytime. now that we know there’s a pocket around 5:58 pm yesterday i’m sure someone will get around to checking surrounding back pages one of these hours. just leave a note for us like you did, makes it easier to spot.

        there’s actually a lot happening right now. everyone’s busy, including me..gotta go.

      • tree
        February 5, 2013, 2:33 pm

        Chris,

        Thanks for responding.

        The source I just pasted it from didn’t include that sentence.

        I suspected as much, which is why I hoped that it was “ignorance” on your part, rather than dishonesty, meaning that you were ignorant of the existence of the first qualifying sentence Clinton responded with. I linked to the source for that sentence at the end of my comment. I would suggest that you should question the honesty of your source, because purposefully omitting that first sentence leads exactly to the false impression that you had, i.e. that in 2008, as things stood then, Clinton was planning to attack and “obliterate” Iran as soon as she was President, with absolutely no provocation from Iran. That truly would have been an appalling statement.

        Show me where she qualified that “we would be able to totally obliterate them” is only a response to an attack on Israel and I would find it comforting.

        Then take comfort. From my linked source above:

        Interview on Good Morning America with Chris Cuomo: April 22, 2008
        Clinton: “Well, the question was if Iran were to launch a nuclear attack on Israel, what would our response be? And I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran. And I want them to understand that. Because it does mean that they have to look very carefully at their society, because whatever stage of development they might be in their nuclear weapons program in the next 10 years during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them. That’s a terrible thing to say, but those people who run Iran need to understand that, because that perhaps will deter them from doing something that would be reckless, foolish, and tragic.

        Its very clear from the quote that she is talking about what the US would do if Iran attacked Israel with a nuclear weapon, and that she considers such an explicit warning to Iran about the consequences of an Iranian attack to be a deterrent, not a forecast of things to come. My link goes on to quote the other Presidential candidates at the time (April 2008) and neither Obama nor McCain are saying anything basically different from what Clinton said then. In fact, both Obama and McCain make clear that they were not ruling out the possibility of military force being used against Iran for merely obtaining nuclear weapons, not just for using them.

        Blank Slate is right, the question was a ridiculous premise, but welcome to our f**ked up electoral discourse in the early 21st century. Sadly, ridiculous premises are par for the course these days. As are dishonest and incomplete quotes used to bludgeon those that are disagreed with, or disliked.

        Is it the same reason why I am called ignorant and implied to be dishonest, and my reply isn’t allowed for, at this point, 19 hours?

        Chris, I didn’t call you ignorant, except in the case of the omission of the first qualifying sentence that Clinton uttered. I don’t consider ignorance to be a fault, unless it is purposeful. We are all ignorant about many things. Nothing to get upset about. The dishonesty was in the quote itself. I’m glad that it was not yours. Dishonest quotes are a pet peeve of mine, especially since they are used so often by Zionists to excuse their bigotry. I got into this just recently with yonah over an old truncated quote from an Egyptian official that made him sound much like Clinton did in her truncated quote-bloodthirsty.

        As for slow moderation, its just something we all have to get used to. Sometimes the comments don’t get updated for a day, and when they finally do, some comments get left by the wayside quite a bit longer than others. Its happened to me, and I’m sure its happened to plenty of others around here. You are not being singled out.

      • chris_k
        February 5, 2013, 6:34 pm

        Tree, Obama said about Hillary’s comments: “It’s not the language we need right now. It’s language that’s reflective of George Bush.. bluster and sabre-rattling and tough talk.. a few days before an election she’s willing to use that language”.. After being asked about the statement later, she said “No, why would I have any regrets?” not giving a qualification that she was merely endorsing a Mutual Assured Destruction policy. She has had many times on the mike to give the qualification you’re ascribing to her and she hasn’t done so.

        I welcome you to go to an Iranian-American center and explain to them that it’s not an appalling statement. Saudi news said “This is the foreign politics of the madhouse. It demonstrates the same doltish ignorance that has distinguished Bush’s foreign relations.” Though I don’t endorse everything Saudi news says, this is the feeling of the region, that the “what would you do if…” is the same thinking that led us to go to Iraq to fight hypothetical WMDs, which she supported.

      • Blank State
        February 5, 2013, 10:18 pm

        Chris, if part of your chagrin is that I mistakingly attributed a comment to you that was actually “tree”s comment, I apologize for the slip. I didn’t catch it until my post appeared on the thread.

      • Antidote
        February 7, 2013, 4:41 pm

        “Its very clear from the quote that she is talking about what the US would do if Iran attacked Israel with a nuclear weapon, and that she considers such an explicit warning to Iran about the consequences of an Iranian attack to be a deterrent, not a forecast of things to come.”

        I would say Clinton’s ‘warning’ comes down to business as usual, and practically negates any ‘special’ consideration of Israel’s security. Surely the US (and not just the US) would not look the other way if North Korea dropped a nuke on South Korea, or consider ANY country attacking another country with a nuclear weapon as not being any of their business? Iran know this, of course, and to suggest that such warnings need to be voiced at all is insulting, suggesting that the Mullahs are extremely stupid, aggressive, genocidal and suicidal, or all of the above.

