Israel pleased with Clinton as secretary of state

Tuesday, December 02, 2008 |  Israel Today Staff

Israel's leadership on Tuesday expressed satisfaction with US President-elect Barack Obama's choice of Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state.

Clinton is "a friend of the State of Israel and the Jewish people, and I'm sure that in her important role, she will continue to forward the special relations between the two nations," read a statement released by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu both expressed similar sentiments in personal correspondence with Clinton.

Israeli officials had previously voiced concern over Obama's stated intention to dramatically alter US foreign policy and to engage shared enemies of the US and the Jewish state in dialogue.

Clinton, however, is viewed as somewhat more hawkish than Obama, and most Israelis believe her positions on the Israeli-Arab peace process and other regional issues run more in line with the status quo.

At the same time, however, Obama is reportedly considering appointing former US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer as his special Middle East peace envoy, giving him near equal status to Clinton when it comes to the Israeli-Arab peace process.

Kurtzer is well known to Israelis, many of whom remember him as a meddling ambassador who constantly complained to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon about Israel's security fence and the growth of the Jewish population in Judea and Samaria.

Kurtzer advocates sweeping Israeli territorial and security concessions in return for an Arab promise of peace, while Clinton is thought to be more pragmatic and prone to demanding proof of Arab goodwill before requiring any significant Israeli move.

Clinton's appointment was viewed with far less enthusiasm across the rest of the Middle East, with political experts from the Palestinian Authority to Egypt to Syria saying that her appointment marked the end of any hope of real change in the Israeli-Arab conflict under Obama.

If that is true, it is likely to sit well with the man polls show will be Israel's next prime minister.

Netanyahu, who is currently predicted to comfortably win the February general election, has said that he not only wants to maintain the status quo, but to drastically slow down the land-for-peace process while he first helps the Palestinians to better their economic situation.

The Palestinians have used their dire economic situation as an excuse for terrorist activity, and Netanyahu hopes that by removing that excuse to determine, before the eyes of the world, whether or not the Palestinians are genuinely interested in peace.

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