Hillary Clinton at Saban Forum: Palestinian state achieved through negotiations is inevitable, meanwhile parties will grapple with "core issues"

Amazing… American right-wing (+ pro-Israel) organizations think Hillary Clinton’s speech at the Saban Forum on Friday night was anti-Israel.

If the pre-speech briefings, leaks and spin were not enough to contradict this extreme view, a read through the full text, posted here should do it.

Basically, she said, the U.S. will continue its efforts:
“Now, you don’t have to read secret diplomatic cables to know that we are meeting during a difficult period in the pursuit of peace in the Middle East. I understand and indeed I share the deep frustrations of many of you in this room and across the region and the world. But rather than dwell on what has come before, I want to focus tonight on the way forward, on America’s continuing engagement in helping the parties achieve a two-state solution that ends the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians once and for all ..The parties have indicated that they want the United States to continue its efforts … we will be persistent and press forward. We will push the parties to grapple with the core issues. We will work with them on the ground to continue laying the foundations for a future Palestinian state. And we will redouble our regional diplomacy. When one way is blocked, we will seek another”.

Broad policy stroke:
“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.

Somewhat tighter policy stroke:
“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”.

Then, Clinton indicated that sometime between September and 10 December “both sides decided together to pursue a framework agreement that would establish the fundamental compromises on all permanent status issues and pave the way for a final peace treaty“.

So, how does the U.S. intend to proceed, now that it has announced it has abandoned attempts to persuade Israel to reinstate a “moratorium” on settlement building in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem)?

Note the key phrase here, core issues:
…”in the days ahead, our discussions with both sides will be substantive two-way conversations with an eye toward making real progress in the next few months on the key questions of an eventual framework agreement. The United States will not be a passive participant. We will push the parties to lay out their positions on the core issues without delay and with real specificity. We will work to narrow the gaps asking the tough questions and expecting substantive answers. And in the context of our private conversations with the parties, we will offer our own ideas and bridging proposals when appropriate”.

Israeli news reports have indicated that the Palestinian negotiators have submitted some answers, while the Israeli negotiators have not replied — though Clinton skipped the opportunity to mention this.

Clinton then gave a few specifics — but, significantly, she declined to endorse the 1967 borders, and she also noted that the present U.S. Administration, like its predecessors, did not accept “the legitimacy of continued settlement activity”. The question arises here: what, exactly, does “continued” settlement activity mean? “Continued”, from when? “Continued” from which point?

She stated:
We enter this phase with clear expectations of both parties. Their seriousness about achieving an agreement will be measured by their engagement on these core issues. And let me say a few words about some of the important aspects of these issues we will be discussing:
(1) First, on borders and security. The land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean is finite, and both sides must know exactly which parts belong to each. They must agree to a single line drawn on a map that divides Israel from Palestine and to an outcome that implements the two-state solution with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt. The Palestinian leaders must be able to show their people that the occupation will be over. Israeli leaders must be able to offer their people internationally recognized borders that protect Israel’s security. And they must be able to demonstrate to their people that the compromises needed to make peace will not leave Israel vulnerable. Security arrangements must prevent any resurgence of terrorism and deal effectively with new and emerging threats. Families on both sides must feel confident in their security and be able to live free from fear.
(2) Second, on refugees. This is a difficult and emotional issue, but there must be a just and permanent solution that meets the needs of both sides.
(3) Third, on settlements. The fate of existing settlements is an issue that must be dealt with by the parties along with the other final status issues. But let me be clear: The position of the United States on settlements has not changed and will not change. Like every American administration for decades, we do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity. We believe their continued expansion is corrosive not only to peace efforts and two-state solution, but to Israel’s future itself.
(4) And finally, on Jerusalem which is profoundly important for Jews, Muslims, and Christians everywhere. There will surely be no peace without an agreement on this, the most sensitive of all the issues. The religious interests of people of all faiths around the world must be respected and protected. We believe that through good faith negotiations, the parties should mutually agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations for both parties, for Jerusalem, and safeguard its status for people around the world.
These core issues are woven together. Considering the larger strategic picture makes it easier to weigh the compromises that must be made on both sides and see the benefits to be gained. We are not moving forward in a vacuum. From day one, the Obama Administration has recognized the importance of making progress on two simultaneous and mutually reinforcing tracks – negotiations between the parties and institution-building that helps the Palestinians as they prepare to govern their own state. Improvements on the ground give confidence to negotiators and help create a climate for progress at the peace table. So even as we engage both sides on the core issues with an eye toward eventually restarting direct negotiations, we will deepen our support of the Palestinians’ state-building efforts. Because we recognize that a Palestinian state achieved through negotiations is inevitable”.

There was no mention of the Road Map, no mention of the Oslo Accords, and no mention of UN resolutions, and no mention as well of either international law or international humanitarian law…

She even said that “unilateral actions at the United Nations [n.b. – this is an oxymoron, isn’t it?] are not helpful and undermine trust”…

Clinton stated:
“By the same token, to build trust and momentum, both sides need to give the other credit when they take a hard step. As we begin to grapple with the core issues, each side will have to make difficult decisions, and they deserve credit when they do so. And it should not just be the United States that acknowledges moves that are made; the parties themselves must do so as well … To demonstrate their commitment to peace, Israeli and Palestinian leaders should stop trying to assign blame for the next failure, and focus instead on what they need to do to make these efforts succeed. And to demonstrate their commitment to peace, they should avoid actions that prejudge the outcome of negotiations or undermine good faith efforts to resolve final status issues. Unilateral efforts at the United Nations are not helpful and undermine trust. Provocative announcements on East Jerusalem are counterproductive. And the United States will not shy away from saying so”.

But, what does it mean to say that the U.S. will deepen its support for Palestinian “state-building efforts”, while seeming to disagree with moves (at least, unilateral moves) to seek United Nations membership + recognition for a Palestinian State?

On the face of it, this can only mean one thing: the U.S. will continue to throw money at the Palestinian Authority, while doing nothing to end the occupation… and the day-to-day misery and depression among Palestinians will continue, as the risk of mini-explosions of violence grows. [However, there is no prospect now of any outright revolt, or any new Intifada — both because there is “no decision” for this, as Hanan Ashrawi recently said, and there has simply been no preparation at all, either].

So, just more of the miserable and soul-deadening status quo, with misleading statistics about Palestinian economic growth [in the West Bank], and a slight rise in Palestinian income [again, only in the West Bank], and extremely misleading stories about the Ramallah “bubble” and the frenetic nightlife [NOT] of its party people.

Can’t the U.S. do any better than this?

One thought on “Hillary Clinton at Saban Forum: Palestinian state achieved through negotiations is inevitable, meanwhile parties will grapple with "core issues"”

  1. In 1995, Hillary Clinton said her mother had named her after Sir Edmund Hillary, who, with Sherpa Tenzing, was the first mountaineer to scale Mount Everest, and that was the reason for the unusual “two L’s” spelling of her name. However, the Everest climb did not take place until 1953, more than five years after she was born. In October 2006, a Clinton spokeswoman said she was not named after the mountain climber. Instead, this account of her name’s origin “was a sweet family story her mother shared to inspire greatness in her daughter, to great results I might add.”

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