Middle East peace: Clinton facing crucial test

Washington, Sep.5 (ANI): U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton faces a crucial test with the proposed resumption of Middle East peace talks.

According to the New York Times, Clinton will be in the thick of the negotiations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas when they meet on September 14 in Egypt.

Her role, several officials say, will be to take over from the administration's special envoy, George J. Mitchell, when the two sides run into serious obstacles.

It may prove the greatest test yet for Clinton, one that could cement her legacy as a diplomat if she solves the riddle that foiled even her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

But it could also pose considerable risks to any political ambitions she may harbor.

"I understand very well the disappointments of the past; I share them," she said in convening the talks, an allusion to Mr. Clinton's failed effort to broker a deal, most vividly at Camp David in 2000, when peace seemed tantalizingly close only to vanish amid recriminations in the Maryland mountains.

"One of the best indications that this could succeed is that Hillary Clinton is willing to get involved," said Stephen J. Hadley, who served as national security adviser to President George W. Bush.

He added: "Because that makes me think two things: She thinks it's possible and, because she is as skilled as she is, it increases the likelihood of success."

Among the many hurdles that Clinton will face is the often tense relationship that this administration has had with Israel.

Obama is viewed with distrust by many in Israel and among some Jewish groups at home, where his outreach to the Muslim world and public criticism of Israeli policies have been denounced by some critics as anti-Israel.

Clinton, on the other hand, has preserved her own credibility among these groups, analysts said, which will make her perhaps the administration's most effective salesperson for the peace process.

She also has a politician's feel for Netanyahu, her aides say, which could help her push him to make hard choices, provided she is willing.

Some Middle East experts have asked whether Clinton has the negotiating grit to keep both men at the table - the mysterious combination of bluster, theatrics, hand-holding and guile that secretaries of state, like Henry A. Kissinger and James A. Baker III, have deployed to forge agreements between Arabs and Israelis.

Aaron David Miller, who worked on peace negotiations in the Clinton administration, said: "She's plenty tough, tougher than her husband, but does she have a negotiator's mind-set?

Some analysts say Clinton's few trips to Israel and her delegation of negotiating duties to Mr. Mitchell speak of her caution.

"She has sensed this is a dog, and wanted to stay away from it," Miller said.ut others say it makes sense for her to hold her political capital in reserve until the prospects for talks ripened. (ANI)

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