Remember former ambassador Thomas Pickering? The State Department chose Pickering to review the events surrounding the sacking of our consulate in Benghazi as chair of the so-called Accountability Review Board. Its report amounted to a whitewash for Hillary Clinton, blaming lower-level career officials for failures in security, only later to be debunked by whistleblower testimony. Pickering makes a surprising and disturbing reappearance in Hillary’s secret e-mail system in a fine catch by the Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo, in which he encourages Hillary to foment protests by Palestinians as a way to pressure Benjamin Netanyahu to move off the “status quo.”
Pickering wanted a game-changer. He may have belatedly provided one:
Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton considered a secret plan created by her then-advisers to foment unrest among Palestinian citizens and spark protests in order to push the Israeli government back to the negotiating table, according to emails released as part of the investigation into the Democratic presidential frontrunner’s private email server.
In a Dec, 18, 2011, email, former U.S. ambassador to Israel Thomas Pickering suggested that Clinton consider a plan to restart then-stalled peace negotiations by kickstarting Palestinian demonstrations against Israel.
Pickering described the effort as a potential “game changer in the region,” recommending that the United States undertake a clandestine campaign to generate unrest. Clinton requested that his email be printed.
“What will change the situation is a major effort to use non-violent protests and demonstrations to put peace back in the center of people’s aspirations as well as their thoughts, and use that to influence the political leadership,” Pickering wrote.
Pickering addressed the letter to Hillary’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills, who promptly forwarded it to her boss. Hillary sent the note to aide Monica Hanley with the instruction to “Pls print,” presumably for further review. Hanley made news earlier this week for a dressing-down she received from Hillary in one e-mail exchange for misinforming her of the name of an ambassador, although it turned out that she had been given bad information by others in State about Tunisia’s Rafik Abdessalem.
In case no one already knew this, Pickering emphasized the need for covert action:
Gee, I wonder how many other foreign protests were facilitated by the State Department? Were any others sparked against American allies in that region? One has to wonder after reading this how much the State Department might have had to do with some of the “Arab Spring” protests, too. (In fact, at one point Pickering says that the effort must be “just like Tahrir Square,” a mention that might interest our allies in Egypt.) This e-mail thread doesn’t indicate whether Hillary took Pickering’s advice, but she certainly appeared to take it under advisement. And while the e-mail itself wasn’t classified, it’s yet another example of how these kinds of communications can harm American interests when transmitted in the open. This would be enough to create a massive backlash among our allies, and in fact may still do so.
Pickering emphasizes that Hillary should work with women in the territories to minimize the chance of the protests turning violent. That’s a risky bet anywhere in the region, but particularly in this part of the world. Pickering seems more worried about a violent Israeli response — “the chances are much less that force would be misused against them,” but Pickering later writes that “the dangers are not small” of an Israeli overreaction. It apparently never occurs to him that this kind of protest might make for a convenient screen for more violent forces in the West Bank and Gaza, in an attempt to force the Israelis to react and then get castigated for their response. Some allies, eh?
This exchange confirms the tendency of the Obama administration to treat Israel with arrogance, if not outright hostility. This e-mail doesn’t raise legal issues, but it raises serious political issues, especially for Hillary Clinton’s orientation toward Israel and the Obama administration’s dealings with Iran in 2009. When protesters filled the streets in Iran, peacefully demonstrating against a rigged election and demanding an end to the mullahcracy, Obama and the White House went out of their way to ignore it, even at one point accepting the results of the election. The Green Revolution faltered and failed thanks to Obama’s desire to gain a meaningless and dangerous agreement that will all but certify Iran as a nuclear-weapons state. Where was Pickering then? And for that matter, where was Hillary Clinton?