Unsettling laughs: Like her predecessors, Hillary Clinton is not quite listening to what Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is telling her: It's the settlements, stupid. (David Silverman / Getty Images)
Fresh from pledging $300 million for war-torn Gaza (out of a total of $900 million for the Palestinian Authority), Hillary Rodham Clinton took her first trip to the West Bank as secretary of state today.
It was nothing like the stirring eight-hour visit to Gaza by Bill Clinton in December 1998, when he told the Palestinian National Council: "I am profoundly honored to be the first American President to address the Palestinian people in a city governed by Palestinians." Aaaron David Miller, then a State Department analyst traveling with Clinton, recalls the words of a Palestinian participant: "He should have been our president."
I doubt anyone is saying that today, after Hillary Clinton's brief visit, the smudges from her kiss-and-praise parade with Israeli leaders still fresh on her cheeks.
Rather, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, asked what has been asked of every American president since 1967: that Israel stop its illegal settlement activities in occupied territories. Timely request, considering a new analysis by Peace Now, the Israeli human rights organization. "An examination of the data available on the Israeli government Website that contains maps and information from the Ministry of Housing," Peace Now reports, "reveals that in plans for the West Bank at least 15,000 housing units have already been approved, and plans for an additional 58,000 housing units are yet to be approved. [...] If all the plans are realized, the number of settlers in the Territories will be doubled (an addition of approx. 300,000 persons, based upon an average of 4 persons in each housing unit)."
Yet Clinton is still dancing the same dance her predecessor did, going through all the right motions, saying the right words, but backing them up with nothing more than the usual reassurances that in the end, nothing should stand in the way of the "unshakable, durable, fundamental relationship and support for the State of Israel." In her speech following her meeting with Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, the word settlements didn't cross her lips once.
Arguably the single greatest obstacle in the way of peace in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict managed yet again not even to be an afterthought in Clinton's telling perspective.
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