MENA: Clinton Does the Middle East

Hillary Clinton wrapped up her first visit to the Middle East as US Secretary of State, with stopovers in Sharm El Sheikh, Israel, the West Bank and Turkey.

In Egypt, she attended an aid conference for the reconstruction of Gaza, where she also met with Arab leaders. In the West Bank, she expressed support for Palestinian Authority president Mahmood Abbas,  lashed out at Iran for “promoting terrorism” and Israel for its “unhelpful” demolition plans of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem. And in Israel, she reassured Israelis they have no greater ally than the US. She also courted Syria by sending two envoys there and has also visited Turkey.

Bloggers from the region discuss Clinton's visit in this post.

Writing at Looking for Change, Kalash doesn't mince his words when describing Clinton's visit:

If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: Barack Obama could not have picked anyone worse than Hillary Clinton to be his Secretary of State.  In her first official trip to the Middle East, Bill's wife showed her true colors when speaking about Gaza and Hamas. Like her boss, she continued to spew Bush-era talking points without shame. She spoke to reporters Monday after a Gaza “reconstruction” conference in Sharm El Sheikh. Her demeanor was unpleasant as usual.

The blogger further adds:

Hillary Clinton has long been a ‘friend’ of Israel so nobody should be expecting any surprises from her. If Obama plans to make things better (he doesn't) he'll fire her (he won't). Sadly, there is little hope for improvement with Hill-dog in charge of diplomacy. She will make every effort to stifle any meaningful negotiations by ensuring Israeli interests are never compromised.

While Obama at least pretends to be reaching out to Iran, his Secretary of State is already signaling that such efforts will be in vain. Surprisingly, she managed to shake hands with Syrian FM Walid Muallem… it's too bad he didn't twist her arm.

TurkeyTalk discusses Clinton's visit to Turkey saying:

As part of her trip to the Middle East, followed by Brussels and NATO, the new Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will make a stop in Turkey. Most likely to assure the nervous Turkish government that the U.S. will continue its policy towards Turkey, of treating Turkey with kid gloves.

I am sure she will tell Turkey what it needs to hear; that Turkey is still strategically relevant, that it needs to be a part of the EU, and that it is a great Islamic democracy for others in the region to emulate.

All great sound bytes. And possibly with great intentions. But not because the U.S. (government) actually endorses them for the reasons that Turkey thinks it does. All with the sincerity of a predator seen toying with its captured prey waiting for the right time to act on its inevitable instincts.

The U.S. government still doesn't want to deal with a Turkey not ready for a reality check. But nor is the U.S. ready to demand it.

Will, over at KABOBfest, takes issue with singling out Iran for its interference in Palestine. The Palestinian American blogger notes:

Both U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and PA head honcho Mahmoud Abbas echoed each other's sentiments: Iran should stop interfering in Palestinian affairs. This came after Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for
“resistance” against Israel.

I do not seem to recall Abu Mazen telling the United States or Israel to stay out of Palestinian affairs — perhaps because their interventions always benefited him and kept his ailing political project afloat, even as Israel postured as his enemy.

This is not to say that Palestine is a rightful Iranian issue or that it really seeks to defend Palestinian rights. Palestinians are more often used as a strategic token by the region's powers, including the United States. To say Israel uses them as such is an understatement. The Palestinians are Israel's existential pacemaker.

Meanwhile in Israel, Yisrael Medad takes note of Clinton's new buzz words for the Arab-Israeli conflict. He writes:

Well, is “vigorous” Hillary Clinton's key word/buzz word for the Arab-Israel conflict?
Or is it “engaged”?
With Condi, it was “robust”.

And Yael is pleased that a proposal is on the table at the US congress to link the $900 million pledged to Gaza in exchange for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped three years ago. She writes:

I send a personal heartfelt thank you to Rep. Shelley Berkley of Nevada who drafted a petition to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which demanded that the financial aid be delayed for as long as the rocket fire continues and Gilad remains in captivity.
It should not be the case that we are the only ones placing pressure on Hamas. It should not be the case that the world is willing to simply look the other way while rockets fall daily, many times daily, on our civilians and Shalit is held in captivity and reward a terrorist region and allow them to act with impunity.

And finally James Buck points that not all the money will go towards Gaza:

Turns out that while ‘$900 million is aid to Gaza’ is the figure/phrase that is tossed about, only $300 is actually headed for Gaza; $600 goes to the West Bank.

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