Last week, after the State Department released nearly 3,000 pages of Clinton’s emails from her tenure as secretary of state from 2009 till 2013, it came to light that former State Department Director of Policy Planning Anne Marie Slaughter emailed then-secretary Clinton to propose the launch of a “Pledge for Palestine” campaign modeled after Warren Buffett’s “The Giving Pledge,” which encourages wealthy individuals to donate to charitable causes.
In her email, sent on September 28, 2010, Slaughter said that such a campaign would shame Israelis into supporting Palestinian statehood and halting settlement construction in the West Bank.
Coming near the end of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 10-month settlement freeze, which began in November 2009, Slaughter insisted that “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 added, “There would be a certain shaming effect [regarding] Israelis, who would be building settlements in the face of the pledge for peace.”
Slaughter, now the president and CEO of the New America Foundation, a Washington-based think tank, also stressed that making “a meaningful promise of material improvements for Palestinians on the West Bank” could “significantly bolster [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas in a way that could help him stay in the talks.”
After receiving the message, which was also sent to three other aides, Clinton responded to Slaughter, “I am very interested–pls flesh out. Thx.”
Bush’s campaign responded by calling Slaughter’s idea “a colossally stupid and vile policy” that reflects the fissures that have emerged between Washington and Jerusalem over the past seven years.
“Anne Marie Slaughter’s proposal to ‘shame’ Israel into changing its policies is emblematic of the significant erosion of trust that has taken place in the US-Israel relationship under Obama and Clinton’s tenure,” Bush campaign spokesperson Allie Bradenburger told The Times of Israel.
But not everyone believes that Clinton’s response necessarily indicates she was interested in the suggestion, or at least the part of it designed to have a “shaming effect” on Israelis.
Veteran US diplomat and former Middle East peace negotiator Dennis Ross — who served as a special adviser to Clinton while she was secretary of state — doubts she seriously considered an idea to embarrass Israel.
“I would be surprised if she was responding to shaming the Israelis. I think she would have been responding more to how you could get this kind of help from the outside for material investments going into the Palestinian Authority,” Ross told The Times of Israel. “In all my contacts and discussions with her, I never heard her say anything like that or embrace any concept like that. Quite the opposite. She was mindful that when you created public differences with the Israelis, it actually encouraged Israel’s enemies and made the Palestinians dig in.”
More likely, Ross asserted, Clinton was responding to an idea to spur economic growth in the West Bank and improve the quality of life for Palestinians — a consistent policy of US administrations since the 1980s.
“I obviously spent a lot of time with her on these issues, both when I was at the State Department and when I was at the White House, and I have a pretty good sense of what her attitudes were. What would have attracted her to this kind of idea was putting real moneys into the developmental, educational and infrastructural needs of Palestinians,” he said. “Because we were constantly talking about what more could we be doing to make the Palestinian Authority and the economy more viable, what more could we be doing to give Palestinians a sense of possibility both politically and economically.
“I doubt seriously that she would be interested in this notion of wanting to shame the Israelis. My guess is she probably just dismissed that,” he added.
Likewise, Aaron David Miller, a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center who served under six secretaries of state in both Republican and Democratic administrations, was skeptical over the prospect that Clinton wanted to “shame the Israelis.” He was also dubious that the former secretary actually contemplated such a plan.
“I just can’t imagine she would be remotely interested in anything close to Anne Marie Slaughter’s proposal,” he told The Times of Israel. “I mean, she sent a short email back saying ‘Let’s discuss,’ which strikes me as a polite way of saying, ‘I’m not interested.’ It’s one step removed from just sending the message into the trash bin.”
Miller, who worked as a Middle Peace negotiator during the administration of President Bill Clinton, said the former secretary would have likely recognized the proposal as “not only potentially embarrassing but harmful.”
“She’s a Clinton. And while she’s not Bill Clinton, she has the kind of sensitivity and political smarts to steer clear of that form of intervention in Israeli politics, or assume that some sort of ‘Pledge for Palestine’ campaign is likely to shame the Israelis or create an incentive to get them back into negotiations,” he said. “Because that makes absolutely no sense.”