Posts Tagged ‘Palestine’

The chapter begins with Hillary explaining briefly the history of the Palestinian flag, its symbolism, and her impression upon finding it flying beside the Israeli flag at the residence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when she arrived for a close, tight, tiny meeting in September 2010.  Only  Mahmoud Abbas, Hillary, George Mitchell, and Netanyahu himself were secluded in Bibi’s personal study.  An impatient press was gathered outside.  Things were tense.  A construction freeze was about to expire.

The photo below was taken early in her tenure at State when she attended a conference on humanitarian aid to Gaza.  The Obama administration entered this arena to a three-day-old cease-fire and a Gaza reduced to rubble and in dire need of humanitarian aid.   Reading it now, we might feel as if we have come full circle and need another of these donor conferences for the region.

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Hillary Clinton’s Remarks at Gaza Conference

March 3, 2009 by still4hill

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All of us recognize that human progress depends on the human spirit. That a child growing up in Gaza without shelter, health care, or an education has the same right to go to school, see a doctor, and live with a roof over her head as a child growing up in your country or mine. That a mother and father in the West Bank struggling to fulfill their dreams for their children have the same right as parents anywhere else in the world to a good job, a decent home, and the tools to achieve greater prosperity and peace.

On that first official visit to the Middle East  she met with both  the outgoing Israeli government and the incoming one.  Hillary’s first phone call as secretary of state to a foreign leader was to Ehud Olmert.

Hillary Clinton With Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert


Hillary Clinton with Tzipi Livni

There is a long time friendship between the Clinton and Peres families.  At this meeting he gave her a bouquet composed of every flower that grows in Israel.

Hillary Clinton with Shimon Peres


Her Israeli counterpart, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman,  met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton astoundingly rarely.  Far more frequently she met with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Hillary Clinton with Israeli FM Avigdor Lieberman

She visited an English language teaching program in Ramallah.  Amideast is a major source of Middle Eastern students to U.S. universities.  They manage government scholarships for Saudi students and also Fulbright scholarships.

Hillary Clinton at an Amideast Event


The issue at this point was the controversial Goldstone Report.  All of the links below contain policy comments about it.

Secretary Clinton & Ambassador Rice: Remarks After Meeting on the Adoption of a UNSC Resolution to Combat Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict

The Secretary’s Week in Review

Secretary Clinton: Interviews Galore!

Press Briefing on the Plane to Cairo

Secretary Clinton Remarks with Egypt’s Foreign Minister Gheit

Secretary Clinton: Two Interviews

Video & Text: Middle East Quartet Statement, Press Briefing, & Secretary Clinton’s Remarks

The announcement, right before AIPAC and while Joe Biden was visiting Israel of 1,600 new settlement units to be constructed was considered a major insult to the U.S.  Obama was furious, and it was Hillary’s job to communicate that to Netanyahu.  Bibi denied responsibility but did not cancel the construction.

Video & Text: Secretary Clinton at 2010 AIPAC Conference


Last fall, I stood next to Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem and praised his government’s decision to place a moratorium on new residential construction in the West Bank. And then I praised it again in Cairo and in Marrakesh and in many places far from Jerusalem to make clear that this was a first step, but it was an important first step. And yes, I underscored the longstanding American policy that does not accept the legitimacy of continued settlements. As Israel’s friend, it is our responsibility to give credit when it is due and to tell the truth when it is needed….


New construction in East Jerusalem or the West Bank undermines that mutual trust and endangers the proximity talks that are the first step toward the full negotiations that both sides say want and need. And it exposes daylight between Israel and the United States that others in the region hope to exploit. It undermines America’s unique ability to play a role – an essential role – in the peace process. Our credibility in this process depends in part on our willingness to praise both sides when they are courageous, and when we don’t agree, to say so, and say so unequivocally.

Video & Text: Secretary Clinton’s Remarks At the American Jewish Committee Annual Gala Dinner

In 2011 Goldstone retracted part of the report.  The damage had already been done.  The Palestinians were planning to put a statehood vote before the Security Council.

Hillary points out that the Obama administration policy, indeed, U.S. policy, is and has been a two-state solution as stated in Obama’s Cairo speech.  This was not a new policy and had remained a U.S. goal from the Clinton administration through the George W. Bush administration   But a vote in the Security Council was not the intended route.  There were supposed to be negotiated compromises.

She recalled their visit, before the speech, to the Sultan Hassan Mosque and the peace and calm she sensed there in the middle of a presidential visit and major policy rollout.

Secretary Clinton in Cairo

Ten days after the Cairo speech, Netanyahu endorsed the two-state solution in a speech at Bar-Ilan University.

For Netanyahu, the major sticking point from the start was the condition of a freeze on  construction of settlements.  He announced a 10-month freeze on October 31.  Hillary called the move “unprecedented” and felt a good deal of kickback for the word which she continues to stand by.  Abbas, for his part, agreed to delay the statehood vote at the U.N.

