March 23, 2010
Obama and Clinton Flunk the Pinocchio Test at AIPAC
What a difference a couple of years make.
Back in early 2008, when both Obama and Hillary Clinton were competing for the Democratic presidential nomination, they courted Jewish voters big time at AIPAC's annual policy conference.
Their 2008 comments and pledges of all-out support of Israel now ring quite hollow in light of their unrelenting pressures and criticisms of that nation.
Let's start with Obama. In his AIPAC address two years ago, he sought to allay concerns and reservations among Israel-supporters about how he would deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if he became president. To win over the doubters, Obama declared that as far as he was concerned, Jerusalem must remain Israel's "undivided" capital. Big cheers and sighs of relief from his AIPAC audience.
...Except that almost as soon as he left the conference hall, Obama's campaign put out a correction that he hadn't meant to say what he did say and that Jerusalem's fate would still have to be negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians. By declaring that the city should remain "undivided," Obama simply meant that it wouldn't be marred by the kind of ugly barriers that sliced through Jerusalem before 1967.
For many Israel-supporters, Obama's lightning-quick turnabout marked a turning point -- from bending over backwards to give him the benefit of the doubt that his Israel-hating pastor, the Rev. Wright, really hadn't had any influence on his thinking, to viewing him as a politician whose support of Israel was definitely in the very doubtful column. This is especially true since in the run-up to the 2008 campaign, Obama gladly accepted the national backing of his church -- the United Church of Christ -- without ever challenging its fierce anti-Israel stance. With Obama, the past was prelude.
Hillary Clinton, when it comes to her speeches at AIPAC, similarly lowered her veracity quotient with the speech she delivered at this week's conference.
Two years ago, she firmly declared that if she was elected president, "the United States will never pressure Israel to make unilateral concessions." How many Pinocchios does that promise now rate as our secretary of state ratchets up pressures on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to make more and more concessions to the Palestinians before the two sides even sit down at the negotiating table?
It was not enough for Clinton to repeat her condemnation of a preliminary Israeli planning OK for eventual construction of 1,600 homes in a Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem that will remain under Israeli sovereignty in any possible peace scenario. What's more, she peremptorily demanded that Netanyahu reverse and kill such plans. And she's given him a shopping list of other concessions to lure Mahmoud Abbas back to the negotiating table.
Here's another Hillary-versus-Hillary 2008-to-2010 chapter: Two years ago, she praised to the skies AIPAC's work in Washington, telling thousands at the organization's D.C. conference, "Never stop standing up and fighting for Israel."
This week, she was in quite a different mood about AIPAC's agenda and influence. Immediately after telling her audience that "for this entire administration, our commitment to Israel's security and Israel's future is rock-solid, unwavering, enduring, and forever," she added: "And why is that? Is it because AIPAC can put 7,500 people in a room in the Convention Center? I don't think so."
How's that for a put-down of her hosts?
But it isn't just when one compares Hilary's 2008 speech with her remarks this week that contradictions and inconsistencies abound. There are ample Hillary-versus-Hillary passages within the contours of this year's address.
In an attempt to seem even-handed in her dealings with Israel and the Palestinians, she declared in reference to her attacks on Israeli construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem that "[o]ur credibility in this process depends in part on our willingness to praise both sides when they are courageous, and when we don't agree, to say so unequivocally."
Unequivocally? Yes, when it comes to Israel, but certainly not "unequivocally" in any references to Palestinian Authority transgression. When it comes to the PA, Hilary sang the praises of Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad for their "reforms to strengthen law and order and the progress they've made in improving the quality of life in the West Bank."
Any fault-finding with the PA about failing to dismantle Abbas's terrorist group, called the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, or about failing to end incitement and violence?
Not exactly. Just the opposite. Said Clinton about Abbas and the PA: "We encourage them to redouble their efforts to put an end to incitement and violence, continue to ensure security and the rule of law, and ingrain a culture of peace and tolerance among Palestinians."
In other words, Abbas & Co. are doing all the right things. They just need to stay on course and keep doing even more of the same.
One would be hard-put to find any unequivocal criticism of Abbas in Hilary's speech. Time and again, in fact, she shielded him from reproach.
Is Hilary at all incensed about the PA's repeated glorification of Dalal Mughrabi, who led a terrorist rampage in 1978 that killed 38 Israeli civilians, including a dozen children, in the worst terrorist attack in Israel's history?
She went so far in her AIPAC address as to actually exculpate Abbas and the PA from promoting such glorification. Here's how she put it: "When a Hamas-controlled municipality glorifies violence and renames a square after a terrorist who murdered innocent Israelis, it insults the families on both sides who have lost loved ones over the years in this conflict."
The guilt lies with Hamas -- not with the PA! But the PA is responsible for what goes on in the West Bank, and the renaming of this square was led by Abbas & Co. Today, the Dalal Mughrabi Square is right outside Ramallah, the capital of the PA! And Abbas has glorified Mughrabi time and again -- including at a recent convention of his Fatah political party.
But instead of unequivocally condemning Abbas, Clinton earned a couple of Pinocchios for squashing the truth to protect him from any opprobrium.
And this wasn't the only instance of Clinton offending truth by failing to point a finger at Abbas. She could have mentioned the PA's role in inciting Arabs in and around Jerusalem with a campaign of lies that the reopening of the Hurva Synagogue -- destroyed by Jordan in 1948 -- was the prelude to an Israeli attack on Al-Aqsa Mosque on nearby Temple Mount to make room for the Third Jewish Temple.
In Clinton's speech, it was just unnamed "instigators" who "deliberately mischaracterized the rededication of a synagogue in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem's Old City and called upon their brethren to "defend" nearby Muslim holy sites from so-called "attacks."
Again, plenty of equivocation by Clinton to shield Abbas and the PA from any blame. It was just the fault of anonymous "instigators." No Abbas or PA fingerprints anywhere.
Netanyahu should be so lucky to get such treatment from the secretary.
Even Pinocchio would blush.