Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Re: Re: Re: Did Hillary Get the Message?

Abe, you ask “Did someone on [Hillary's] staff go through the [Council on Foreign Relations] speech beforehand and make sure to take out anything that referenced the world as it really is?” The answer is, as I will try to show, yes — although it was probably someone higher than her staff.

Hillary obviously viewed the speech as a major one — it was before the premier foreign policy group, with luminaries in the audience, at a time when her relevance to Obama’s foreign policy was becoming the subject of public speculation. The Los Angeles Times reports that “State Department aides billed Wednesday’s speech as a major foreign policy address and distributed excerpts in advance in an apparent effort to heighten interest.”

One of the people who got an advance excerpt was Greg Sargent, who posted the excerpt at the Washington Post yesterday morning, along with this prediction:

In a major foreign policy speech this afternoon, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will take direct aim at Arab states for not doing their part towards securing Mideast peace, demanding that “all sides” do more to crack down on the “cultures of hate, intolerance and disrespect that perpetuate conflict,” according to an advance excerpt I’ve obtained.

If we compare the advance excerpt to the speech as delivered later that day, we find there was in fact a change — one I believe confirms your suspicion about the process it had gone through.

Here is a portion of the advance excerpt dealing with the responsibility of Arab states in taking steps to improve relations with Israel and prepare the public in their countries to accept it:

The Saudi peace proposal, supported by more than twenty nations, was a positive step. But so far, those who embrace it seem unwilling to do anything until the Israelis and Palestinians reach an agreement. This may be understandable, but it is not helpful. Anwar Sadat and King Hussein crossed important thresholds, and their boldness and vision mobilized peace constituencies in Israel and paved the way for lasting agreements. By providing support to the Palestinians and offering a concrete opening, however modest, to the Israelis, the Arab states could have the same impact.  [Emphasis added]

The advance excerpt reflected the world as it really is: Arab states who forever tout their “peace initiative” seem “unwilling to do anything” until after peace breaks out, and this is “not helpful.” What is required is a “concrete” opening to Israel now.

And here is how that portion came out in the speech as delivered:

The Saudi peace proposal, supported by more than twenty nations, was a positive step. But we believe that more is needed. So we are asking those who embrace the proposal to take meaningful steps now. Anwar Sadat and King Hussein crossed important thresholds, and their boldness and vision mobilized peace constituencies in Israel and paved the way for lasting agreements. By providing support to the Palestinians and offering an opening, however modest, to the Israelis, the Arab states could have the same impact.  [Emphasis added].

As delivered, the Saudi proposal is praised, together with a mild statement that “more is needed” and a notation “asking” those who embrace it to take “meaningful steps” by “offering an opening” to Israel.  Gone is the “direct aim” at Arab states: no public statement that they have been “unwilling to do anything” beyond offering a rhetorical promise of what they would do after others produce a peace agreement that meets every Palestinian demand; that this unwillingness is “not helpful;” and that what is necessary is a “concrete” opening to Israel.

Who toned down the speech in the hours before it was given?  It is highly unlikely the State Department circulated an advance excerpt of a major address before it had been fully reviewed and vetted by Hillary and her staff. It must have been someone else.

And what remained in both the advance and the as-delivered versions was simply the call for an opening, “however modest.” In both versions, Hillary referenced the boldness of Anwar Sadat and King Hussein and then simply asked for something, anything, “however modest.” If the speech produces any steps at all, one can safely guess they will be modest — not the public acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state that is necessary for peace to progress.