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October 13, 2016 12:07 pm

Hillary Clinton’s Saban Forum Speech on Israel Was Not ’95 Percent Good’

avatar by Rafael Medoff / JNS.org

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Hillary Clinton. Photo: Campaign Facebook page.

Hillary Clinton. Photo: Campaign Facebook page.

JNS.org – Among Hillary Clinton’s recently leaked emails is an exchange revealing an unnamed Israeli official’s concerns over a 2015 speech on the Jewish state given by the Democratic presidential nominee.

In an email dated December 8, former US Deputy Treasury Secretary Stuart E. Eizenstat described a breakfast meeting he had with “a senior Israeli official who is very close to the Prime Minister,” a reference to — according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz speculation — Ron Dermer, the current Israeli Ambassador to the US. Eizenstat wrote that the discussion focused heavily on the Saban Forum, an annual American-Israeli political dialogue session, which had been held few days earlier.

According to Eizenstat, the Israeli official was concerned “that most of the emphasis [at the Forum] was on the Palestinian issue, and he wonders if a Clinton Administration ‘will be a Saban Forum for four years.’” Eizenstat added that the Israeli official considered Clinton’s speech “95 percent good, although there was some moral equivalence language.”

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In the email, Eizenstat offered to serve as the Clinton campaign’s “formal or informal emissary to Israeli government officials.”

The Forum was founded in 2009, under the auspices of the Brookings Institution, by Haim Saban, a major donor to both the Clinton presidential campaign and the Clinton Foundation. Former US Mideast envoy Martin Indyk, who has sometimes clashed with Israel’s current leaders, is the executive vice president of Brookings.

My analysis of Clinton’s speech suggests that the 95 percent figure may have been somewhat generous.

At several points in the speech, Clinton used what the Israeli official called “moral equivalence language.” Referring to the wave of Palestinian knife attacks against Israelis, Clinton criticized “Brutal stabbings, shootings, and vehicle attacks” that “seek to sow fear among the innocent.” She then said, “Israeli children have been killed as have Palestinian children.” It was not clear which Palestinian children she was referring to, aside from minors who were shot while trying to kill Israelis.

Later in her speech, Clinton referred to “the violence that are [sic] coming from Palestinians toward Israelis and, again, let’s be honest, from some Israelis toward Palestinians…”

Clinton was reluctant to criticize the Palestinian Authority for inciting and encouraging the knife attacks. She said, “Palestinian leaders should condemn and combat incitement in all of its forms,” but did not acknowledge that those leaders engaged in incitement. Clinton praised Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, saying, “he has certainly been willing to explore different ways of cooperation and confidence-building.”

She also took a swipe at Abbas’ critics, saying, “I think it’s been unfortunate that he’s been in many eyes marginalized when there really is as yet no alternative.”

Clinton did not refer to the controversial statement made by Abbas in the official PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, less than three weeks earlier on November 17. In that statement, Abbas called the wave of knife attacks “a peaceful uprising,” and justified the attacks as having been “caused by the occupation, oppression, injustice, and aggression against our people…”

In her Saban Forum remarks, Clinton seemingly suggested that leaders on both sides were equally to blame for the absence of peace, when she called on ordinary Israelis and Palestinians to “demand their leaders seek every opportunity to demonstrate their commitment.”

Another aspect of the Clinton speech that may have worried Israeli officials was the imbalance in the actions that she urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders to take. While calling on Israel to take specific steps on the ground, she urged the Palestinians to take actions that were verbal or unspecified.

For example, she said in order “to create conditions for progress,” Israel should “take steps…with respect to settlements,” while the Palestinians should refrain from “unilateral action at the United Nations.” At another point, she urged Israel to specifically provide the Palestinians with “access to water, protection of their agricultural lands, more investment,” while asking the Palestinians to “provide better security for Israelis,” without specifying what exactly she expected of them.

Clinton also took a hard line against Jewish settlements in the disputed territories. In response to a question, she asserted that “every administration, Republican and Democratic alike, has had the same policy on settlements. That’s just something that all American governments have [had] for the last decades. And we have tried different approaches to persuade the Israeli government not to be expanding the territorial reach of settlements.”

Actually, the George W. Bush administration took a different position regarding some large Israeli settlement blocs. On April 14, 2004, President Bush wrote to then-Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, saying, “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of the final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.”