Secretary Clinton’s Remarks With Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu

Hillary got along especially well with Ehud Barak and speaks fondly of him as endlessly optimistic and a voice for peace.  He evidently also had her on speed dial and would ring her up and say, “Hillary, let’s strategize.”  They met officially on a frequent basis and were quite a pair!

Secretary of State Clinton and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak speak to reporters Secretary of State Clinton and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak speak to reporters in Washington

When, in May 2010,  there was an Israeli attack on a Turkish flotilla of pro-Palestinian activists bound for Gaza resulting in the death of nine Turkish citizens, Barak called Hillary while she was marching in the Memorial Day parade.

Video: Bill & Hillary Clinton in the Memorial Day Parade in Chappaqua, NY

Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu  warned that this could mean war between Turkey and Israel, called it Turkey’s 9/11, and was at the State Department the next morning.  He was very emotional.  Hillary contacted Netanyahu who wanted to patch things up but would not apologize.  During her tenure, he never did apologize, but called Erdogan in March 2013 when Obama was in Jerusalem with an apology.  According to Hillary the patching up is still in progress.

Secretary Clinton: Photos of the Day

Hillary Clinton Day One Mid-East Peace Talks

Photos: Hillary Opens Mid-East Peace Talks

Video: Secretary Clinton Relaunches Mid-East Peace Talks

… by being here today, you each have taken an important step toward freeing your peoples from the shackles of a history we cannot change, and moving toward a future of peace and dignity that only you can create.

The upshot was that the parties agreed to meet in Sharm el Sheikh in two weeks.   Hillary commented that her work as secretary of state frequently brought her to lovely resorts. She never had the opportunity to enjoy any of them for all the work that needed to be done.

Where Hillary Clinton is going

From Sharm el Sheikh: Slideshow and Briefing by George Mitchell

Secretary Clinton’s Press Briefing En Route Sharm El Sheikh

Hillary in Jerusalem

September 15, 2010 by still4hill

Video: Secretary Clinton’s Remarks With Israeli President Shimon Peres Before their Meeting

Hillary Clinton in Ramallah and Amman

Video: Secretary Clinton’s Remarks With Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

Secretary Clinton’s Remarks With Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh


Later that month she met with Abbas and Ehud Barak on the sidelines at UNGA.  No statements.  One photo.  No real progress. President Obama pressed for an extension of the freeze.  Abbas was essentially saying “choose between peace and settlements.”  Hillary spoke with Ehud Barak but Bibi refused to budge.  Abbas was ready to go ahead with a statehood vote in the Security Council while Hillary kept telling him the only path to peace was via negotiations. In a phone call with Bibi, Hillary encountered intransigence.


Then,  In November a door opened a crack, and Hillary flew to New York to breeze through it.

Hillary Clinton’s Mid-East Charm Offensive: Remarks Before Her Meeting With Netanyahu

Hillary, Bibi in the New York Marathon: Joint Statement at the Finish Line

Hillary, Bibi, and the NYC Marathon Take Two: Some Reviews

Eventually there was a proposal to halt construction for 90 days in exchange for a $3 billion security package and a promise to veto any resolutions at the U.N. that would undercut negotiations.  No one liked this solution including Hillary.   She told Tony Blair that she felt it was a sacrifice worth making.   It began to disintegrate almost at birth and was dust by November.

Hillary took a strong stand at the Saban Forum in December.

Video: Secretary Clinton’s Remarks at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy Seventh Annual Forum

December 11, 2010 by still4hill

U.S. Secretary of State Clinton speaks at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy in Washington


The United States and the international community cannot impose a solution. Sometimes I think both parties seem to think we can. We cannot. And even if we could, we would not, because it is only a negotiated agreement between the parties that will be sustainable. The parties themselves have to want it. The people of the region must decide to move beyond a past that cannot change and embrace a future they can shape together.

President Obama went to the State Department to reiterate the U.S. position regarding the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.  Bibi ignored the swaps part of that and Abbas could not guarantee that a new push for statehood would not happen at the U.N.

George Mitchell resigned.

Hillary says the tiny private meeting in September 2010 at Bibi’s residence when he raised the Palestinian flag to welcome Abbas to his home might have been the last time Abbas and Netanyahu spoke.  It might have been.

Gaza: Netanyahu and Abbas had secret meeting before ceasefire

If Bibi is going to threaten to fire his chief negotiator, Tsipi Livni, for talking with Abbas and has to conceal this possible meeting, chances for negotiation look bleak.

Hillary ends quoting Yitzhak Rabin.  “The coldest peace is better than the warmest war.”


Hillary Clinton’s ‘Hard Choices’ Retrospective: Introduction

Access other chapters of this retrospective here >>>>



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Today, after shuttling from Israel to Ramallah to Egypt conversing with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas,  Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon,  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brokered a Middle East cease fire that officially went into effect at 2 p.m. EST today.  In a courageous ascent to a  leadership position,  Egypt is sponsoring the cease-fire.  The encouraging news is being reported by all major news sources.

Here are some photos from her busy day of shuttle-diplomacy.

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God bless you, Mme. Secretary.  Now come home for Thanksgiving.   We are all thankful for your dedicated service.

