The whole world celebrated your election as the first African-American president of the US. I did not. Neither did the inhabitants of the concentration camp where I live. Your sympathetic visit to Sderot—an Israeli town which was the Palestinian village of Najd until 1948 when its people were ethnically cleansed—three years after your first visit to a Kibbutz in northern Israel in support of its residents, and after your pledge to be committed to the security of the State of Israel and its “right” to retain unified Jerusalem as the capital city of the Jewish people—to give but few examples—were all clear indications of where your heart lies.
Another reason for the writing of this letter is shock at the indifference and arrogance with which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dismissed Palestinian concerns about Israel’s illegal Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank. Only a few weeks ago you made the admirable statement that all Jewish settlement must halt, and you made it clear that this included expansion of existing settlements as well as the construction of new settlements. However, when Netanyahu let it be known that he had no intention of stopping settlements, you missed an historic opportunity to draw a line: no more billions and no more weapons for Israel unless and until this condition is met. Now Clinton has the Herculean task of pretending that your position on Jewish settlements has not changed, although it is clear you have chosen not to use the very real power at your disposal to bring Israeli policy into line. [continued…] (h/t Rob Browne)
He may have promised to change Washington, but President Barack Obama is continuing one of its most renowned patronage traditions: bestowing prized ambassadorships on big donors.
Of the nearly 80 ambassadorship nominations or confirmations since Obama’s Inauguration, 56 percent were given to political appointees and 44 percent have gone to career diplomats, according to records kept by the American Foreign Service Association.
The latest nomination came this week, when Beatrice Wilkinson Welters was nominated to serve as ambassador to the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean.
Welters, a longtime advocate for underprivileged children, and her husband, Anthony, an executive with UnitedHealth Group, generated between $200,000 and $500,000 in donations to Obama’s presidential campaign and an additional $100,000 for his Inauguration, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks political giving. [continued…]
Though none of these comments had a tangible impact on U.S. foreign policy, the same can’t be said about two episodes in which Clinton veered away from the White House’s message on the Middle East peace process. The first came in May, when Clinton revealed at a press conference that Obama’s call for an Israeli settlement freeze included any “natural growth” within existing settlements. The circumstances remain murky, but two sources with detailed knowledge of the U.S.-Israeli relationship say that the Obama team was not yet prepared to make public this departure from Bush-era policy. Rather than leave his secretary of state twisting in the wind, says one of the sources, Obama wound up repeating her formulation a few days later, touching off months of tension with the Israelis. [continued…]