Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will make her first visit to Israel next week. “The centerpiece of the secretary of state’s tour, announced Thursday by the State Department, will be a March 2 fund-raising conference for the Palestinians in Egypt.” The United States is expected to pledge $900 million to rebuild the Gaza Strip after the recent devastation to the area caused by Israeli aerial attacks.
The Obama administration is pushing hard to convince Israel to allow more humanitarian aid trucks through the Gaza crossings. Haaretz reports, “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has relayed messages to Israel in the past week expressing anger at obstacles Israel is placing to the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.” Senior U.S. officials told Israeli counterparts last week that “Israel is not making enough effort to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza,” a sentiment likely to be echoed by Middle East Envoy George Mitchell ahead of Clinton’s visit.
Right-wing Jewish leaders are reacting with outrage here in the United States. CBS News reports that Mort Zuckerman, who was a prominent cheerleader for the Iraq war, is leading the charge against Clinton:
“I am very surprised, frankly, at this statement from the United States government and from the secretary of state,” said Mortimer Zuckerman, publisher of the New York Daily News and member of the NYC Jewish Community Relations Council. … “I don’t believe that we should be in a position at this point to do anything to strengthen Hamas,” Zuckerman said. “We surely know what Hamas stands for as I say they are the forward battalions of Iran.”
New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who opposed Israel’s disengagement from Gaza, added, “I liked her a lot more as a senator from New York. … Now, I wonder as I used to wonder who the real Hillary Clinton is.”
The reality in Israel and Palestine is that economic damages are piling up on both sides of the border as goods have been unable to pass through. As former congressman Lee Hamilton told Middle East Progress recently, “The immediate challenge of course with regards to the Palestinians requires a massive aid effort.” The Obama administration is stepping up to meet the challenge, and the fact that right-wing is so opposed to it surely indicates we are finally correcting course in the Middle East.