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US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (L) talks with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Natanyahu before their meeting November 11, 2010 in New York. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed to find a "way forward" on the stalled Middle East peace process as she began a crunch meeting Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. AFP PHOTO/Stan Honda (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

Remarks With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Before Their Meeting


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Loews Regency Hotel
New York City
September 21, 2011

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, are you able to give the press a readout of your meeting just now with President Obama (inaudible)?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that’s being done through the White House, so I’ll let them give the readout.

QUESTION: Was any progress made on suspending this bid for statehood on Friday?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think I’ll let the White House give the readout.

QUESTION: Would you like to give the press any reaction to the hikers being released?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I would like to say how pleased, relieved, and grateful I am that these two young men are finally out of an Iranian prison, where they never should have been in the first place. And I am not going to say any more because they have a chance now to reuinte with their families and to decompress from what has been a terrible experience for them. And I’m looking forward to seeing them when they return home.

QUESTION: Mr. Prime Minister, why won’t you freeze the settlements if that’s one way to get back to talks?

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, I did, as you know, and did something that no previous Israeli government did. I actually froze any construction for ten months, waited nine months and one week; the Palestinians finally came and said, well, keep on freezing. So I think wisely – and we concluded with the United States – that what we really have to do is get on with the real issues and get down and negotiate all these issues in order to get peace. We have to negotiate the issues to resolve them. We can’t just negotiate about the negotiations.

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Bombing in Jerusalem

Press Statement

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
March 23, 2011

This morning I was shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the bombing in Jerusalem today that took at least one life and injured innocent civilians. Terrorism and the targeting of civilians are never justified. And Israel, like all nations, of course, has to respond when this occurs. The United States is committed to Israel’s security and we strongly condemn this violence and extend our deepest sympathies to all those affected.

We also strongly condemn recent rocket attacks from Gaza against innocent Israeli civilians and hold fully responsible the militants perpetrating these attacks. And I join President Obama in extending our sincere condolences to the friends and families of the Palestinian civilians killed in Gaza yesterday and appreciate that Israel has expressed regret.

We stress the importance of calm and we urge all concerned to do everything in their power to prevent further violence and civilian casualties among both Israelis and Palestinians. Violence only erodes hope for a lasting and meaningful peace and the final realization of two states for two peoples.


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On a slow Hillary-Saturday, and I cannot think of a Hillary-Saturday more deserving to be slow than this one following her longest trip topped off by her marathon meeting on Thursday with Benjamin Netanyahu,  the question is what to post.  Well, it is not much of a question since clearly a lengthy meeting is likely to have an equally long wake.

Depending on whom you listen to, the meeting yielded more of the same (my original take) or perhaps some kind of a breakthrough.  I found these articles offering  different but not necessarily conflicting views on the exhaustive and exhausting meeting between Secretary Clinton and PM Netanyahu in NYC on Thursday.  The Zogby item, the more pessimistic of the two, offers historical depth.  The Rogin article tends to be more predictive.  All emphasis and editing are mine.

James Zogby, on Huffington Post,  speaks to anybody who thinks Obama is soft on Islam as well as to  the fundamentalist Christian types who want all of Jerusalem for Israel.   The settlement Zogby refers to extends to Bethlehem  where it is largely Christian Arabs who have been displaced.  Every time Middle East issues intensify as we approach the holidays, I think of how often I hear “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” and how removed we are as a people from the fact that the descendants of the little shepherds who made their way to the manger that first Christmas night are among the displaced … from lands their stock had grazed for millennia.

He  offers an instructive chronology of the Har Homa settlement dating back more than 15 years to when, in his words, it was “Jabal Abul Ghnaim was a lovely green hill on the northern outskirts of Bethlehem.”    The strategy involved is clear.   Keep building and expanding around Jerusalem until no Palestinian land claim is possible.

James Zogby

President of the Arab American Institute, Author of “Arab Voices” (Palgrave Macmillan 10/10)

Posted: November 13, 2010 10:24 AM

Israel’s announcement, last week, of a radical expansion of Har Homa (an already massive settlement community between Jerusalem and Bethlehem) makes a mockery of the so-called “peace process”.

The episode has further served to reinforce the belief that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has no interest in reaching a just peace with the Palestinians. This leopard has not changed his spots. Netanyahu remains a wily (and not always honest) manipulator, who at his core is a hard-line ideologue. At the same time, the Har Homa announcement serves as an uncomfortable reminder of U.S. impotence and the role this weakness has historically played in enabling Israel’s bad behavior.

Read the article>>>>

Secretary Clinton,  under the umbrella of Obama administration policy and therefore tied to the mantra of agreed land swaps,  comes out short on praise by Zogby, and at face values, the joint statement issued by her and Netanyahu appeared anticlimactic enough to me when I posted it on Thursday.

At the time, I had the impression that Mme. Secretary had labored unrelenting for all of those hours only to emerge with the same old positions in place, but perhaps not so!   Josh Rogin at The Cable offers what he dubs an inside glimpse at the substance and outcomes the meeting produced.

