WASHINGTON – Former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton disapproved of early efforts by the White House to push Israel toward a complete freeze of settlement activity, she writes in her memoir set for release this week.
The 2010 effort in no small part defined the tense relationship between US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu from its inception, and the resulting stresses between their two governments.
That year, in an effort to revive the moribund peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, Obama and his top aides publicly identified Israeli settlement planning and construction as a chief impediment to peace.
Breaking with the president for the first time publicly on the matter, Clinton says she considered that policy choice a mistake.
“I was worried that we would be locking ourselves into a confrontation we didn’t need,” Clinton writes in the book, Hard Choices. “In retrospect, our early, hard line on settlements didn’t work.”
In Obama’s latest push this year, with a different secretary of state, neither the United States nor the Palestinian Authority demanded a settlement freeze or partial pause in order to jump-start direct negotiations. Nevertheless, talks between the parties broke down in April after nine months; Obama’s peace broker, Martin Indyk, says that settlement planning was a major stumbling block.
Clinton writes with clear measure and restraint of her disagreements with the US president, not just on Israel, but on how forcefully to intervene in Syria’s civil war or how quickly to abandon Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak during the revolution there in 2011.
The former diplomat, senator and first lady says she is considering a second run for the presidency, and writes in the book that the time for “another hard choice will come soon.”
Shoring up her credentials with the pro-Israel community – and reflecting the importance of Israel in her role as secretary of state – Clinton spends considerable effort in the book reinforcing her support for the Jewish state, both directly and in her opposition to a nuclear Iran.
“I am not alone in feeling so personally invested in Israel’s security and success,” Clinton writes. “Many Americans admire Israel as a homeland for a people long oppressed and a democracy that has had to defend itself at every turn.”