November 2nd, 2009
03:38 PM ET
9 years ago

Clinton tries to put praise of Israel in context

Clinton tries to put praise of Israel in context.

Clinton tries to put praise of Israel in context.

MARRAKESH, Morocco (CNN) - Two days after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton angered Palestinian leaders by praising Israel for what she called "unprecedented" steps to limit - but not fully halt - the construction of Jewish settlements, she clarified her remarks.

Reading Monday from a prepared statement, Clinton said, "They (the Israelis) will build no new settlements, expropriate no new land, allow no new construction or approvals. And let me just say, this offer falls far short of our position or what our preference would be. But if it is acted upon it will be unprecedented restrictions on settlements and would have a significant effect upon restraining their growth."

For months, the Obama administration has insisted that Israel freeze all new settlement construction. In May, Clinton said President Barack Obama "wants to see a stop to settlements. Not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions."

But on Saturday, standing beside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Clinton praised him for simply slowing settlement

"What the prime minister has offered in specifics of a restraint on the policy of settlements, which he has just described - no new starts, for example - is unprecedented in the context of the prior two negotiations," she said.

Earlier that day, at a hastily scheduled meeting in Abu Dhabi, Clinton urged Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to return to the
negotiating table with no preconditions over freezing settlements. Abbas refused.

Monday in Marrakesh, Clinton was lobbying Arab foreign ministers to support the resumption of the stalled peace talks. But the frustration over Clinton's comments was evident, with Amr Moussa, secretary general of Arab League, calling the Israeli position on settlements a "slap in the face" of the Palestinians.

That followed Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat's strongly worded statement issued Sunday.

"What the Israelis are offering is not unprecedented," he said. "What would be unprecedented is a comprehensive settlement freeze by Israel ... and a halt to Israeli policies in occupied East Jerusalem such as home demolitions, evictions and rapid settlement expansion."

He added, "If America cannot get Israel to implement a settlement freeze, what chance do Palestinians have of reaching agreement with Israel on permanent status issues?"

Clinton, in her statement Monday, said she wanted to "take a step back because I want to put this into the broader context. I will offer positive reinforcement to the parties when I believe they are taking steps that support the objective of reaching a two-state solution.

"I will also push them as I have in public and in private to do even more."

She said that in a report to Obama last month, she praised both Israel's "willingness to restrain settlement activity" and the Palestinian Authority's "security measures on the West Bank."

"The steps being taken under President Abbas and Prime Minister (Salsam) Fayed are also unprecedented and we have never seen such effective security," she said. "I have on many occasions ... praised the accomplishments that the Palestinian Authority has demonstrated in building, training, and reforming their security forces."

Filed under: Hillary Clinton • Israel • President Obama
soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. Adalbert

    Once more, we caved into Israel's demend.

    November 2, 2009 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  2. Fort Lauderdale, FL

    Israel should not do anything this administration wants. This is a three-year lame duck administration that will be catapulted out of office by the American people. Obama has proved he can do nothing. Not that it wasn't predicted. Experience is on the side of Netanyahu. It is shameful for the United States which fights wars everywhere in the world to protect its own security to try to curtail Israel's efforts to protect it's own internal security. Perhaps we should allow Bin Laden to establish his base in New Jersey so he can attack New York with greater efficiency? That is what Obama is asking Israel to do. He was hoping Netanyahu would be replaced by some more pliant leader. Instead, Obama will be replaced by someone with the guts to defend the United States and its international interests, and that includes Israel.

    November 2, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  3. Grrr-awful-o

    Inexperience, as Clinton is showing in this debacle, is a hallmark of the Obama administration. Superior judgement was touted, during the campaign, as an adequate replacement for experience. The good judgement doesn't seem in abundance in this administration. Maybe experience is important after all.

    November 2, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  4. Grrr-awful-o

    ...and the Israelis must be shaking their heads again...

    November 2, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  5. Jefe

    Just give them the kind of ultimatum we give to most nations in violation of UN law. We gave Iraq several chances to comply, and when they didn't, we went "Shock and Awe" on them. Israel has been violating agreed-to law for decades now, and the bombing still hasn't begun.

    November 2, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  6. Proud Member..Party of No

    Is there anybody in this administration that knows what they are doing?

    November 2, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  7. Matt

    The Obama administration just keeps screwing up foreign policy. I wish that they would stop campaigning, sit down and figure out what is best for America–not Obama, but America.

    November 2, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  8. Bedtime for Obonzo

    Screw Palestinian "leaders." They won't be happy until Israel is bulldozed into the sea.

    November 2, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  9. Zebula

    Thanks, Obama, for putting the SOS in this position. Try taking a stand for once!

    November 2, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  10. single mom

    When will Americans realize that the lasting real peace in the Middle East isn't going to happen?

    It's sad and I wish it wasn't so, but wishing won't make it a reality anymore than talking.

    November 2, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  11. JP

    "unprecedented" steps to limit – but not fully halt – the construction of Jewish settlements. What am I missing. The land is stolen. The settlements are illegal. Does Clinton mean to praise going from full speed illegal activity to half speed illegal activity is something wonderful. We should cut off all aid to Israel.

    November 2, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  12. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    So long as the US continues to tolerate Israel's arrogant, aggressive, and provocative behaviour in the mid-east, the US will continue to pay the price of near-universal Muslim hostility.

    Israel simply isn't worth that.

