WASHINGTON — A former top US diplomat suggested Washington foment Arab Spring-style Palestinian protests as a method of pushing the Israeli leadership into making moves, a new batch of emails from former secretary of state Hillary Clinton shows.
On December 18, 2011, Thomas Pickering, a former US ambassador to Israel who also served as undersecretary of state for political affairs under former president Bill Clinton, emailed Clinton a recommendation to spark Palestinian demonstrations, led by female protesters, to push Jerusalem into talks.
Upon receiving the message, Clinton asked an aide to print it out.
Without detailing how the US would spark these protests, Pickering noted that the US could not be seen to have had a hand in fomenting the rallies, instead suggesting that Washington employ non-governmental groups and third parties to “help.”
Pickering’s proposal, which included parallel protests by Israeli Jews and Arabs, called for the rallies to be female-only as a way to keep the demonstrations from becoming too violent.
“On the Palestinian side the male culture is to use force,” Pickering wrote. “Palestinian men will not for long patiently demonstrate — they will be inclined over time and much too soon to be frustrated and use force. Their male culture comes close to requiring it.”
The demonstrations within Israel proper, Pickering insisted, must also be driven exclusively by women.
“If the Palestinians see men engaged they will jump in and the soldiers of the IDF will sooner or later use force,” he wrote. “This comes from several former senior Israeli military officers I have spoken with. The soldiers are fearful, nervous, outnumbered, insecure and brought up on a severe distrust of Palestinian males whom almost all of them have never spoken to except at roadblocks.”
Pickering said the Palestinian leadership was willing to go along with the idea, and the use of females could “counteract” fears that protests could get out of hand and endanger Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s rule in Ramallah.
“They must develop growth and momentum, just like Tahrir Square, and attract more women to participate and thus gain world attention,” he wrote. “Their leadership has shied away from this idea because they can’t control it; they too are afraid of being replaced by a Tahrir Square style action.”
Citing a need to see “a game changer in the region,” Pickering described Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the impediment to reaching a two-state accommodation.
“Netanyahu is not going to move for anything that the Palestinians can offer him which they can deliver,” he wrote. “He cannot deliver anything the Palestinians can accept without our help. He is much more satisfied with the status quo than with the risks of change.”
“What will change the situation is a major effort to use non-violent protests and demonstrations to put peace back in the center of people’s aspirations as well as their thoughts,” Pickering added, “and use that to influence the political leadership. This is far from a sure thing, but far, in my humble view, from hopeless.”
Clinton’s foreign policy adviser Laura Rosenberger told The Times of Israel later on Tuesday: “To be clear, Hillary Clinton never considered any plan of this sort. Period.”
Pickering’s email was unveiled after the State Department released just under 3,000 more pages of Clinton’s emails last Thursday night, which included 66 that were deemed classified.
According to the State Department, however, those emails were not marked as classified at the time they were sent.
Since March 2015, when it was discovered that Clinton used her family’s private email server for official State Department communications, she has maintained that, as secretary of state, she neither sent nor received such emails on her personal account.
Clinton also received an email, on September 28, 2010, from former State Department director of Policy Planning Anne Marie Slaughter proposing the launch of a “Pledge for Palestine” campaign that would emulate Warren Buffett’s “The Giving Pledge,” an effort that encourages wealthy people to donate to charitable causes.
Nearing the end of Netanyahu’s 10-month settlement freeze, launched in November 2009, Slaughter suggested the campaign could shame Israel into supporting and advancing Palestinian statehood.
“Such a campaign among billionaires/multi-millionaires around the world would reflect a strong vote of confidence in the building of a Palestinian state and could offset the ending of the moratorium for Palestinians,” she wrote. “There would be a certain shaming effect [regarding] Israelis, who would be building settlements in the face of the pledge for peace.”
Upon receiving this email, which was also sent to Cheryl Mills and long-time Clinton advisers Huma Abedin and Jake Sullivan, Clinton responded to Slaughter, “I am very interested–pls flesh out. Thx.”
Slaughter, now the president and CEO of the New America Foundation, a Washington-based think tank, recommended that by “tapping into the Clinton fundraising network it should be possible to generate a substantial … amount quickly enough to capture the public imagination” and to “serve as an expression of global solidarity with the Palestinians.”
She also stressed that making “a meaningful promise of material improvements for Palestinians on the West Bank” could “significantly bolster Abbas in a way that could help him stay in the talks.”
“This is what diplomacy beyond the state should mean,” she added.