Politico reports: Bill Clinton went on the defensive over his record on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as his wife’s, after a spectator at a Friday afternoon campaign event repeatedly pressed the former president on the issue.
Clinton was explaining his wife’s policy positions in Ewing Township, New Jersey, when a spectator yelled, “What about Gaza?”
“She and the Muslim Brotherhood president of Egypt stopped the shooting war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza,” Clinton responded.
“She said neutrality is not an option,” the spectator said, prompting boos from the audience, but Clinton told them to stop.
“Depends on whether you care what happens to the Palestinians as opposed to the Hamas government and the people with guided missiles,” the former president answered.
“They were human beings in Gaza,” the audience member said.
“Yes, they were,” Clinton said. “And Hamas is really smart. When they decide to rocket Israel, they insinuate themselves in the hospitals, in the schools, in the highly populous areas, and they are smart.”
The line prompted applause, and he continued: “They said they try to put the Israelis in a position of either not defending themselves or killing innocents. They’re good at it. They’re smart. They’ve been doing this a long time.”
“I killed myself to give the Palestinians a state. I had a deal they turned down that would have given them all of Gaza,” Clinton said. [Continue reading…]
When Bill Clinton supposedly “killed himself” in his efforts at Camp David, one of his principle aides was Robert Malley, Special Assistant to President Clinton for Arab-Israeli Affairs. After Clinton and others blamed Yasser Arafat for refusing to accept a “generous” offer from Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Barak, Malley set the record straight in the New York Review of Books in 2001:
Robert Malley and Hussein Agha wrote: In accounts of what happened at the July 2000 Camp David summit and the following months of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, we often hear about Ehud Barak’s unprecedented offer and Yasser Arafat’s uncompromising no. Israel is said to have made a historic, generous proposal, which the Palestinians, once again seizing the opportunity to miss an opportunity, turned down. In short, the failure to reach a final agreement is attributed, without notable dissent, to Yasser Arafat.
As orthodoxies go, this is a dangerous one. For it has larger ripple effects. Broader conclusions take hold. That there is no peace partner is one. That there is no possible end to the conflict with Arafat is another.
For a process of such complexity, the diagnosis is remarkably shallow. It ignores history, the dynamics of the negotiations, and the relationships among the three parties. In so doing, it fails to capture why what so many viewed as a generous Israeli offer, the Palestinians viewed as neither generous, nor Israeli, nor, indeed, as an offer. Worse, it acts as a harmful constraint on American policy by offering up a single, convenient culprit—Arafat—rather than a more nuanced and realistic analysis. [Continue reading…]