    As an ally, the country is an expensive embarrassment that cares not in the slightest what the effect on the US of its lethal boorishness might be.

    Israel is sixty years old. It's all grown up now. It's time for the US to quit protecting the country and let it suffer on its own the consequences of its acts.

    November 2, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  13. Pepou

    Bla, bla, bla, bottom line is : Israel can always do as it pleases and our country will go merrily along. Which is why peace is so illusory in the area. Now, is that "unprecedented:? NO.

    November 2, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  14. Mike Syracuse, NY

    OK, so we tried the Obama experiment and it failed. Can we move on now? Let's elect at least one Republican house in 2010 to stop further damage, and boot Mr. Present back to Chicago in 2012.

    November 2, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  15. seebofubar

    Why on God's green earth would anyone care what the Palistinians terrorists think? Does anyone with 2 brain cells to rub togeather think that if we're nice they'll be nice? Grow up and remember the hole in the ground in New York. These people think nothing of strapping a bomb on their own childrens back and blowing them up, or burning a treenage girl alive for showing here face in publc. There are evil people in the world and they are them. There is no reasoning with evil, the only solution is to eliminate it!!

    November 2, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  16. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    I don't understand why the world doesn't understand that the Israelis are trying something and there is little to show from the Arabs. These Arabs still have anti-Semitic and anti-Israel comments in their historical and daily publications. These people only want to rule and don't understand compromise. They still hate Jews too much to be willing to do anything. Golda Meir said it best: "There will be peace when the Arabs love their children more than they hate the Jews."

    November 2, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  17. Sad Sack

    No matter what side we take the other side does not listen, even the comments reflect that.

    November 2, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  18. Joe in CT - not Lieberman!!!

    Unfortunately, peace in the Middle East will not be possible as long as we allow Israel to continue its policies of Aparthied and Ethnic Cleansing! Call them whatever you want to – settlements, security enhancements, etc. When other nations did the same we used those two terms above! A serious move by the Israeli government would be to abolish its unique Jewish State and incorporate the Palestinians as full citizens. The PM who did that would have an unbreakable voting block of his own party along with the Palestinians! I know and have worked with Arabs and Jews for many years. Most of them don't care what flag flies over their lands as long as they can have work, food, a stable economy and equal justice. As long as the Israeli government forces the separate-and-inequal status on the Occupied Territories, there is no possibility for peace! If Secretary Clinton had the intestinal fortitude she claims to have, she would order a witholding of all foreign and military aid to Israel until the situations of the settlements and providing equal justice are met!

    November 2, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  19. Mike in LR

    "They will expropriate no new land." Given it was theirs to begin with that's ridiculous. Isreal has been a nation since before Christ. The palestinians have never been a nation and would be welcome in any arab country I'm sure. They are murderous thugs and have no right to a separate nation.

    November 2, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  20. positive thinking

    I wonder how many comments from the public were counted that made Clinton take a step back – does the administration have positions or are they just taking it one day at a time?

    That being said, the settlements are justified and are built on Israel proper. They won the war, Jordan lost. Let's move on.

    November 2, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  21. Beverly in NC

    What's the big deal? Israel is a strong ally of America and can teach us much on counter-terrorism since they live it every day.

    Who do you trust more – a stable Israel or a constant volatile Palestine? Sec Clinton doesn't need to qualify anything.

    November 2, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  22. yuri

    Mid-east turmoil is quite a rambunctious struggle for a piece of land like any other in the world. US persidents and secretaries of state have come and gone, and the region is still rampant w/ riots and ravenous land grabbers, just to say the least. It seems like a tunnel and we are yet to see a light at the end.

    November 2, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  23. MH

    For many years, the United States has publically taken a role as a proxy for the Israel government, rather than mediating as a fair and balanced partner. This has allowed the extremist fringe in the Islamic world to present a rallying point to recruit terrorists to their cause. If we want to affect change to alter the Middle East to a more moderate style, we have to stop allowing AIPAC to direct our public policy regarding the Palestinians. Desperate people do desperate things, and we have to put hope into the Palestinian's lives just as you did for America during your campaign. Only this will stop attacks on Israel in the long run, and I think it is in Israel's best interest also to live in peace with their neighbors.

    The USA must become directly involved in negotiations. The hands-off approach with a quiet support of billions of dollars of military aid to Israel is not working.

    November 2, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  24. mjm

    You see?

    This is what happens when you believe your own hype and you start throwing around words "unprecedented", "historical", ...."hope and change"...."for the first time in my adult life".....

    You know, OVERSTATEMENTS. The world does not get democrats and how they exaggerate everything. You tend to piss off both sides.

    Way to go dems.

    November 2, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  25. MH

    Change the culture in Washington by recognizing and acting upon the fact that the U.S.-Israel relationship is harming this country by keeping us, in the eyes of much of the Muslim world, closely tied with and supporting an occupier, oppressor and perpetrator of war crimes against the Palestinian people. Israel benefits from a destabilized Middle East (peace with its neighbors will not keep money and arms flowing to the Jewish state) but we do not. When we give unqualified support to this aggression in the form of cash and the sophisticated weapons used to crush the Palestinians, we are complicit in these crimes, and rightly considered to blame. Please have the moral and political courage to stand down the Israel-first forces, including those within your own administration, and reconsider the wisdom of maintaining this blind and detrimental relationship with Israel.

    November 2, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
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