In the run-up to a possible presidential campaign, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week drew a clear line in the sand between the policies of President Barack Obama and her own views vis-a-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Relations with Israel have long played a major role in American political campaigns. And Israel could be even more in the spotlight than ever ahead of the 2016 election, given the tremendously strained relations between the Jewish state and the Obama Administration.
Many Americans (and Israelis) want to know how the next president is going to put the two allies back on better terms. And Clinton, assuming she runs, made clear in an interview with The Atlantic her intention to fully back Jerusalem.
When asked about the Gaza war, Clinton said Israel “did what it had to do to respond to the rockets.” She also seemed to backtrack on a previous remark that the reason Hamas weapons were stored in and used from civilian areas is because Gaza is so small. In this most recent interview, Clinton spoke of the “steps Hamas has taken to embed rockets and command-and-control facilities and tunnel entrances in civilian areas.”
During the war, Obama Administration officials suggested that Israel hadn’t done enough to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza. Clinton was asked if she agreed. Her response:
“[J]ust as we try to do in the United States and be as careful as possible in going after targets to avoid civilians, [mistakes are made]. We’ve made them. I don’t know a nation, no matter what its values are–and I think that democratic nations have demonstrably better values in a conflict position–that hasn’t made errors, but ultimately the responsibility rests with Hamas.”
That was a point she sought to drive home: “There’s no doubt in my mind that Hamas initiated this conflict. … So the ultimate responsibility has to rest on Hamas and the decisions it made.”
Clinton also took the international community to task for playing along with Hamas’ PR game. “It is striking … that you have more than 170,000 people dead in Syria. … You have Russia massing battalions” on the border of a neighbor and annexing territories, “and yet we see this enormous international reaction against Israel… This reaction is uncalled for and unfair,” she said.
Surprisingly, Clinton even appeared to throw a wrench in the two-state solution into which both she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, had invested so much political capital.
Echoing a number of Israeli government ministers, Clinton said she could fully understand how Gaza once again demonstrated that Israel simply cannot surrender security control of Judea and Samaria (the so-called “West Bank”).
“If I were the prime minister of Israel, you’re damn right I would expect to have control over security,” said Clinton. “…Netanyahu could not [relinquish this] in good conscience.”