Inside the seven-hour Clinton-Netanyahu marathon meeting

Posted By Josh Rogin Friday, November 12, 2010 – 6:55 PM

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s seven-hour marathon meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday in New York could signal a turning point in the effort to revive the stalled Middle East peace talks, as the administration works to resolve the dispute over Israeli settlement building by turning the focus to borders and security.

The Obama administration’s latest strategy seems to have two main elements, according to a senior official’s read out of the meeting and analysis by current and former officials on both sides.  First, the Obama administration is offering Netanyahu as many security guarantees as possible in order to give the Israeli government increased confidence to move to a discussion of the borders that would delineate the two future states. Second, the administration wants to work toward an understanding on borders so that both sides can know where they can and can’t build for the duration of the peace process.

“If there in fact is progress in the next several months, I’m confident people will look back at this meeting between Secretary Clinton and Prime Minister Netanyahu as the foundation of the progress. It was that important,” former Congressman Robert Wexler, now the president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, told The Cable.


Wexler said that by virtue of the fact that the meeting was seven hours, it’s reasonable to assume that significant progress was made. “I think we’re very close to creating that magic formula that satisfies both the Israelis and the Palestinians to come back to the table.”

The head of the PLO mission in Washington, Maen Rashid Areikat, wasn’t so sure. He pointed to the boilerplate statement that Clinton and Netanyahu issued after the meeting as evidence that no real breakthrough was achieved.


But Areikat endorsed the idea of discussing borders ahead of the settlements issue, saying that’s what the Palestinian side has been advocating all along.

I am in no way call a Mid-East buff who knows all sorts of nuances. The conflicts there have been going on my whole life, however, and if our hard-working Secretary of State has managed to open-sesame the magic door, I will be joyful.  Maybe this Christmas I will not feel so jaded even if settlements encroach on Bethlehem.  Perhaps people who have been pushed and shoved around can begin to have some hope of a permanent place and a nation.  Maybe, maybe there can be peace. If it comes on the wings of a beautiful archangel with long blonde hair, all the better. I always thought she could do it.

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Different sources have it at different durations, but by any measure, this was a whopper of a “crunch meeting.”  They began the day looking fresh and beaming.

Mme. Secretary joked about the “million pictures of us doing the handshake.”   One wonders how they appeared emerging after the second marathon to be run in NYC inside of a single week.  How many water bottles?

The Jerusalem Post has it at seven plus hours.

Netanyahu, Clinton meeting ends after 7 hours


Marathon bid held to find path to new peace talks; US Secretary of State calls the prime minister a “peacemaker”; Israeli officials call meetings “very serious,” say “everything is on the table.”


NEW YORK – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu held talks that were “friendly and productive” and stressed the importance of continuing direct negotiations in pursuit of an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, according to a joint statement put out by the two governments Thursday evening.

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Laura Rozen at Politico has it a little shorter.

Clinton-Bibi hold marathon six hour meeting

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met for almost six hours with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Regency Hotel in New York today.

Following their marathon meeting, the Prime Minister’s Office and State Department sent out a joint statement, describing “good discussions” that involved “a friendly and productive exchange of views on both sides.”

Read the article>>>>


Here is the joint statement as released moments ago by the State Department.

Joint Statement of the Office of the Prime Minister of Israel and The Office of the Secretary of State of The United States

Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
November 11, 2010



Begin Text

‪‪Prime Minister Netanyahu and Secretary Clinton had a good discussion today, with a friendly and productive exchange of views on both sides. Secretary Clinton reiterated the United States’ unshakable commitment to Israel’s security and to peace in the region.

‪‪The Prime Minister and the Secretary agreed on the importance of continuing direct negotiations to achieve our goals. The Secretary reiterated that “the United States believes that through good-faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state, based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.” Those requirements will be fully taken into account in any future peace agreement.

‪‪‪The discussions between the Prime Minister and the Secretary focused on creating the conditions for the resumption of direct negotiations aimed at producing a two-state solution. Their teams will work closely together in the coming days toward that end.


Well, that does not tell us anything that we have not seen before.  One thing we can surmise is that this was a tough meeting and all the issues were on the table.  Beyond that, we cannot really guess.  Given Mme. Secretary’s meeting yesterday with Egyptian FM Gheit and her teleconference with Palestinian PM Fayyad, points of view from those parties were surely represented.  We can only hope that reason will prevail in the best interests of everyone involved.

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Well, the State Department is not issuing a public schedule, evidently, but despite the holiday, as the Army anthem goes, affairs of State and the duties of the Secretary of State keep rolling along without respite. As readers here are aware, Mme. Secretary spent the morning in what is being reported as a “crunch meeting” with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Clinton, Israeli PM to meet amid settlement row

by Ron Bousso Ron Bousso Thu Nov 11, 7:46 am ET 

NEW YORK (AFP) – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday as new strains between the two allies over Jewish settlements cloud hopes for further peace talks.

Ahead of the meeting, President Barack Obama and Clinton led global criticism of Israel’s latest plans to build 1,300 houses in occupied east Jerusalem, where the Palestinian wish to form the capital of their future state.

