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Clinton Previews 2016 Campaign?

The New Yorker’s David Remnick writes that Hillary Clinton’s Friday night address at the Saban Forum (and the fawning video introduction) left no doubt that she’s running in 2016:

Friday night, however, was on the record—and surprisingly revealing. Hillary Clinton was the main speaker. In a packed ballroom of the Willard Hotel, she was greeted with a standing ovation and then a short, adoring film, a video Festschrift testifying to her years as First Lady, senator, and, above all, secretary of state. The film, an expensive-looking production, went to the trouble of collecting interviews with Israeli politicians—Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni—and American colleagues, like John Kerry. Tony Blair, striking the moony futuristic note that was general in the hall, said, “I just have an instinct that the best is yet to come.” 

The film was like an international endorsement four years in advance of the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary. The tone was so reverential that it resembled the sort of film that the Central Committee of the Communist Party might have produced for Leonid Brezhnev’s retirement party if Leonid Brezhnev would only have retired and the Soviets had been in possession of advanced video technology. After it was over there was a separate video from the President. Looking straight into the camera, Obama kvelled at length: “You’ve been at my side at some of the most important moments of my Administration.”

Haim Saban is one of Clinton’s biggest and most loyal financial backers, so it makes sense she’d start warming up for a 2016 run at his annual conference. Clinton’s speech — one of the few on the record at the forum — was heavy on foreign policy, particularly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

Well, look, I think Israelis have good grounds to be suspicious. And I would never be one who tries to rewrite or dismiss history. The Palestinians could have had a state as old as I am if they had made the right decision in 1947. They could have had a state if they had worked with my husband and then-Prime Minister Barak at Camp David. They could have had a state if they’d worked with Prime Minister Olmert and Foreign Minister Livni. …

I’m not making excuses for the missed opportunities of the Israelis, or the lack of generosity, the lack of empathy that I think goes hand-in-hand with the suspicion. So, yes, there is more that the Israelis need to do to really demonstrate that they do understand the pain of an oppressed people in their minds, and they want to figure out, within the bounds of security and a Jewish democratic state, what can be accomplished. …

And I think that, unfortunately, there are more and more Israelis and Palestinians who just reject that idea out of hand: Why bother? Why try? We’ll never be able to reach an agreement with the other. But in the last 20 years, I’ve seen Israeli leaders make an honest, good-faith effort and not be reciprocated in the way that was needed. …

So I think that – I really believe this with all my heart. I think that even if you cannot reach a complete agreement that resolves all these incredibly hard issues, it is in Israel’s interest to be trying. It gives Israel a moral high ground that I want Israel to occupy. That’s what I want Israel to occupy, the moral high ground.

The second paragraph is bad in context, and sounds even worse out-of-context (which is how it will be used in political ads). Suggesting that Israelis don’t understand the pain of an oppressed people, or aren’t generous enough isn’t exactly diplomatic coming from the secretary of state, and it’s not smart coming from someone who is presumably about to launch a presidential campaign. As Clinton said herself, the Israelis have made “honest, good-faith efforts” that haven’t been reciprocated. Maybe she tossed the comment in for some false “balance,” but she shouldn’t be surprised if it comes back at her during a presidential campaign.



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