Hillary to triangulate for Obama on Israel?

Greg Sargent at Plum Line reports that Hillary Clinton, who has seen her role as chief diplomat somewhat eclipsed by Barack Obama’s world tours, plans to make a big splash later today in a major speech on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.  While Obama has been pressing Israel for concessions, Hillary plans to slam Arabs for perpetuating the hate and intolerance that keeps the crisis in motion.  Is this a triangulation effort by the White House, or Hillary distancing herself from Obama?

In a major foreign policy speech this afternoon, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will take direct aim at Arab states for not doing their part towards securing Mideast peace, demanding that “all sides” do more to crack down on the “cultures of hate, intolerance and disrespect that perpetuate conflict,” according to an advance excerpt I’ve obtained.

Clinton’s muscular tone towards Arab states could blunt criticism from conservatives who say that the Obama administration has disproportionately pressured Israel by demanding a complete halt to settlement activity. Hillary’s speech seems designed to publicly reinforce the message that Obama delivered privately the other night to concerned Jewish leaders: That he’s serious about demanding action from Arab states as well as from Israel.

“We know that progress toward peace cannot be the responsibility of the United States –- or Israel -– alone,” Clinton will say. “Ending the conflict requires action on all sides. Arab states have a responsibility to support the Palestinian Authority with words and deeds, to take steps to improve relations with Israel, and to prepare their publics to embrace peace and accept Israel’s place in the region.”

Clinton will criticize Arab states for sitting on their hands while awaiting a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the wake of the 2002 Saudi peace proposal, which offered Israel recognition in exchange for withdrawal from occupied territories. She’ll insist Mideast peace can’t be achieved by viewing the problem as exclusively an Israeli-Palestinian one.

The Clintons practically invented triangulation, the process of appearing to be on all sides of any issue in order to defuse critics.  If that’s what this is, then having Hillary handle it for Obama makes perfect sense — and certainly doesn’t hurt Hillary at home in New York.  With the Democratic nomination for governor wide open next year, she may choose to bail out of State and try for a role with more meat to it, especially since Obama has restricted her authority by (a) having UN Ambassador Susan Rice report directly to the Oval Office, and (b) conduct foreign policy himself.

With that in mind, Hillary may have decided to distance herself from Obama on Israel.  Recent issues, such as Obama’s response to the protests in Iran and Bill Clinton’s quasi-endorsement of a challenger in the Democratic primary to incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand have prompted speculation that a split has developed between Hillary and Obama.  One can look at this as either, or perhaps both.

Speaking of Iran, it looks like Obama’s offer will have an expiration date:

According to a separate excerpt obtained by the Associated Press, Clinton will also warn Iran that time is running out on accepting the Obama administration’s offer of engagement and could face penalties for continued pursuit for a nuke program.

Who gets to tell Obama that the Iranians just aren’t into him?  They’re not interested in direct talks with the Great Satan.  We’re much more useful to Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as enemies and the center of their paranoid conspiracy theories than we are as an ally — and certainly a lot less valuable to their long-range plans as an ally than the nukes.