Dana Milbank takes the AIPAC crowd to task for the tepid response it gave Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s speech at this year’s policy conference. It is true, as Milbank states, that Clinton is a longtime friend of the state of Israel, and it is also true that compared with the many protesters the conference attracted (many were yelling comments to attendees as they arrived at the Washington Convention Center), Secretary Clinton should’ve been welcomed. But it is also worth noting what Clinton actually said to the pro-Israel activists.
Here was the thrust of Clinton’s argument:
It is our devotion to this outcome – two states for two peoples, secure and at peace – that led us to condemn the announcement of plans for new construction in East Jerusalem. This was not about wounded pride. Nor is it a judgment on the final status of Jerusalem, which is an issue to be settled at the negotiating table. This is about getting to the table, creating and protecting an atmosphere of trust around it – and staying there until the job is done.
New construction in East Jerusalem or the West Bank undermines mutual trust and endangers the proximity talks that are the first step toward the full negotiations that both sides want and need. It exposes daylight between Israel and the United States that others in the region could hope to exploit. And it undermines America’s unique ability to play a role – an essential role, I might add — in the peace process. Our credibility in this process depends in part on our willingness to praise both sides when they are courageous, and when we don’t agree, to say so, and say so unequivocally.
Translation: I love Israel; we beat up on Israel, but it’s because we love Israel. Of course, this is an oversimplification. But it’s certainly how many attendees of the conference understood Clinton’s speech. Which is why the response was tepid.