WASHINGTON – Ahead of retirement from her position as US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton
was given an informal farewell party Friday by Israeli American businessman Haim Saban; during which Clinton discussed her diplomatic experiences and specifically her ties with Israel.
Clinton was invited as the keynote speaker at Saban's convention in Washington, and the host produced an homage video, rife with praise by Israeli and Palestinian leaders and concluded with a greeting by President Barack Obama.
Clinton spoke with affection of the State of Israel, saying that defending Israel was not only a policy issue but also a personal one: "Protecting Israel’s future is not simply a question of policy for me, it’s personal. I’ve talked with some of you I’ve know for a while about the first trip Bill and I took to Israel so many years ago, shortly after our daughter was born.
"And I have seen the great accomplishments," Clinton added; "the pride of the desert blooming and the start-ups springing up. I’ve held hands with the victims of terrorism in their hospital rooms, visited a bombed-out pizzeria in Jerusalem, walked along the fence near Gilo. And I know with all my heart how important it is that our relationship go from strength to strength.
"As I prepare to trade in my post as secretary of state for a little more rest and relaxation, I look forward to returning to Israel as a private citizen on a commercial plane walking the streets of the Old City, sitting in a cafe in Tel Aviv, visiting the many Israelis and Palestinians I’ve gotten to know over the years."
Clinton recalled how late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat
rejected then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak's
peace proposal at Camp David, and how Arafat called her husband, Bill Clinton, years later, after the latter was no longer in office, and asked to accept the deal.
"And Bill says, 'well, that's terrific, why don’t you call the white house and tell them that,'" she recounted.
She added that she believed a Palestinian state would have already been established had Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin
not been murdered. "I think the Israeli people would have trusted him to make the hard decisions that were needed," she said.
Alongside heartfelt conclusions of friendly ties with Israel, Clinton spared no criticism of Israeli diplomacy, saying that nothing will ensure the future of Israel than peace: "Without peace, Israel will be forced to build ever more powerful defenses against ever more dangerous rockets.
"And without peace, the inexorable math of demographics will, one day, force Israelis to choose between preserving their democracy and remaining a Jewish homeland.
A strong Israeli military is always essential, but no defense is perfect. And over the long run, nothing would do more to secure Israel’s future as a Jewish, democratic state than a comprehensive peace," the secretary of state insisted.
In her four years as secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton has flown all over the world and worked to promote human and democratic rights.
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