So far so good for Clinton on the Middle East

So far so good for Clinton on the Middle East

By Michael Singh

Recently, I discussed the importance of the U.S. and its allies continuing to shun Hamas. In her comments after meeting with peace envoy Sen. George Mitchell, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made clear that the U.S. would do just that, maintaining the Bush administration’s stance against engaging with Hamas until it fulfills the so-called "Quartet conditions."  Specifically, she said:

[W]e have a very clear policy toward Hamas, and Hamas knows the conditions that have been set forth. They must renounce violence. They must recognize Israel. And they must agree to abide by prior agreements that were entered into by the Palestinian Authority.

We are just at the beginning of this deep and consistent engagement that we are part of, that Senator Mitchell is leading for our Administration, but our conditions with respect to Hamas have not and will not change."

Given the speculation to this point over whether the new administration would talk to Hamas, this is the most important detail to emerge thus far on how they will approach the peace process. They are to be commended for it. 

Having articulated what they will not do, however, they now must lay out a vision for what they will do. Clinton’s remarks are titled, "Toward a Negotiated Agreement," but it is vital to recognize that negotiations are only one element of the peace process. Unless the negotiations are accompanied by a serious effort to improve security for both Israelis and Palestinians, build accountable Palestinian political and economic institutions, and promote regional cooperation, there is little chance that they will succeed.    

As I have previously noted, the success of this sort of comprehensive effort will depend in large part on the involvement of neighboring states.  Fortunately, the foreign ministers of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Tunisia, and Morocco recently issued a strong statement backing the Palestinian Authority and the peace process more generally.  Iran and its proxies through their actions are unwittingly galvanizing this ad hoc coalition. It is now up to the U.S. to capitalize.