The New York Times published an article today which is odd. Odd because it is not entirely a hate-fest of rumors and attacks and uninformed opinion:
For much of her tenure as secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton has been less an architect than an advocate for the Obama administration’s Middle East policy. With the resumption of direct talks last week, she now has no choice but to plunge into the rough and tumble of peacemaking.
Mrs. Clinton will be in the thick of the negotiations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, when they meet on Sept. 14 in Egypt. Her role, several officials say, will be to take over from the administration’s special envoy, George J. Mitchell, when the two sides run into serious obstacles.
It may prove the greatest test yet for Mrs. Clinton, one that could cement her legacy as a diplomat if she solves the riddle that foiled even her husband, former President Bill Clinton. But it could also pose considerable risks to any political ambitions she may harbor.
It’s not the best introductory section, loaded as it is with “political ambitions” and belittling her efforts to get the State Department fully functioning while boob Barack Obama forced a top level appointment on her, attempted to sabotage Hillary with a cabinet level Susan Rice, ceaseless apology tours and bowing, along with his all around general bumbling. With that lead weight around her Hillary still manages to leverage her experience to benefit Americans:
“I understand very well the disappointments of the past; I share them,” she said in convening the talks, an allusion to Mr. Clinton’s failed effort to broker a deal, most vividly at Camp David in 2000, when peace seemed tantalizingly close only to vanish amid recriminations in the Maryland mountains.
The tableau of Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas chatting amiably Thursday in front of the marble fireplace in her office, officials said, testified to her relentless phone calls in recent weeks as she wore down the reluctance of the Palestinians to come to the table and drummed up support from Arab neighbors like Jordan and Egypt.
“One of the best indications that this could succeed is that Hillary Clinton is willing to get involved,” said Stephen J. Hadley, who served as national security advisor to President George W. Bush. “Because that makes me think two things: She thinks it’s possible and, because she is as skilled as she is, it increases the likelihood of success.”
Lead weight Obama festooned with naivete and bloated ego has proven a mess domestically and in foreign affairs.
Among the many hurdles that Mrs. Clinton will face is the often tense relationship that this administration has had with Israel. Mr. Obama is viewed with distrust by many in Israel and among some Jewish groups at home, where his outreach to the Muslim world and public criticism of Israeli policies have been denounced by some critics as anti-Israel.
But Mrs. Clinton has preserved her own credibility among these groups, analysts said, which will make her perhaps the administration’s most effective salesperson for the peace process. She also has a politician’s feel for Mr. Netanyahu, her aides say, which could help her push him to make hard choices, provided she is willing.”
We doubt that much will come from the current talks concerning the Middle East. But there is no question that any chance of success comes from the woman in charge not the boob in chief:
“The question, some Middle East experts asked, is whether Mrs. Clinton has the negotiating grit to keep both men at the table — the mysterious combination of bluster, theatrics, hand-holding and guile that secretaries of state, like Henry A. Kissinger and James A. Baker III, have deployed to forge agreements between Arabs and Israelis.
“She’s plenty tough, tougher than her husband,” said Aaron David Miller, who worked on peace negotiations in the Clinton administration. “But does she have a negotiator’s mind-set? These are tough people in a tough neighborhood, who know how to manipulate people.”
Early in her tenure, some questioned the scope of Mrs. Clinton’s role after the appointment of highly visible special emissaries like Mr. Mitchell and Richard C. Holbrooke, the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Others suggest that in the case of the Middle East, where Mr. Mitchell has an influential voice in making policy, she was insulating herself from potential failure. If so, that is no longer an option.”
The probable failure of the current talks is due to bad faith among the negotiators. For good reason there is a lot of mistrust. The Israelis know they have effectively won the battles with the ineffectual Obama and his bluffs and bullying. The Israelis know Obama cannot be trusted and therefore they will be tougher than usual and that means plenty tough.
The Palestinian side has yet to prove they are at all interested in a genuine two state solution. Arafat had a chance to be the founder of a Palestinian state but he played games for too long and only agreed to the Bill Clinton peace agreement when it was far too late. The Palestinian side is also a plural entity. Mahmood Abbas is negotiating only on behalf of his organization not the virulent Hamas. Egypt, which is to our mind the key to peace, has thus far been too timid in its opposition to Hamas – support for the Gaza blockade being the only overt expression of Egyptian interests.
Into treacherous waters sails experienced Hillary Clinton with the Obama albatross auguring stormy seas:
“Mrs. Clinton got her first taste of high-wire negotiating last October in Zurich when she headed off a last-minute dispute that nearly scuttled an agreement between Turkey and Armenia on normalizing diplomatic relations. Sitting in a black BMW limousine, she juggled two cellphones, slowly nudging two ancient enemies together, if only temporarily.
