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Process is All

3:34 PM, Nov 4, 2009 • By RACHEL ABRAMS
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Hillary Clinton has arcked pendulously between Israel and the Arabs, the Arabs and Israel in her various incarnations -- as far back as 1998, with the blood-soaked Arafat at the helm of the PLO, the then-First Lady's call for a Palestinian state was quickly walked back by the White House, and she was shortly heard, post-kiss, attacking Suha Arafat for "inflammatory rhetoric" -- and most conspicuously so of late, from ice to tepid dishwater and back to frosty again. "Perhaps those of us who work for [the president] and communicate about this issue," she told Al Jazeera yesterday, after a little taste of Arab ire, "should have made very clear that there was no change in our position, that we were absolutely committed to the end of settlement activity."

Her State Department mouthpiece, P.J. Crowley, explaining the newest Obamic thinking on the Middle East -- now that their sweeping "peace" agenda has turned out to be as valuable as the paper on which it's written, or, as the Wall Street Journal puts it, "all sides might be forced to accept a lower level of engagement in the talks to guard against a new round of violence in the Palestinian territories" -- was left holding the bag, diplomatically speaking. And a good job he did of it: "There's value in having the process," he said. "If this particular path, we think, can't get us there, we'll look for others."

Whether intentional or not, this is a good game of obfuscation for an administration that badly needs the cover: While Mrs. Clinton was sputtering among the Arabs, the Israeli Navy was unloading hundreds of tons of Iranian weapons onto an Ashdod dock, after commandeering "a commercial vessel operating under the guise of an aid ship, captained by a Pole and flying an Antiguan flag" carrying them en route to Syria. The Syrian foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, in Tehran for bilateral discussions of "regional issues including Iraq, Lebanon and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," scoffed: "Unfortunately, some pirates sometimes take action in the name of inspection and prevent the sailing of commercial ships."

Could be it is merely by coincidence he is there just as the Iranian tyrants are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the take-over of the U.S. embassy by brutally putting down demonstrators. Who's to say? We can ask him, though, next time we send high-level U.S. officials to Damascus to have some process with him.