Bill and Hillary disagree on Netanyahu? Not so much

Ron Kampeas

Former President Bill Clinton and his wife former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton attend the 37th Harkin Steak Fry, Sept. 14, 2014 in Indianola, Iowa. (Steve Pope/Getty Images)

Former President Bill Clinton and his wife former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton attend the 37th Harkin Steak Fry, Sept. 14, 2014 in Indianola, Iowa. (Steve Pope/Getty Images)

Politico and Haaretz have seized on C-Span video from Iowa that they claim suggests Bill and Hillary Clinton diverge on how ready Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is for peace.

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Hillary Rodham Clinton appears to be stumping for an as yet unannounced presidential bid in the first caucus state, and the video shows Bill Clinton working a line on Sunday.

Clinton twice agrees with a man who says that “If we don’t force [Netanyahu] to have peace, we won’t have peace” and that Netanyahu is “not the guy” to make peace.

The newspapers contrast Bill’s seeming agreement with his interlocutor that Netanyahu needs to be “forced” to make peace with Hillary’s praise for Netanyahu in an interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg.

But there is really no disagreement; Politico omits and Haaretz buries Bill Clinton’s broader point: The Palestinians reaped what they sowed with Netanyahu:

From the Haaretz transcript of the video:

PRO-PALESTINIAN ACTIVIST: “If we don’t force him to have peace, we won’t have peace.”

CLINTON: First of all, I agree with that. But in 2000, [then Prime Minister] Ehud Barak, I got him to agree to something I’m not sure I would have gotten Rabin to agree to, and Rabin was murdered for giving land to the Palestinians.

ACTIVIST: I agree. But Netanyahu is not the guy.

CLINTON: I agree with that, but they [the Palestinians] would have gotten 96 percent of the West Bank, land swaps in Gaza, appropriate water rights and East Jerusalem, something that hasn’t even been discussed since I left office. And by the way, don’t forget, both [former Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat and [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas later said they would take it “we changed our minds, we’ll take it now” but by then the Israeli government wouldn’t give it to them.

Now compare that to what Hillary Clinton told Goldberg: She makes the same point as her husband, that the Palestinians missed opportunities and that Netanyahu has shifted position, contextualizes it in U.S. brokered talks.

HRC: Let’s step back. First of all, Yitzhak Rabin was prepared to do so much and he was murdered for that belief. And then [former Israeli Prime Minister] Ehud Barak offered everything you could imagine being given under any realistic scenario to the Palestinians for their state, and Arafat walked away. I don’t care about the revisionist history. I know that Arafat walked away, okay? Everybody says, “American needs to say something.” Well, we said it, it was the Clinton parameters, we put it out there, and Bill Clinton is adored in Israel, as you know. He got Netanyahu to give up territory, which Netanyahu believes lost him the prime ministership [in his first term], but he moved in that direction, as hard as it was.

I had the last face-to-face negotiations between Abbas and Netanyahu. [Secretary of State John] Kerry never got there. I had them in the room three times with [former Middle East negotiator] George Mitchell and me, and that was it. And I saw Netanyahu move from being against the two-state solution to announcing his support for it, to considering all kinds of Barak-like options, way far from what he is, and what he is comfortable with.

So Hillary Clinton says that Bill Clinton “got” Netanyahu to give up territory in the late 1990s and that he was “way far” from the two-state solution when he embraced it during her stint as secretary of state, and that he was not comfortable it.

That’s not quite “forcing” Netanyahu, but then that was the word Bill Clinton’s interlocutor chose — and his agreement with it is not inconsistent with Hillary Clinton’s version.

Ron Kampeas is JTA’s Washington bureau chief. Follow him on Twitter at @kampeas