Hillary's Middle East Understanding, and Mickey's Dissent

Mickey Kaus criticizes me (and derivatively, Andrew) for talking up Hillary Clinton, in particular her Middle East expertise. He argues that the statement I quote is an "unremarkable politician's statement that either tells Goldberg what he wants to hear or makes Hillary someone Goldberg might like to promote for either political or beat-sweetening reasons." The relevant statement, by the way, is this: "You do not get people into a process... unless the other side knows that your commitment to Israel is unshakable."  Mickey asks: "Does it reflect Hillary's 'uncommon knowledge'?"

I plead guilty to the charge of political promotion (though not to "beat-sweetening")  -- I would like to see Hillary as secretary of state because I think she's best-equipped (especially considering the group of putative finalists, Kerry, Richardson, Hagel, for the job) to engineer the comprehensive peace plan that I (and Scowcroft and Brzezinski!) believe is absolutely necessary right now, because at some indeterminate time in the very near future, it will be too late. I think Hillary's insight here -- one that Brzezinski doesn't share,  I think -- is that this comprehensive peace will come about when the Arab side understands clearly that America has red lines of its own. The Palestinians suffer sometimes from the irrational hope that America's support for Israel is mutable, and that the key to success is to bring about direct American pressure on Israel. This won't happen for any number of reasons, and I think Hillary Clinton understands that American pressure will only encourage Israeli politicians to descend into the bunker.

The new secretary of state should plan on giving two speeches almost right away: One to the Palestinian parliament (or even better, to the Arab League) explaining exactly why most Americans tend to side with Israel. It should be, in essence, a speech that justifies the original Zionist idea. Then, the secretary of state should speak to the Israeli Knesset, and lay out, in very clear terms, the U.S. vision for Israel's borders, and talk very specifically about the need to bring about the end of the settlement project, and the birth of a viable Palestinian state -- and to speak of that birth as a direct American national security interest (and a direct national security interest of the State of Israel). Neither speech will be popular, of course, which is the point. But the hope is that these speeches, which would lay out in very specific terms the way things must be to ensure the survival of both the Israelis and the Palestinians, will shock the two peoples into an awareness of reality. Hillary Clinton, based on what she's said and done so far, understands this issue better than most anyone, and I think she is smart, savvy and energetic enough to, just maybe, pull this off.