To coincide with the Jewish New Year, fresh statements are coming out of some presidential campaigns reaffirming the candidates' 'pro-Israel' credentials. It's the kind of thing that stretches the thread between domestic political posturing and smart policy prescriptions to a snapping point. It is almost redundant to note that the content of these declarations have precious little to do with advancing what is good for Israel, or, for that matter, US interests.
But one sentence from the Hillary Clinton press release of September 10 stands out. (Curiously, the the statement is not up on Clinton's campaign website.) In staking out her position on "Standing with Israel against terrorism," Hillary Clinton defends Israel's right to exist with "... an undivided Jerusalem as its capital." Oddly enough, this places her in direct contradiction with the plan put forward by a certain President Bill Clinton in December 2000.
He proposed dividing Jerusalem:
The general principle is that Arab areas are Palestinian and Jewish ones are Israeli. This would apply to the Old City as well. I urge the two sides to work on maps to create maximum contiguity for both sides.
The plan became known as the Clinton Parameters, and it is widely accepted as the outline for any future deal. These issues are on the agenda again as Israeli Prime Minister Olmert meets with Palestinian President Abbas to outline areas of agreement in advance of a proposed November peace summit.
Israel's highest-circulation Daily, Yediot Ahronoth, ran a piece last weekend about the progress in these talks. According to two highly respected journalists, Nahum Barnea and Shimon Shiffer, Israel's Deputy PM, Haim Ramon, who is leading exploratory talks on behalf of Olmert, has proposed, well, .... dividing Jerusalem.
From Shiffer and Barnea in Yediot (Sept 14th, my translation from the Hebrew):
On Jerusalem Ramon, in the talks (with Palestinians - DL), adopts the principles outlined by Clinton in 2001: ... Jerusalem should be divided between the two states. The area populated by Jews would remain under Jewish sovereignty; the area populated by Arabs would come under Palestine's sovereignty. In the holy basin, i.e., the Old City and its environs, each religion would be responsible for its holy places.
So, candidate Hillary Clinton is running to the right, not only of former President Bill Clinton, but also of the centrist Israeli Government. In fact, Hillary Clinton's press release says nothing at all about a two-state solution, about a Palestinian state, or even a peace process. (Palestinians do, though, exist as terrorists and/or as promoters of incitement).
Barack Obama's new press release also gives an emphatic nod to the standard fair of the strong and enduring US-Israel partnership. He does so at least in the more constructive and inoffensive context of referring to the peace process and a two-state solution, which is far more in keeping with the sentiments of most American Jews.
None of this, admittedly, comes close to the unreconstructed neocon venom coming from Rudy Giuliani and his camp of advisers that include (among others) Norman Podhoretz, Martin Kramer, and, as of last month, Daniel Pipes .But the interesting point emerging among the leading Dem contenders is that Barack Obama, so far, represents continuity with the Bill Clinton legacy of active engagement in Arab-Israeli peace making, while Hillary, so far, does not. It would be fascinating to know whether candidate Hillary Clinton supports the parameters for Israeli-Palestinian peace that carry her family name.