In June, at a hotel bar in Lima, Peru, she finalized a deal with a Chinese diplomat over which companies could be named in a United Nations resolution punishing Iran for its nuclear program.
But these are sideshows compared to the challenge of bringing together wary foes who have spent six decades avoiding a deal. Even after what officials said was a promising start last week, no one in the administration knows if the talks will survive past Sept. 26, when Mr. Netanyahu has promised to allow a moratorium on settlement construction to expire and Mr. Abbas has threatened to walk out if it does.
For an American politician, the risks of delving into the Middle East are obvious. Already, Mrs. Clinton has taken arrows from American Jewish groups for her full-throated advocacy of Mr. Obama’s pressure on the Israeli government to freeze settlements.”
As we wrote at the time, Hillary Clinton’s early remarks were in the context of quoting and repeating what Barack Obama said. She was a “foil”:
“At the beginning of the administration, she was used as a foil; she was very tough on Israel,” said Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish advocacy organization.
It was not the first time that Mrs. Clinton raised hackles. As first lady, she hugged Suha Arafat, the wife of Yasir Arafat, the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, after Mrs. Arafat had made incendiary remarks about Israel. (Her aides said her reaction was based on an incomplete translation of the comments.) In 1998, Mrs. Clinton called for the creation of a Palestinian state, a proposal that was disavowed by the White House at the time but is now American policy.
For all that, Mr. Foxman said, Mrs. Clinton still has a reservoir of support, accrued from her years working for Jewish voters as a New York senator. It did not hurt, some noted, that Chelsea Clinton was recently married in a ceremony where her Jewish groom wore a traditional prayer shawl.”
As Hillary Clinton sails into treacherous waters, she has prepared herself well and been wise in the use of her abilities. During the 2008 primary campaign when Barack Obama agreed to “no preconditions” in meetings with rogue states, Hillary made it clear that American interests required preconditions to meetings. This posture was wise because American power must be leveraged judiciously not precariously. Hillary prepares, she does not bumble like a certain boob:
“Some analysts say Mrs. Clinton’s few trips to Israel and her delegation of negotiating duties to Mr. Mitchell speak to her caution. “She has sensed this is a dog, and wanted to stay away from it,” Mr. Miller said.
But others said it made sense for her to hold her political capital in reserve until the prospects for talks ripened. Since March, when tensions flared over Israel’s settlement policy, two-thirds of the phone calls Mrs. Clinton has made to foreign officials have been about the Middle East, according to an adviser.
“It’s absolutely the case that she feels very strongly about this, in part to complete the job done by her husband,” said Martin S. Indyk, a former American ambassador to Israel who advised her during the campaign.”
Ambassador Indyk perhaps cannot help himself by lowering the import of the current talks to some sort of marital indulgence. No doubt Hillary Clinton will build on the work of Bill Clinton but she will build on all the work done by all presidents and the murdered Sadat and Rabin. While Hillary builds on the work of former presidents, the current one is a stumbling block to be overcome:
“It is also true, however, that the White House, not the State Department, drove the initial phase of policy-making in the Middle East. The strategy of publicly pressing Israel over settlements was devised by Mr. Obama’s staff with his active involvement, according to several officials.
As she has on other issues, Mrs. Clinton has been the good soldier, amplifying the president’s message. In March, when Israel announced new Jewish housing units during a visit by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., she willingly took on the job of scolding Mr. Netanyahu.
But more recently, as the chill with Jerusalem began rattling lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Mrs. Clinton has counseled the White House to keep its criticism of Israel private, according to officials. Mr. Mitchell, they said, has also pushed for a more diplomatic approach.
“If you look at some of the problems the administration has had, both with the Israeli public and with some Jewish groups at home, she is pretty well positioned to be an answer to both of those,” said Robert Malley, another former peace negotiator for the Clinton administration.”
Hard work is the Hillary Clinton way. Leverage the experience of others and learn from history:
“To prepare for this moment, Mrs. Clinton has asked her staff for an exhaustive analysis of all the major peace initiatives, to spot trends, sticking points, areas of agreement and so on.
The choreography last week, a White House dinner followed by talks at the State Department, bore the imprint of Mrs. Clinton, officials said. The administration debated having her travel to the Middle East to restart the talks, but she persuaded Mr. Obama to take a central role.
“The decision-making and policy-making that got to these talks were really handled between the two of them personally,” said Denis McDonough, the chief of staff of the National Security Council.
Mrs. Clinton, more than most, understands that presidents are indispensable in Middle East peacemaking. She likes telling colleagues a story about Mr. Arafat’s calling her husband in February 2001 to tell him that he was ready to make a deal with Israel. “That’s great,” Mr. Clinton replied, “but I’m not in office anymore.”
Whatever Hope for Change there is in these Middle East talks comes from Hillary Clinton.