Read the article>>>>>

In that the State Department communications nerve center never shuts down and routinely issues communiques over weekends, I would expect that the holiday should not prevent a press release about the results of this meeting in a timely fashion. Should that be the case, the information will be posted on this blog.

Meanwhile, all we have are these images to fathom the tenor of this meeting as it got off to its start this morning. From the looks of things, Mme. Secretary was mounting another of her often successful “charm offensives.” She looks so optimistic and cheerful. Behind closed doors, however, my guess is that, while probably never turning off the 1000 watt smile, she added a layer of toughness. Her statement in her teleconference with Palestinian PM Fayyad yesterday was our stance in a nutshell. Big bright smile notwithstanding… here is what she said.

Before I address the subject of my announcement today, I want to also address what I know is on the minds of many of you. The United States was deeply disappointed by the announcement of advanced planning for new housing units in sensitive areas of East Jerusalem. This announcement was counterproductive to our efforts to resume negotiations between the parties.

**UPDATE** The State Department did issue their remarks.  See below the slideshow.

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Remarks With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Before Their Meeting

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Regency Hotel
New York City
November 11, 2010

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, can I ask you a small question (inaudible)?

SECRETARY CLINTON: A small question? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: A little one.


QUESTION: Why would you – why do you think the building in Jerusalem is counterproductive if it has been going on for more than 40 years now?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we’re going to be talking about everything and I will save my comments beyond what I’ve already said to talk to the prime minister. I’m very pleased to be here and to have this opportunity to discuss with him how we’re going to move forward in the process.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well, I’m very happy that we have the opportunity to actually meet. We’ve been talking on the phone quite intensively over the last few weeks. The last time we met was in Cairo and Jerusalem – in Sharm el-Sheikh and Jerusalem in the (inaudible) of direct negotiations. We’ve been talking and will talk today about how to resume them to continue this process to get the historic agreement with peace and security between us and the Palestinians. I would like to add that we also hope to broaden it to many other Arab countries. So this is our common goal. We’re quite serious about doing it and we want to get on with it, so you’ll have to stop asking questions.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the resumption of the peace talks soon?

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s what we’re going to be discussing. We’re both very committed to it. I know and I’ve said repeatedly that the prime minister and President Abbas are both very committed to the two-state solution and we’re going to find a way forward.

QUESTION: Is there a formula? Is there a formula (inaudible)?

SECRETARY CLINTON: You must have a million pictures of us doing the handshake. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Is there a formula that (inaudible)?


SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all very much.

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Remarks To the American Task Force on Palestine

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Ritz Carlton Hotel
Washington, DC
October 20, 2010

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Ziad, for that introduction and for your leadership of this important organization, and for you and the steadfast support that ATFP has given to the cause of peace. I am pleased that there are so many friends and colleagues here tonight, and it is especially gratifying for me to have this opportunity to address you.

Before I begin, however, I want to take a moment to express our government’s strong condemnation of today’s disturbing reports of arson at a school warehouse near Nablus. There is never any justification for violence against civilians, and an attack against a school is particularly outrageous. These incidents cannot be tolerated. We hope for a swift investigation. And our thoughts and prayers are with those whose families have been affected.

We meet at a time when we rightly can join together to celebrate the achievements and the mission of the American Task Force on Palestine and the four extraordinary Palestinian Americans that are being honored tonight. A soldier, a poet, a playwright and a builder – each story is unique but together they represent the talent and dynamism of the Palestinian American community and the Palestinian Diaspora around the world. In big cities and small towns across America, Palestinian Americans are contributing to the richness of our culture, the strength of our economy, and the liveliness of our democracy.

The American Task Force on Palestine is also contributing to our country and our tradition of citizens gathering together to express their views and help shape the national debate.

Now, when it comes to the conflict in the Middle East, it is all too easy for positions to harden into dogma, for tempers to flare, for rhetoric to outpace reality. But you have provided a welcome voice of reason and a steady advocacy on behalf of a just, lasting, and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

You have helped us see past the false choices of this conflict: Being pro-Palestinian does not mean you must reject Israel’s right to exist. (Applause.) And being pro-Israel does not mean you must deny the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people. (Applause.) The path to security and dignity for both peoples lies in negotiations that result in two states living side by side in peace and prosperity, and a comprehensive peace in the entire region.

As this organization has emphasized, that outcome is also in the interests of the United States, as well as the people of the region, and even people around the world. But most of all, it is in the interests of both Palestinians and Israelis.

I have spoken frequently over the last year about why a two-state solution is critical to Israel’s long-term future. America’s commitment to Israel is rock-solid and unwavering, and we will continue making this case openly and often because we see that as the best way for Israel to safeguard her future.

But tonight I want to focus on why a two-state solution is essential to the future of the Palestinian people. Ziad referenced my time as First Lady. And as First Lady, I may have been the first person ever associated with an American administration to call for a Palestinian state and the two-state solution. (Applause.) This goal is now the official policy of the United States.

