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Middle East Advice for Hillary

Five former Secretaries of State have offered Hillary Clinton advice via the LA Times, and two of them have identified the Israeli-Arab peace process as the first order of business.

Jim Baker, famously obsessed (admirers will probably prefer “preoccupied”) with the Israeli-Arab peace process since the days he was Secretary, does not mention Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, or Iraq in his to-do list. He doesn’t mention any of the other issues serious observers would consider important. Note Baker’s warning about the “domestic political standpoint” in his advice for Hillary Clinton:

I think it’s important for Sen. Clinton to tackle the Arab-Israeli issue early. I happen to believe that both her husband and President George W. Bush waited too long. The temptation is to wait because it is a very tough issue from a domestic political standpoint. Now there seems to be more desire for a secure, negotiated peace on the part of the Israeli body politic than there has been in the past. I think the stars are right. But you don’t get peace between Arabs and Israelis unilaterally. So that’s one I think she might undertake productively.

So Baker’s advice is this: deal with Arab-Israel peace urgently, and if you don’t, we’ll know why you’ve hesitated (or, in other words, forget New York).

George Shultz also cites the Arab-Israeli peace process in a cautionary tone. But for him, it’s is not the “domestic” pressures one should be afraid of (when exactly did such pressure prevented a U.S. administration from achieving peace?). Shultz is worried about something else. He is worried (without mentioning him by name of course) about people like Baker who think they know the answer to every problem:

Anyone can write an answer to the Israel-Palestine problem, but it doesn’t mean a thing. You’ve got to get people to agree, and that’s hard. You just have to work at it, and if you work and keep things from sliding backward, you make a little progress. You make life a little better, and gradually something may emerge. 

Although Hillary is the new darling of the Right (“foreign policy is the one area in which her ideas seem somewhat in line with those of conservatives,”wrote Noemie Emery of the Weekly Standard), it remains to be seen whether she narrows her options down to a choice between the conservative Baker-way or the conservative Shultz-way — or if she takes another route altogether.


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