WASHINGTON – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hoped to see a show of force at the AIPAC Conference, yet US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton managed to thwart it by outlining the Obama Administration’s solution for the Mideast conflict.
America’s top diplomat entered the lion’s den, the stronghold of Israel support in Washington, at a time of tension between the Obama Administration and Netanyahu government. She touched and softened up the 7,000 members of the audience and drew loud applause, a moment before she told Israel’s staunchest supporters what no American leader had ever said in this forum: A peace treaty premised on a return to the 1967 borders, hints of international administration of the holy sites, and demands for improved ties in the West Bank and an improved humanitarian situation in Gaza.
After securing the healthcare reform’s approval, the US Administration’s moment of truth in its ties with Israel arrived, a day before PM Netanyahu arrives at the White House. At her AIPAC speech, Clinton explained with great skill that Israel cannot go on with the current situation and guarantee its security, not to mention its Jewish and democratic character.
The secretary of state broadly addressed the demographic threat resulting from “Israeli occupation,” which she said “threatens Israel’s long-term future as a secure and democratic Jewish state.” It was a masterpiece address where Clinton left no doubt as to her sympathy for Israel and the Obama Administration’s commitment to the Jewish State’s security and prosperity. Yet this did not prevent her from noting America’s demands of Israel. Immediately after saying that “the United States cannot force a solution,” she spoke about America’s vision for a resolution of the conflict.
Nothing new under the sun
Clinton in fact said nothing new. Anyone who has been monitoring the conflict, with the exception of the Israelis themselves, realizes that the solution will come in the form of a return to the 1967 borders with territorial tradeoffs, rejection of the Palestinian right of return, the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state, and the introduction of shared administration of the Holy Sites.
However, the Obama Administration chose to present the question of borders as the first core issue. Final-status borders will end the Israeli construction freeze nightmare, and the Netanyahu government would be able to build as it wishes in the territory determined to belong to Israel.
For that reason, Clinton did not hesitate to state the US’ objective in the framework of final-status talks at her AIPAC appearance – working out the borders issue. In her speech, she mentioned “the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the ‘67 lines, with agreed swaps.” The objective here is to maintain the large settlement blocs in Israeli territory while handing over alternate land to Palestinian control.
After Interior Minister Eli Yishai made global headlines with Jerusalem, the US Administration does not intend to let go of the issue. Clinton already hinted of the solution she seeks: Joint administration of the Holy Sites. As the secretary of state expressed it diplomatically: “The United States recognizes that Jerusalem is a deeply important issue for Israelis and Palestinians, and for Jews, Muslims, and Christians. We believe that through good faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem, and safeguards its status for people around the world.”