Photo: AP
Clinton. Complicating peace process?
Photo: AP
Obama. Forced to repeat Clinton's formulation
Photo: AP

White House baffled by Clinton's gaffes

Sources close to US President Obama tell New Republic magazine secretary of state veered away from White House’s message on Middle East peace process in two different occasions

WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's zigzagging and slips of the tongue, mainly on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, have been causing anger in the Middle East and complicating the peace process, sources in the White House told the New Republic magazine on Tuesday.


In May, Clinton revealed at a press conference that US President Barack Obama’s call for an Israeli settlement freeze included any “natural growth” within existing settlements. Two sources with detailed knowledge of the US-Israeli relationship told New Republic that the Obama team was not yet prepared to make public this departure from Bush-era policy. Rather than leave his secretary of state twisting in the wind, one of the sources said, Obama wound up repeating her formulation a few days later, touching off months of tension with the Israelis.


The second flap occurred on November 1 in Jerusalem, where Clinton abruptly reversed course on settlements – this time saying that a proposal by the Netanyahu government that falls short of the freeze Obama has sought nevertheless amounts to an “unprecedented” concession by Israel.


The formulation – which infuriated Arab leaders and made it seem that Obama had surrendered to Netanyahu – had not been endorsed by the White House, which was not pleased with the statement. Clinton was forced to "fold" immediately, stating several days later during a visit to Morocco that there was no change in the American policy.


It's not her, it's the advisors

White House officials believe that Clinton's zigzagging reveals in public things which the American policy makers would rather say in closed talks. Making public the American demand of Israel to stop the construction eventually sabotaged the US effort to bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table before Israel freezes the construction. It also damaged Obama's reliability among the Israelis.


The secretary of state's second slip of the tongue, which expressed the American withdrawal from its demands on the settlement issue, after realizing that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not be able to meet the demands, practically and politically.


According to the sources, the White House's Middle East team was busy minimizing the damages Clinton had caused days after she had made the remarks.


Throughout her political career, Clinton has been considered a calculated, responsible person with a lot of knowledge on the matters under her responsibility. The secretary of state is also considered a loveable personality, both in internal meetings and in meetings abroad, thanks to her personal charm and warmth. These were he main reasons for Obama's decision to appoint her as his secretary of state. Therefore, it is unclear whether her remarks are made intentionally or are really slips of the tongue.


Sources involved in the State Department have a different opinion. One of them told Ynet that Clinton's zigzagging "is not her fault, but her assistants' fault. She receives contrasting advice before going to press conferences, and that's the source of the problem. She has to be smart enough to know what to do when she receives contrasting advice."


פרסום ראשון: 11.18.09, 00:33
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