And for Palestinians, a two-state solution would mean an independent, viable, and sovereign state of their and your own; the freedom to travel, to do business, and govern themselves. Palestinians would have the right to chart their own destinies at last. The indignity of occupation would end and a new era of opportunity, promise, and justice would begin.

It is difficult to think of anyone who has worked harder or longer to realize the dreams of the Palestinian people than President Mahmoud Abbas. Decades ago, it was Abu Mazen who saw that only through negotiation and nonviolence would – could – these aspirations become real. He has persevered through many difficult times and remained firm in his faith that an independent Palestine living side by side with Israel in peace and security is both possible and necessary. (Applause.) He is a champion for the people and he is a champion for peace. Because President Abbas understands that the path that must be trod toward that state proceeds down two simultaneous tracks: negotiations between the parties and institution building that prepares Palestinians to govern themselves as we move toward, and after, an agreement is reached.

Negotiations are not easy, but they too are absolutely necessary. It is always easier to defer decisions than it is to make them. As much as the United States and other nations around the world want to see a resolution to this conflict, only the parties themselves can take the difficult steps that will lead to peace. That is why the Obama Administration is working so hard to support direct talks that offer a forum for both sides to grapple with the core issues in good faith. There is no substitute for face-to-face discussion and, ultimately, for an agreement that leads to a just and lasting peace. That is the only path that will lead to the fulfillment of the Palestinian national aspirations and the necessary outcome of two states for two peoples.

But before I go further, I’d like to say a few words about the state-building track. Now, it may receive fewer headlines, but I believe, and many of you do as well, it is critically important.

Today, although Palestinians still have many obstacles to overcome, it is easier than ever to envision an independent Palestine able to govern itself, uphold its responsibilities to provide for its own people, and ensure security. This gives confidence to negotiators on both sides and hope to those who have long looked forward to that day.

Under President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad’s leadership, and under Prime Minister Fayyad’s two-year plan, the Palestinian Authority is going beyond rhetoric and actually building a new reality. It is reversing a history of corruption and working hard to produce results that matter in Palestinians’ daily lives.

The pace of reform accelerated this year. The streets are safer, courts are handling more cases, taxes are being collected more efficiently. In the first half of this year, revenues were 50 percent higher than in the same period in 2009.

This has fueled continued economic growth. New businesses are opening. More than 100 new companies were registered in the West Bank in August alone – everything from venture capital funds to local hardware stores. As a result, more and more Palestinians are finding jobs. Tourists and business travelers are arriving every day to take advantage of the improved security and economic climate. In fact, a new five star hotel is due to open in Ramallah this month.

Of course, considerable work remains. On the security front, the improvements have been impressive, but Palestinians could do more to discourage and denounce incitement that inflames tensions and undermines cooperation. On the economic front, many smaller communities have yet to see the benefits of greater prosperity. Unemployment remains high – above 15 percent in the West Bank and nearly 40 percent in Gaza during the second quarter of this year. So we can all do more to work together to reduce the Palestinian economy’s dependence on foreign assistance and promote sustainable growth – especially by increasing foreign investment, not just more aid, making it easier for people and goods to move in and out of the territories.

The work we’ve already done with the Palestinians and Israelis in these areas shows the impact we can have when we focus our efforts – and makes the case for why all of us must do more.

The Palestinian people have many partners who are working and investing every day to improve life in the West Bank and Gaza and to help lay the foundations of a future state. Private companies, philanthropies and foundations, universities – all of them are contributing expertise, energy, and effort.

And there are many more who are looking to make a difference. The United States has launched a new initiative called Partners for a New Beginning, a regional initiative that is one of several efforts to bring together key players to focus on solving specific challenges. And our government remains fully committed.

For example, last year we invested nearly $2 million to upgrade and reopen the Jalameh crossing between Israel and the northern West Bank, adding new lanes and inspection sites. As a result, the number of vehicles able to cross has steadily increased from zero to slightly – to roughly around 7,500 cars and buses per week. Now, this has had an impact: Arab Israeli shoppers spent an estimated $12 million in Jenin this quarter. The markets are full and the streets are crowded and there’s even a new movie theater.

We have also worked with the Palestinian Authority, Israel, and our international partners to ease the situation in Gaza and increase the flow of needed commercial goods and construction supplies, while taking appropriate measures to ensure they don’t fall into the wrong hands. Last week alone, consistent with the Palestinian Authority’s focus on addressing water and electricity needs, more than 1,000 truckloads entered Gaza with food and goods like steel bars and cement to modernize the Gaza City waste water treatment plant, and electricity poles to upgrade power distribution. This is helping the people of Gaza and cutting into the illicit tunnel trade that has enriched Hamas and undermined the rule of law.

Now, we still need many more steps from Israel to enable more economic activity in Gaza, including exports that bolster legitimate business enterprises. (Applause.) Our goal is to support sustainable economic growth in Gaza, and it’s a little-known fact that the Palestinian Authority is the principal financial supporter of Gaza. The people in Gaza are dependent upon the Palestinian Authority, which is another reason why the increase in economic activity in the West Bank is not only good for those who live in the West Bank, but those who live in Gaza as well.

