Discussing the Middle East peace process on ABC’s This Week, host Jake Tapper asked former President Bill Clinton whether he thought it was “time for President Obama to put a peace plan on the table,” as has been reported the administration is considering. Clinton responded that, while he was “reluctant to give him public advice,” if President Obama “decides to do it I will support it”:
CLINTON: Let me answer you this way, because I don’t want to do anything to foreclose their options. The argument against doing that is that the current Israeli government, with its current coalition, would almost certainly reject it. And the argument is that this makes us look weak. But I think they [the Israelis] may decide it’s more important to have clarity. And to do something that may be an action-forcing event that would bring them back to the table, if he [President Obama] decides to do it I will support it. And I think that if he decides to do it he should acknowledge that they may come up with a deal that’s slightly different from the one he proposes. But we need to do something to deprive both sides of any excuse not to engage in serious negotiations.
President Clinton also described how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in addition to driving extremism in the Middle East, tends to crowd out other, more positive developments in the region. “Half of the energy coming out of all this organization and money-raising for terror comes out of the allegations around the unresolved Palestinian issue,” Clinton said. “If there were a Palestinian state working in partnership with the policies Mr. [Salaam] Fayyad is following in the West Bank, it would be a whole different world”:
CLINTON: All the Arabs would identify with Israel, they’d have a political and economic partnership, the whole economic basis of the Middle East would shift from oil to ideas. Look at what the Saudi Arabians are doing, they’re building six new towns. The UAE wins the international competition for the clean energy agency, and they’re gonna build a carbon-neutral city. In the UAE. And nobody thinks about this — Dubai is the only country with huge amounts of imported workers that’s actually passed legislation to give these immigrant workers a better deal in the Middle East, they have women in the government, they have a joint public-private decision making process — nobody knows anything about. Why? Because of the Palestinian-Israeli thing.
How could the Syrians stay out there alone, cooperating with the Iranians and letting Hezbollah people travel through Syria, and doing all the things they do? If there were a peace for the Palestinians, they would have to come along with the rest of the Arab states, and there would be a peace between Israel and Syria. This is a huge deal. So the fact that the president is putting new energy into this and taking personal responsibility for it, and trying to get them back to the table, that’s the most important thing.