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Election 2016
Clinton Signals Any Obama Middle East Parameters Won’t Matter

President Obama’s more Left-leaning staffers on the Israel-Palestine conflict have been fighting a battle to get the outgoing President to leave a set of “parameters” behind: his vision of what an Israeli-Palestinian agreement would look like. They hope that these parameters could be enshrined in a UN Security Council resolution, theoretically committing future U.S. presidents to negotiate within the Obama framework.

There was always something delusional about this thinking, and using the UN to make end runs around the normal U.S. policy process is a shortsighted approach that will only weaken the United Nations. But in her meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu today, Secretary Clinton made clear that she disagrees with this approach. Haaretz:

In the meeting, Clinton stressed “her opposition to any attempt by outside parties to impose a solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “including by the UN Security Council,” according to a statement released by her campaign. She further reaffirmed her commitment to a two-state solution negotiated directly by the parties.

What that means is that regardless of what resolutions the Obama team might try to get through the Security Council, Clinton will promote direct negotiations between the two sides—and that she won’t try to force the Israelis to accept any Obama parameters as a basis for negotiations. It was very tactfully done; the Clinton campaign wants and needs all the help it can get from Obama in a tight campaign. Still, it’s a crystal clear statement that as far as Secretary Clinton is concerned, the Obama presidency ends on January 20. She is not interested in having her predecessor tie her hands.

At the moment, one of the few things that Clinton and Trump agree on is that they want better relations with Israel. Returning from his visit to the UN with high profile, amiable meetings with the two leading presidential candidates—as well as the largest aid package in Israel’s history from Obama himself—Netanyahu will have a convincing story to tell the critics in Israel who accuse him of wrecking relations with the United States. As the Obama era drifts slowly to its end, U.S.-Israel relations, for now, appear to on the upswing no matter which party wins the White House in November.

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  • ljgude

    This is good to see Clinton take positive action to distance herself from the Edward Said wing of the Democratic party.

  • I doubt that Clinton would ignore a UN Security Council resolution on the conflict. Especially if it mirrors her own beliefs about resolving the conflict. It’s all nice to make the right kind of noises in what seems to become a tight election, but it’s another thing entirely to forego the significant leverage over Israel such a resolution would provide.

    • LarryD

      Israel will not negotiate away its security.

      The UN is a collection of despots, with the worst human rights abusers comprising the committee on human rights. A Security Council resolution doesn’t mean spit, unless one of the members intends to take action on it. After the “no-fly zone” resolution on Libya, I suspect Russia and China are prepared to tell the Obama administration to take a long walk off a short pier.

      • If by bending to the international will, to the US in particular, is what you mean when you say that Israel will not negotiate away its security, then my answer is that under some circumstances Israel will most definitely show some increased flexibility. Even when it comes to its security, as Israel doesn’t operate in a vacuum. History has shown this countless times.
        I don’t think that a resolution by the security council will dramatically alter things, but, as I argued above, it would provide leverage over Israel that Clinton could use if she chooses to. And she probably would sooner or later. A four-year term is a long time.

      • Ellen

        Exactly. The conflict in Syria has shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that the UN Security Council has now become the impotent laughing stock that the General Assembly has been all of these years. Putin has turned the UNSC into just another example of the decline of the West.

        Furthermore, the idea that anything Obama says now and for the past 2 years actually, has any long term impact is ridiculous. No one in the Mideast or world cares what he thinks because he backs it up with exactly what? John Kerry scurrying around the MidEast and Europe pleading with Putin and the Iranians not to drop barrel bombs on Syrian civilians? Is there any sight more pathetic than that? Would the President of Guatemala tolerate his secretary of state behaving like that?

    • JR

      Don’t you just hate that Israel refuses to go away? Despite fervent wishes of so many? I feel your pain. It makes me happy.

      • That’s pretty amusing considering that I’m Israeli, a former paratrooper and think that Netanyahu is doing a great job diplomatically as well as on security issues. Perhaps with that in mind you can come up with a reply that actually addresses the issue? Actually, don’t bother. You’re clearly not here to discuss issues so please do us a favor and go away.

        • JR

          A rational person would conclude that someone who wants someone to have leverage over the country’s existence doesn’t have the best interests of that country in mind. You may support whatever position you want, just don’t claim that appealing to your own authority makes something rational not so.
          Also, it is possible to hate Israel and admire the job Bibi has done. Not sure why you think the two are mutually exclusive.

          • First of all, where did you get the idea that I WANT Clinton to have leverage over Israel? Clearly you didn’t read my post very carefully as it neither says so explicitly nor implicitly. You’re confusing a descriptive statement with a prescriptive one. The author of this article is wrong, as I read it, about the importance of a statement by her campaign. That’s all.
            Secondly, I don’t believe that saying that Netanyahu is doing a great job etc. and hating Israel are mutually exclusive, but if you take the sentence as a whole it would be odd indeed if I also hated Israel. At any rate I just thought it was amusing and I don’t feel the need to prove anything. With that said, I’m out.

    • Y.K.

      This ‘leverage’ comes with a big price. The US will be committed to a particular vision of a peace settlement, and not enforcing it will make it look weak and hypocritical. But the issues involved are much more important to Israel and to the PA than to the US, and it is very debatable whether the US is able to enforce it at all. Meanwhile, every Arab ‘ally’ will pester the US with this every time they are asked to do something for the US and Clinton will be blamed for the resolution by Israel’s supporters in the US.

      In short, a UN res. would be the infamous Red Line on steroids. That’s probably not how Clinton would want to start her presidency.

      That’s why I suspect the real possibility for this type of action was *before* the election. Had the Presidential campaign not been competitive, Obama would have had a relatively free hand – we already know he doesn’t care all that much for the Democrat bench and he already has his Iran Deal. But events have made this campaign competitive, and we can be sure Obama does not want to risk being blamed for getting Trump elected.

      • Good points. I hope you’re right, but it needs to be weighed against Obama’s desire for a legacy and possible belief that this is the only way to resolve the conflict.

        • Y.K.

          There are some known unknowns here, like ‘How much does an outgoing President owe to the incoming President?’, ‘What does Obama believe?’. I think there are decent reasons from O.’s perspective to avoid this. He already has his legacies, but his great project is preventing the US from being further embroiled in the ME. It is very debatable whether a UNSC move would decrease US involvement, I can easily see scenarios where it pulls the US back in more strongly, and Obama wouldn’t be there to prevent this. We’ll see about that.

          If Obama’s term does end without parameters or a UNSC resolution it would be very ironic. The Israeli Illiterati led for a while with the ‘Bushehr for Yitzhar’ line. It could turn out they were right, but the direction was reversed. They just never bothered to ask Obama what he wants, so they didn’t know he wanted a deal with Iran more than a deal for the I/P situation.

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