I noted in my previous blog post the conservative mini-firestorm former President Clinton set off with his remarks on the peace process to a group of bloggers.
The crux of the anger derives from this Foreign Policy post by Josh Rogin, headed Bill Clinton: Netanyahu killed the peace process.
The problem is, I don’t see that hed backed up by the quotes. I wasn’t there, and I’d love to hear full audio, if anyone has it. But from what I can see, Clinton’s problem is not with Bibi, but with the fates.
Here’s what Clinton said, according to Rogin, and according to his sequence:
The two great tragedies in modern Middle Eastern politics, which make you wonder if God wants Middle East peace or not, were [Yitzhak] Rabin’s assassination and [Ariel] Sharon’s stroke
The Israelis always wanted two things that once it turned out they had, it didn’t seem so appealing to Mr. Netanyahu. They wanted to believe they had a partner for peace in a Palestinian government, and there’s no question — and the Netanyahu government has said — that this is the finest Palestinian government they’ve ever had in the West Bank
Palestinian leaders] have explicitly said on more than one occasion that if [Netanyahu] put up the deal that was offered to them before — my deal — that they would take it.
For reasons that even after all these years I still don’t know for sure, Arafat turned down the deal I put together that Barak accepted. But they also had an Israeli government that was willing to give them East Jerusalem as the capital of the new state of Palestine.
The King of Saudi Arabia started lining up all the Arab countries to say to the Israelis, ‘if you work it out with the Palestinians … we will give you immediately not only recognition but a political, economic, and security partnership.’ This is huge…. It’s a heck of a deal.
Now that they have those things, they don’t seem so important to this current Israeli government, partly because it’s a different country. In the interim, you’ve had all these immigrants coming in from the former Soviet Union, and they have no history in Israel proper, so the traditional claims of the Palestinians have less weight with them.
The most pro-peace Israelis are the Arabs; second the Sabras, the Jewish Israelis that were born there; third, the Ashkenazi of long-standing, the European Jews who came there around the time of Israel’s founding. The most anti-peace are the ultra-religious, who believe they’re supposed to keep Judea and Samaria, and the settler groups, and what you might call the territorialists, the people who just showed up lately and they’re not encumbered by the historical record.
That’s what happened. Every American needs to know this. That’s how we got to where we are. The real cynics believe that the Netanyahu’s government’s continued call for negotiations over borders and such means that he’s just not going to give up the West Bank.
Clinton seems to me to be analyzing, not accusing. He takes into account to very different polities: A dictatorship (at least, that is what Arafat’s P.A. was) versus an evolving, changing democracy. Arafat’s rejection of the Camp David offer still puzzles him because it was essentially Arafat’s decision alone, and Clinton thought he knew Arafat; the Israeli hesitancy today to accomodate Palestinian statehood is less puzzling because it is the result of demographic vicissitudes and how they affect a democracy. Netanyahu is not at fault, no one is at fault: A different Israel voted for Netanyahu than the Israel that voted for Rabin or Sharon. That’s how democracy works.
He outlines what the "real cynics" believe about Netanyahu’s motives, but I wonder what he said about the less cynical — and Clinton has never defined himself as a cynic.