Under any other circumstances, this press conference with Hillary Clinton and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman would be a national embarrassment. In the Obama administration, it’s just business as usual. While Hillary demanded an end to settlement expansion in the presser and gave a not-so-subtle scolding to Lieberman and by extension Benjamin Netanyahu, the most she could bring herself to say about Iran was that the US wanted to work with them, and that free speech is a good thing.
The Financial Times called it “one of the most tense encounters” of the last several years between Israel and the US, and for good reason:
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, clashed face to face with her Israeli counterpart on Wednesday as the two countries remained at loggerheads over the expansion of settlements in occupied territory.
In what appeared one of the most tense encounters between the sides for several years, Mrs Clinton and Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister, disagreed on both the US call for a complete freeze on settlement growth and Israel’s contention that the administration of George W. Bush, the former president, had signalled that some expansion was permissible.
“We cannot accept this vision about absolutely, completely freezing all settlements,” Mr Lieberman said.
In response, Mrs Clinton underlined the US call for a “stop to the settlements”, a move she described as “an important and essential part of pursuing the efforts leading to a comprehensive peace agreement”.
The US seems a bit lost in this hyperfocus on settlements. Settlements are not the main cause of the conflict; they are an issue to be handled in final negotiations, like Jerusalem and borders, once both sides accept the other and have security measures in place to stop attacks. Rudely demanding in a press conference that Israel unilaterally concede on settlements without any concessions at all from the Palestinians or other Arab states is not only amateurish diplomacy, it’s just flat-out useless. Israel dismantled the settlements in Gaza and withdrew, and that not only failed to improve the situation, it created a terrorist state of Hamastan in Gaza, which has launched attacks almost non-stop against Israel ever since. Does the Obama administration read the newspapers at all?
While Hillary scolds our democratic ally, she soothes the repressive mullahcracy that is threatened by an uprising of its own people, demanding real democracy for the first time in decades. The best she can offer for the Iranian protestors is a sop to free speech and an acknowledgment that ballots should be counted fairly. Click the image to watch, and to read more reaction from Israel Matzav.