WASHINGTON – Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas on Thursday, but not the Obama administration’s policy choice to work with the interim government.
In a conversation with the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Clinton said that the merger was an “unfortunate development” that she worked to prevent in her four years at the helm of the State Department.
“In my time, we were constantly speaking out against the Fatah-Hamas merger,” she said. “Whether it can be turned into some potential opportunity or not, its too soon to tell.”
During her tenure as secretary of state, Clinton said she had the influence of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to help curb what she perceived to be a hasty reconciliation effort.
Now that the PA government has been formed, however, the former diplomat suggested she would adopt a similar policy toward the interim body if she were still in office.
“There are a lot of hard choices, to coin a phrase,” she said, “but I hope that we follow it closely and make no big decisions right now until we figure out better what’s actually happening on the ground.”
The State Department is justified in waiting to see whether the unified Palestinian Authority can pull off unfettered elections, Clinton added. The Obama administration has referred to the new cabinet as an interim, technocratic body primarily formed to set up new elections.
“I think for the time being serious negotiations are, understandably, put off, and that’s partly because they collapsed, but it’s also partly because Israel, the US and others have to assess what this merger really means,” Clinton said.
Clinton wrote in her memoir, Hard Choices, released this week, of differences with US President Barack Obama on how aggressively to push Israel and the Palestinians to the negotiating table, calling a 2010 settlement freeze “unprecedented” while also suggesting she disapproved of the policy.
Singling out settlement planning was “a confrontation [the US] didn’t need,” she wrote in the book.