To help spur private investment through the Palestinian territories, this summer the United States helped sponsor the Palestine Investment Conference in Bethlehem, which generated $655 million in pledges targeted at high-growth sectors.

So Palestinians should take pride in all that has been accomplished in a short period of time. And the World Bank recently reported that if the Palestinian Authority maintains its momentum in building institutions and delivering public services, it is, and I quote, “well-positioned for the establishment of a state at any point in the near future.” (Applause.)

Last month I visited Ramallah and saw this progress firsthand. After we crossed the Beituniya checkpoint, well-equipped Palestinian security officers lined the road. They are more professional and capable than ever thanks to strong leadership and increased training that the United States has helped to assist. (Applause.) Thank you. (Applause.) We drove into the city and I could see new apartment buildings and office towers rising from the hills. The streets pulsed with commerce and activity.

But as I looked at the faces of the men and women who came out of their shops and homes to watch us go by, it was impossible to forget the painful history of a people who have never had a state of their own. (Applause.) For most Americans, it is hard, if not impossible, to imagine living behind checkpoints and roadblocks, without the comforts of peace or the confidence of self-determination.

Economic and institutional progress are definitely important, indeed necessary, but not sufficient. The legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people will never be satisfied until there is a two-state solution, a two-state solution ensuring dignity, justice, and security for all. (Applause.)

Now, I know that there are those who think that if they wait, scheme, or fight long enough, they can avoid compromising or negotiating. But I am here to say that that is not the case. That will only guarantee more suffering, more sorrow, and more victims.

Violence in all forms is a dead end that perpetuates the conflict and empowers those on both sides who would exploit cynicism and discord. That is no path at all. (Applause.) Nor is it viable to build the institutions of a future state without the negotiations that will ultimately create it.

We have no illusions about the difficulty of resolving the final status issues of borders and security, settlements and refugees, of Jerusalem and water.

And it’s no secret that we are in a difficult period. When President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu came to Washington last month to re-launch direct negotiations, we knew there would be setbacks and struggles.

Our position on settlements is well-known and has not changed. (Applause.) And our determination to encourage the parties to continue talking has not wavered.

I cannot stand here tonight and tell you there is some magic formula that I have discovered that will break through the current impasse. But I can tell you we are working every day, sometimes every hour, to create the conditions for negotiations to continue and succeed. We are urging both sides to avoid any actions that would undermine trust or prejudice the outcomes of the talks. Senator Mitchell will soon return to the region for further consultations. We have not given up and neither have President Abbas or Prime Minister Netanyahu.

We remain convinced that if they persevere with negotiations, the parties can agree on an outcome that ends the conflict; reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps – (applause) – and Israel’s goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israel’s security requirements. (Applause.) This will resolve all the core issues and, as President Abbas said the other day, end all historical claims.

Now, in any tough negotiation, it is natural to focus on what we are being asked to give up. But it is important to keep in mind what you, the Palestinians and Israelis, stand to gain. In this case, the benefits are undeniable. You can’t put a price or a value on dignity, but it’s a very precious commodity. (Applause.) Justice and security. For both Israeli and Palestinian children alike, they deserve to grow up free from fear and to live up to their own full God-given potential. As long as this conflict continues, that will never be possible.

Bold leaders are called to rise above obstacles and seize opportunities to make history and put their people on a path to a better future. Since the beginning of September, I have spent hours and hours talking with the president and the prime minister. I have listened to them and I have watched them engage with each other. They are serious about this effort, they are grappling with the core issues. I am convinced they want to the leaders who finally end this conflict.

But they cannot do that without support from their people, and not only their people living in the region, but their people living here and elsewhere around the world. All of us who are committed to peace and the right of both peoples to live in security and dignity have a responsibility to do what we can to help them succeed. You who are Palestinian Americans are here tonight because you understand that. And this organization has stood for that over so many years.

The Arab states and the people of the region have a strong interest in resolving this conflict and they too have an important role to play. I deeply appreciate the support that Arab leaders and nations have provided for direct talks and for the vision embodied in the Arab Peace Initiative. I hope they will all continue to support the Palestinians in their diplomatic efforts and the state-building work on the ground.

The Palestinian Authority needs a larger, steadier, and more predictable source of financial support. The United States is proud to be the Palestinian Authority’s largest donor. (Applause.) The European Union has stepped up as well. But the broader international community, including many Arab states, can and should provide more financial support. (Applause.) It takes far more than commitments and plans to support making the State of Palestine a reality. And in fact, as the Palestinian economy has increased, the need for future assistance has decreased, but there is still a gap and that gap has to be filled.

So as we press ahead with diplomacy, I hope that Arab states will also consider how to begin implementing the Arab Peace Initiative in concrete terms to turn that proposal into a reality as well. (Applause.)

And finally, those states in the region that are supplying weapons to groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas must stop. (Applause.) They should publicly reject the divisive voices who seek to discourage peace. And I will repeat today what I have said many times before: Gilad Shalit must be released immediately and returned to his family. (Applause.)