It was then-Secretary of State Clinton, at the direction of President Obama, who disavowed the Bush commitment. She told reporters on June 17, 2009, “in looking at the history of the Bush administration, there were no informal or enforceable agreements” with Israel regarding settlements. However, Elliot Abrams, the Bush aide who negotiated the language of the letter, responded in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that the letter did constitute an agreement with Israel, which the US had brokered in exchange for Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza.

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  • Gandi007

    careful reading of the Bush letter shows no explicit assurances that Israel could keep some settlements in a final status agreement with Palestinians the letter more of an attempt to shore up support for Sharon among his right-wing base in any event presidential declarations won’t change the status of the occupied Palestinian territories under international law and that commitments or statements of policy preference aren’t binding on future Administrations

  • davidsinger

    The author omits to state that Bush’s letter of 14 April 2004 was overwhelmingly endorsed by the Congress by 502 votes to 12 in June 2004 and that Senator Hillary Clinton was a member of the Senate at that time and voted in favour of the Bush commitments made to Israel.

    It would help voters if someone in the media pack covering Hillary’s campaign appearances got her to answer this question:
    “Will you honour the written commitments made to Israel by President Bush on 14 April 2004 which were overwhelmingly endorsed by the Congress 502 votes to 12 in June 2004 – including yourself when then a Senator?”

    She keeps dodging an answer

    Why?

  • mikey248

    The problem with Israeli leftists, such as Haim Saban, is that they believe the Palestinians are interested in a two-state solution, in respecting the rights of Jews, and in peace.

    Israeli leftists, such as Haim Saban, further believe that, if they are wrong, and the Palestinians have a state in the West Bank, that the security situation would be the same as today, not infinitely worse.

    The experience of Arafat’s initiation of terrorism in 1995 and 1996, Arafat’s initiation of the 2nd Intifada in 2000-2004, and the PA’s rejection of sweet deals in 2000, 2001, and 2008-9 mean nothing, and that the incitement to violence by PA media, mosques and schools similarly means nothing.

    Israeli leftists are not acting on the basis of fact or reason.

    Israeli leftists’ beliefs are driven by willful blindness for the sake of their own delusional happiness and are also driven by their hatred and contempt for the non-elite.

    Israeli leftists prefer to believe that peace is prevented by backward thinking by the non-elite, rather than recognizing that the non-elite are merely exhibiting common sense and that peace is really prevented by Palestinian identity, which is only based upon depriving Jews of their rights, not upon seeking self-determination for themselves.

  • Ira Marlowe

    It’s not the Russians Hillary Clinton… The content of your hacked
    emails are completely owned by you and your cronies. You are a Fake ,
    Phony and a Fraud. There is no place in Clinton’s America for honest
    Americans, people of faith, people who believe in the Second Amendment.
    You are a total Low Life and a Dirt-Bag

  • ReformSchool

    The Clintons became Arkansas’ rulers by tactics they’re using on Trump.
    Owing their success to last-minute, no-time-to-defend sex scandal attacks, a “Lie Like Whores” creed of greed has illegal foreign donor campaign contributions filtered through their Foundation unaudited money laundry, have Americans been so dumbed down they believe a Clinton government would prosecute itself? Did they do it from 1992-2000? Did Obama’s?.

    The American Left from Saul Alinsky, Normans Cousin, Albert Chancre and Jimmy Carter to Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are ravaging our constitutional republic. Think “Saban” vaccine will protect us from anarchists like George Sorrows and Patricia Hearst? Guess again!

  • Bear Klein

    Another anti-Israel Democratic to be President. Yet American Jews for the most part will find a way to rationalize this vote. They did so with McCain and Romney.

  • rulierose

    she would be a disaster for Israel. and Trump is just a disaster in general. and stoner Gary Johnson doesn’t know what an Aleppo is. there are no good options. #SMOD2016

    • squeakywheel3

      “There are no good options.”

      The Donald is, by FAR, the lesser of the evils.

  • ToughJuice

    It’s time to do the right thing Israel, Mr. Saban or go down with the ship, because it’s going down no matter the cost, enough is enough. A continuation of Obama/Clinton

    policies will bring a banker bailout, an insurance bailout, war with russia and the end of Israel so think well and do the right thing then go back to your status quo.

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