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July 18, 2014 7:51 pm
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After Jon Stewart Goes to Bat for Gaza, Hillary Clinton Puts Him in His Place

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Hillary Clinton. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A day after Jewish comedian Jon Stewart caused outrage with a segment on his Daily Show on the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, he hosted former Secretary of State, and wannabe president, Hillary Clinton on his show to address the topic.

After Stewart attempted to draw her into criticizing Israel, Clinton swiftly put him in his place.

Watch Hillary Clinton and Jon Stewart’s interview in the video below:

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A full transcript of the conversation is below:

Stewart: You negotiated the previous cease-fire between Hamas and Israel. Before we get into the obvious snake pit of, like, ‘these guys are right,’ ‘these guys are wrong,’ ‘they’re evil,’ ‘they’re not evil,’ can we at least agree that the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is overwhelming and that the world must do more for the people who are trapped by this conflict?

Clinton: Well, and they’re trapped by their leadership. Unfortunately, it’s a two-pronged trapping. They have leadership that is committed to resistance and violence and therefore their actions are mostly about how do we get new and better missiles to launch them at Israel instead of saying, ‘Hey, let’s try to figure out how we’re going to help make your lives better.’ And when I negotiated the cease-fire in November of 2012, it was right on the brink of Israel once again invading Gaza because of the rockets and so I flew from Cambodia, where I was with the president, to try to see what I can do. And, you know, the Israelis are absolutely right in saying that they can’t just sit there and let rockets rain down. They have a missile defense system, which is working well, but, you know, that can’t be certain, and now there are drones apparently that are being launched from Gaza. They have tried with the Palestinian Authority President Abbas to figure out a way to try to move forward on some sort of negotiated settlement, very difficult. But the Hamas leadership now feels somewhat trapped themselves because they had an ally with the Muslim Brotherhood. I negotiated the cease-fire with Morsi and Morsi was able to convince the Hamas groups to abide by it. He’s gone, and the new regime in Cairo sees Hamas as a danger to them because they see them as a source of instability and violence that can affect them in Sinai and beyond. So they are trapped. And they are trapped, I would argue, first and foremost, by leadership that doesn’t really want to make the situation too much better because that gives them a lot of leverage over the poor people in Gaza.

Stewart: Don’t you think they would look at that, though, as, they’ve given a lot of different things a chance, these are the only guys to them that are giving any resistance to what their condition is?

Clinton: No.

Stewart: And if you’re living in that situation, couldn’t you see yourself thinking, these are our freedom fighters, even if they might be viewed differently.

Clinton: I don’t agree with that for a couple of reasons. When Israel withdrew from Gaza, and I was aware of that, I was in the Senate, I was talking to the people who were organizing it, they left a lot of their businesses. There was a really very valuable horticultural business that was set up by the Israelis who had lived in Gaza , and the idea was that this would be literally turned over, money was provided, there would be a fund that would train Palestinians in Gaza to do this work. And basically, the leadership said, ‘We don’t want anything left from Israel.’ Destroyed it all. That mentally, to me, is hard to deal with. If you look at the Palestinian Authority, even though it’s hard for them, they have said we want to end the violence, we want to negotiate a two-state solution, and we recognize Israel’s right to exist. Hamas has not, and says it will not do that. So we’re really in a terrible dilemma. And today there was an offer of a cease-fire from the Egyptian government. The Israelis immediately accepted it. The Hamas leadership said no. So part of what I see Hamas doing is their identity comes from being the violent resistance because they’re trying to somehow set themselves apart from Abbas and the Fatah segment to say ‘OK, we will talk with, we will deal with, we will cooperate with Israel despite our desire to have a state.’

Stewart: Do you believe though that the Israeli leadership, Netanyahu, truly are sincere? You know, the settlement building continues no matter what America or the rest of the world says. Doesn’t that send a message that it’s not a real sincerity on their part? And hasn’t he even talked recently about a one-state solution being the only option? So aren’t both of these peoples trapped by their leaderships? And the more we get into who’s worse, who’s better, the less we’re likely to find some sort of solution.

Clinton: Well, that’s why you can’t go at it like that. You’ve got to keep your eye on trying to persuade both sides. And when I say both sides I really mean the Israeli leadership and the Palestinian Authority leadership because as I say, Hamas has rejected the international standards by which they could be part of such a negotiation. The problem is if you can get to defining borders and our policy, ever since my husband was president, reiterated by Bush, reiterated by President Obama —

Stewart: You’re husband was president?

Clinton: Yes, he was. Yeah, he worked in one of those rooms without corners.

Stewart: You thought to yourself, I could get used to them?

Clinton: Well, not at the time. But, since then I’ve given it some thought.

Stewart: You’re running for president. You’re running.

Clinton: What he tried to do at Camp David, and what President Bush tried to do with something called Road Map, and what President Obama and Secretary Kerry and I before them tried to do was to come to an agreement that would outline borders and then some settlements would be in the borders and others would not be. I mean, that was the whole theory. And on both sides, I really think it’s not so much calculation or resistance, it’s insecurity and fear.

Stewart: It doesn’t seem sustainable (I agree with that) and it seems like both leaderships are getting something out of this conflict continuing otherwise it wouldn’t.

Clinton: I think, if they were both here, and I had to write about this, I had, I monitored and participated in the last leader-to-leader meetings. We had three such meetings where we really negotiated. It was just four of us in the room. It was Netanyahu, it was Abbas, it was me and George Mitchell, who was our special envoy.

Stewart: He was representing Hamas?

Clinton: No, he wasn’t. But he was a very good negotiator. Somebody who had worked on the Irish peace process. In fact, he tells a funny story about how he was in Jerusalem and talking about his work on the Irish peace process with my husband and he said, you know, this was a very long conflict, it went back 800 years and it took a long time and a lot of effort to get the parties to trust each other enough to make a negotiation that led to a peace agreement. 800 years. And one of the people in the audience, I think it was a Hebrew University, said, ‘such a recent conflict.’ I mean really, you know.

Clinton: So yeah, history is a heavyweight. And, there’s no doubt in my mind that both sides, and I’ve seen it again and again and again, they each know what an agreement should look like. And I remember when Ehud Barak was prime minister he made a very extensive offer to Yassar Arafat. And I think what happened was Arafat just basically said, ‘I’m afraid to take it. I don’t know what comes next. I’m comfortable in the role that I’m in, which is kind of a guerrilla turned politician, but I don’t know that I can be a leader, a  government leader.’ Everyone lives with their own fears and insecurities and what’s so tragic about the rockets coming from Gaza after a period of two plus years because of the cease-fire I was involved in, is now everybody’s back in their corners again. Unless we can give people enough of a sense of security on both sides that they’re gonna be better off and their children are gonna be better off, then the guys with the guns can always disrupt anything. It’s why an extremist in Israel killed, you know, Yitzhak Rabin. Because he knew Yitzhak Rabin could make a lasting peace. And there are extremists on all sides and people with guns on all sides. So leadership has to be very tough-minded and very strong, but they have to have enough support to make the hard choices.

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