The Podesta emails keep dripping out of Wikileaks. As Haaretz notes flatly, “Many of the leaked Clinton campaign emails deal with Israel.” Yes: the emails demonstrate the centrality of Israel as an issue for the Clintonites, and the agony they went through over President Obama’s Iran deal. Last week we picked up the emails showing the Clinton team’s knee-jerk responsiveness to prodding by megadonor Haim Saban: Clinton must not “rebuke” Netanyahu over his opposition to Obama over the deal, but send positive signals re Israel, including opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement– statements that could then be sent out to “thousands” of donors to help them understand where Hillary is on Israel.
The emails keep coming, and in the last day or so, Israeli publications have picked up a Clinton comment approving the idea of a “Potemkin” peace process.
Here’s the context. In a March 2015 email, right after Netanyahu’s victory in the Israeli election, Clinton foreign policy aide Jake Sullivan passed along a Times article in which Netanyahu offered a mild apology for his racist election-eve warning to Jewish voters that Palestinians were coming out to the polls “in droves,” and in which he flipflopped on his promise that no Palestinian state would be established on his watch. Per the Times:
The two-state solution “remains our goal today, because it is the only way to secure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state,” [Netanyahu] added.
Unsurprisingly, Pragmatic Bibi makes an appearance.
Clinton steps right in:
This is an opening that should be exploited. A Potemkin process is better than nothing.
A Potemkin process is of course just what the United States has had for twenty years or so. It is our contribution to the managed conflict undertaken by the Israelis; we never put any real pressure on the Israelis, and yet, affirming the Potemkin process gives the U.S. cover to claim that it is working hard to bring about a two-state solution. Even as apartheid solidifies across the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
It is not clear what the “opening” Clinton refers to was. Netanyahu was obviously insincere about any Palestinian state; for several years now he has paid grudging lip service to one while expanding Israeli control over the territories. Clinton points to a Jodi Rudoren piece in the Times where the former Jerusalem bureau chief says, Netanyahu “believes in the concept of two states but thinks the current circumstances make it impossible — [and this] is reflective of a very broad view among Israel’s Jews.” I.e., never.
Michael Omer-Man has this angry comment on the Potemkin process at +972:
It’s hard to imagine a more troubling statement about Israel/Palestine from a politician who will in all likelihood be the next president of the United States, even if it represents only part of her thinking on the region…
when American politicians like Hillary Clinton say that the façade of a peace process is better than no process, they mean it is better for the United States and Israel, not for Palestinians. A Potemkin peace process expressly means maintaining the status quo of occupation and oppression while neutralizing any consequences Israel might face for its actions.
Clinton’s statement about a Potemkin process would seem to echo her advice in a 2013 speech to Goldman, Sachs— also leaked in the Podesta emails — that leaders need both a public and a private position on difficult issues.
You just have to sort of figure out… how to balance the public and the private efforts that are necessary to be successful, politically, and that’s not just a comment about today. That, I think, has probably been true for all of our history, and if you saw the Spielberg movie, Lincoln, and how he was maneuvering and working to get the 13th Amendment passed, and he called one of my favorite predecessors, Secretary Seward, who had been the governor and senator from New York, ran against Lincoln for president, and he told Seward, I need your help to get this done. And Seward called some of his lobbyist friends who knew how to make a deal, and they just kept going at it. I mean, politics is like sausage being made. It is unsavory, and it always has been that way, but we usually end up where we need to be. But if everybody’s watching, you know, all of the back room discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous, to say the least. So, you need both a public and a private position.
Though in this case, the backroom pressure on Netanyahu is just as pathetic as the public statements. Nothing happens.
Lastly, a running theme in the emails is pro-Israel Jewish donors. That’s why the Clinton team wants to do nothing to alienate Netanyahu. And speaking of the Israel lobby, here’s an email earlier this year from Neera Tanden, the head of the Clintonite Center for American Progress, welcoming on the CAP board Jonathan Lavine, a co-managing partner at Bain Capital. Lavine is a big supporter of Israel. From the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston:
For decades, Jonathan and his wife Jeannie have… in recent years increased focused [sic] on their investment in Israel, and in the Jewish future. Jonathan says that his experience on a CJP mission to Israel in 2012 opened his eyes “to the diverse fabric of CJP’s work, and how we can pursue our desire for social change and express our Jewish identity.”