People on all sides of this conflict must choose to move beyond a history they cannot change to embrace a future they can shape together. (Applause.)

The poet Naomi Shihab Nye, whom we are honoring tonight – (applause) – understands this. She writes powerfully about the unfulfilled aspirations of the Palestinian people. “What flag can we wave?” she asks. But she also says, “I’m not interested in who suffered the most. I’m interested in people getting over it.” (Applause.) And that is the biggest obstacle of them all. I know people cannot forget. I know most people cannot forgive. But I do know also that the future holds the possibility of progress, if not in our lifetimes then certainly in our children’s.

I spend much of my time now as Secretary of State traveling around the world, speaking with people who find it so hard to move beyond the past. It is not just in the Middle East that that remains a challenge.

And yet when I speak with young people, they are focused on tomorrow. And they deserve that tomorrow – a tomorrow filled with opportunities for them to make their own destinies and to help their own people realize that collective aspiration.

The American Task Force for Palestine has been a consistent advocate for this path, and I thank you for your efforts. But I know that some in this room, like many across the region and the world, have your doubts about the prospects for peace. So let me appeal to you tonight: Please don’t give up in the face of difficulty.

Through your charitable work, you already make important contributions to the progress that is happening on the ground that is literally changing Palestinian lives. You have funded thousands of cataract operations that helped Palestinians see again. Students in the West Bank are learning on laptops because of your generous support. But there is so much more to be done. The Palestinian American community has so much talent and expertise. So please continue putting it to work helping build the future Palestinian state. Offer legal advice or medical training. Invest in the economy, help build the infrastructure. The Palestinian people, as you yourselves know so much better than I, are hardworking, resilient people. They’re ready to work. They’re ready to govern themselves. But they can’t do it on their own.

There is another way you can contribute as well. Many of you are leaders in your own communities. Others, here and over there, take their cues from you. So when you leave tonight, I hope you will be champions for this cause. Keep writing and speaking, keep working for tolerance and understanding, keep building a broad constituency for peace that will support and even insist on the hard choices that are needed. In the end, peace is not made just at the negotiating table; it’s made around the kitchen table. It grows from the quiet determination of people, men and women, who are willing to stand up and declare themselves advocates for peace. I’ve seen this happen in conflicts from Latin America to Europe to Africa to Asia. I’ve seen warriors who were once aiming guns at each other sitting down and planning a new way forward for governing together. I’ve seen women who feared every day that their husband went to work or their son went out at night that he wouldn’t return, working with women on the other side of that divide to find a way to understand. But not just stopping there – changing attitudes and building institutions together.

This is not easy. If it were, anybody could have done it already. We’ve had leaders who have given their lives to this work, and now we have a moment in time that we must seize. I urge you to help lead the way.

And I promise you this: The Obama administration will not turn our backs on either the people of Palestine or Israel. (Applause.) We will continue working for and, God willing, achieving the just, lasting, and comprehensive peace that has been a cornerstone of U.S. policy for years.

I thank you for what you have already done. I thank you for your commitment. I congratulate the honorees. And I challenge you to be part of the most important work there is, the work of peace. God bless you. (Applause.)

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In August, 1999 I landed in Tel Aviv late on a Sunday afternoon having been sent by my dean and assured that my credit card would be good.  By the time I got to the hotel  it was early evening,  and I discovered that to Israelis, Discover is not a credit card.  I was shocked, almost distrustful of my own ears when the hotel clerk told me to go down to the bank and use my ATM card.  “It’s open.  Go down the block.”  A bank open on a Sunday night?  Shalom!  Welcome to Israel!  In Israel, Saturday is the Sabbath, and Sunday is the equivalent of Monday here – first day of the work week.

If I remember correctly, during daylight savings time, there is a seven-hour difference between Tel Aviv time and EDT.  It is going on 6 p.m. there now.  The moratorium of the settlement freeze expires in about six hours.  I can tell you that Israel is finishing off an active work day.  There are a few possibilities.
1. Cranes are back in place for building to continue.
2. The moratorium expires, and building does not continue.
3. There is a political dust-up in Israel, with Foreign Minister Avigdor Leiberman inappropriately leading the movement to continue the building.  In my opinion this domestic issue is not his purview unless he is willing to go ahead and admit he is advocating the confiscation of Palestinian land.

If that last happens,  speculation is that Netanyahu loses his majority but joins forces with Tzipi Livni’s Likud party.  I admit, I do not understand much about how these parliamentary democracies work.

Anyway, this lovely Sunday, Bill Clinton is making a whirlwind tour of campaign stops in New England for friends of Hillary.   He will be in Connecticut for Blumenthal, Massachusetts for Barney Frank, Maine for Libby Mitchell.  If you think the turbo-Secretary is kicking back this Sunday, most assuredly, she is not.  She might be home, but she is certainly working the phones.  She met with Mahmoud Abbas on Friday and is doing her best to keep him at the table.  I honestly do think Bibi wants to make this work as well.  But there is no doubt that right in the middle is a pretty little angel of peace, and all of our prayers are with her and with all of them

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