        Sure, you can get different effects or interpretations by selective quotation, or surrounding the delivery with huge Israeli flags and other pro-Israel or anti-Iran messages, but what it all comes down to is not very much at all.

        Election blather

  4. joemowrey
    February 4, 2013, 11:49 am

    As I pointed out in my previous post concerning the original article addressing this issue, no one seems to have the “spine” to point out that Clinton, like all our national “leaders” is a sociopath who will lie and change her story to suit her ambitions. She has and will continue to (given the chance) implement policies that result in the deaths of innocents around the globe.

    As long as we continue to pretend these are normal, rational actors running out country, we will continue to see the same old irrational behaviors and policies being implemented. At some point, someone (as in “all of us sane, rational human beings”) has to begin to shout out that the Emperors have no clothes, no conscience, and no legitimacy in a rational moral universe.

    I’ll go first. Reality has to begin to unfold somewhere.

    • aiman
      February 4, 2013, 8:54 pm

      Your comment struck out in the first piece, one of the best I’ve read on Mondoweiss. Couldn’t agree more. Anything else obfuscates reality.

    • Mooser
      February 5, 2013, 2:00 pm

      “I’ll go first. Reality has to begin to unfold somewhere.”

      If only Obama would nominate Hagel as Sec. Def.! He’ll show ‘em!

  5. dbroncos
    February 4, 2013, 1:56 pm

    “…he appears to have been a more hesitant and recessive figure in U.S. dealings with Israel.”

    Also could read: Obama appears to be a hesitant and recessive figure in U.S dealings with…EVERYTHING. The sad mess of Hagel’s performance had Obama’s stamp all over it too.

    • W.Jones
      February 4, 2013, 3:24 pm

      2 good points.

      Yet the Clintons were more violent with attacking Yugoslavia and Qaddafi’s death made her happy.

      Clinton has more balls than Obama, obviously. I think she would have done more to protect “the State” at the UN. Arguably she would have done more and better to stop Isr. brutality. Yet she wouldnt have allowed for Hagel’s _______ in the Senate, but then she might not have chosen him either.

  6. Tom Callaghan
    February 4, 2013, 2:55 pm

    Hilary delegated and avoided the Israel/Palestine portfolio to a large degree. She only visited Israel five times…other Secretaries went over 20. Many of the “bad cop ” duties were given to George Mitchell who is one of the most decent guys to pass through Washington in years. I like Hilary, but I think all that world traveling was as much about image creation and avoidance of no-win situations as anything else. If you read Sheldon Adelson’s right wing Israeli newspaper, Israelhayom , all the venom was always reserved for the President…he took the risks and the heat.
    http://www.wednesdayswars.com

  7. Erasmus
    February 4, 2013, 2:57 pm

    Re: …Unfortunately, the text of the December 2010 speech has been removed from both the Saban Center and the State Department sites, ……

    The full text of Hillary Clinton’s speech on 10 December 2010 at the Saban Centre can be found here:

    link to state.gov

  8. James Canning
    February 4, 2013, 3:28 pm

    Great piece.

    Do we thank Dennis Ross for Obama’s failure to back Hillary Clinton adequately, in her effort to stop the insane expansion of illegal colonies in the West Bank?

  9. ToivoS
    February 4, 2013, 5:29 pm

    I have been extremely critical of Obama in many of his foreign policy decisions — Afghan surge, backing rebels in Libya and Syria and his belligerence towards China to name a few. Here he made active decisions in situations where he wields power. He does not have such power over Israel unless he is willing to pay what I consider unacceptably high political costs. He should continue to ignore that problem.

    In 2009 when he first announced that Israel should freeze settlements my first reaction was that was a foolish thing for him to do. My second reaction was that he wouldn’t do something that dumb with Axelrod and Manuel at his side — I guessed they must have cleared that policy with the lobby. My first reaction was correct. The lobby forced him into a humiliating retreat. He should not expose himself to that again.

    There are more pressing problems. One is avoiding war with Iran. Our current policy — no war, no peace — is too unstable. It will take considerable amounts of political capital for the administration to back down from some of more threatening statements. The lobby will come after him tooth and nail when he does. The other thing that he can and should do is try to de-escalate the war against Syria.

    Of course cruise control on Palestine is not doing nothing — it is an active policy that supports oppression of the Palestinians. Unfortunately I cannot see the US as part of the solution there, we are without doubt part of the problem. The best for the Palestinians is for them to take action on their own through BDS and recognition in the ICC. That is the kind of pressure that can exact change. These are also actions that the US can quietly encourage by just doing nothing.

  10. flyod
    February 4, 2013, 6:31 pm
  11. American
    February 6, 2013, 5:37 pm

    Hillary Clinton has new Office Site

    link to hillaryclintonoffice.com

    Very plain, no speeches, just a contact button for you to send her a message.
    She may feeling out possibilities or it might be there for thanks you’s for the job you did or something.
    I sent her a nice comment about some good things she did and also mentioned my opinion on Isr-USA-I/P…in the event she had any ‘on going’ interest/involvement in it and ever addressed it again.

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