Saturday, November 22, 2008

Clinton Is Said to Accept Offer of Secretary of State Position.

The New York Times are reporting that Hillary Clinton is ready to give up her Senate seat and join Barack Obama's administration as secretary of state.

The accord between the two leading figures of the Democratic Party was the culmination of a weeklong drama that riveted the nation’s capital. President-elect Barack Obama and Mrs. Clinton fought perhaps the most polarizing nomination battle in decades, but in recruiting her for his cabinet, Mr. Obama chose to turn a rival into a partner, and she concluded she could have a greater impact by saying yes than by remaining in the Senate.

Her selection is still to be formalized and will not be announced until after Thanksgiving. It would be yet another direction in the unlikely journey of a onetime political spouse in Arkansas who went on to build a political base of her own and become a symbol of achievement to many women.

The role, though a supporting one, would make her one of the most influential players on the international stage, and it would represent at least one more act for one of the nation’s most prominent public families, as former President Bill Clinton would also become an ad hoc member of the Obama team.

I am still of a mind that Hillary's appointment to this role gives us a huge hint as to what Obama intends to do regarding the Israel/Palestine dispute.

On the record he has said things that no other American politician has ever dared to say:
"Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people..." said Obama, "the Israeli government must make difficult concessions for the peace process to restart..."
I think Obama, despite his appearance in front of AIPAC, might be willing to think outside of the box and apply pressure to the Israelis to make a peace deal possible. To this end he will need Hillary, who is blatantly pro-Israel, as she can push harder than he can without incurring the inevitable charge of anti-Semitism.

I, of course, accept that I might be engaging in a massive case of wishful thinking here, but Obama has been keeping his cards pretty close to his chest on this subject, publicly mouthing the pro-Israeli platitudes that all prospective American presidents have to make, but always hinting that he understands that the problem is far more complex than the pro-Israel lobby would like us to believe.
The junior senator from Illinois was not afraid of challenging hard line American Jewish leaders even while supporting Israeli security. "This is where I get to be honest and I hope I'm not out of school here. I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel that you're anti-Israel and that can't be the measure of our friendship with Israel," he said. Obama listed his overall plans by stating: " My goal then would be to solicit as many practical opinions as possible in terms of how we're going to move forward on the improvement of [Palestinian-Israeli] relations and a sustainable peace.
He's certainly dipping his toes into areas normally avoided by American presidential candidates, and one can read into his comments an understanding of what needs to be done here on both sides.
The mixed race American candidate also said that he has consistently urged Palestinians when he was in Ramallah that they must "relinquish the right of return as it has been understood in the past. And that doesn't mean that there may not be conversations about compensation issues." Obama noted the irony that "one of the things that struck me when I went to Israel was how much more open the debate was around these issues in Israel than they are sometimes here in the United States. It's very ironic." Obama concluded by saying "I want practical, hardheaded, unromantic advice about how we're going to achieve that."
International law recognises the Palestinians who left the region in 1948 as refugees and says that their refugee status can only be removed by either repatriation or compensation. Obama is the first US politician that I have heard mention compensation as a way of addressing this issue, which leads me to believe that he has given this matter considerable thought.

So, he has identified the pro-Likud position as unhelpful and he has an idea of how to address the Palestinian right to return.

He's already signalling that that he wants to take this matter seriously and that he won't be tied to the usual script. The inclusion of Hillary in his administration leads me to believe that he is ready to push the Israelis to accept a deal.

As I say, it might be wishful thinking on my part, but I can't see any other reason as to why he should be so keen to invite Hillary into his administration.

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