Notwithstanding the concerns some pro-Israel supporters have expressed in recent days about the tone of her statements, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has gone about the business of being a forceful diplomat, promising yesterday to engage in "aggressive diplomacy with all sides" in the Middle East to ease humanitarian suffering in Gaza.
Today, in her first remarks after meeting with Israeli president Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, she provided something more like what New Yorkers became accustomed to during her time as senator: an unequivocal statement in defense of Israel's right to respond to Hamas rocket attacks.
"The continued rocket attacks against Israel must cease," she said. "I don't, like Shimon, understand the provocation that Hamas is determined to present. But on behalf of the people who are in Gaza, these rocket attacks are cynical, and as I pointed out yesterday, there is no doubt that any nation, including Israel, cannot stand idly by while its territory and people are subjected to rocket attacks."
The statement itself is fairly standard, and certainly isn't inconsistent with the idea that she might still lean on the incoming right-wing government of Israel to cooperate with American efforts to broker some sort of arrangement with the Palestinians. The real test of whether Clinton will pressure Israel on controversial issues like opening the Gaza border crossings will likely come after her talks with incoming government officials, especially Benjamin Netanyahu.
During her closing remarks at the Gaza Reconstruction Convention in Egypt yesterday she talked about the roughly $900 million in aid the U.S. had provided to Gaza and said, "The United States is prepared to engage in aggressive diplomacy with all sides in pursuit of a comprehensive settlement that brings peace and security to Israel, the Palestinians, and their Arab neighbors."
Of the suffering in Gaza, she said yesterday, "This is about what happens to the children in Gaza and the West Bank. I got into politics because I care deeply about what happens to children. I could never have imagined that I'd be sitting here as the United States secretary of state. My work has always been about how to give children a better chance to live up to their God-given potential.
"A child in Gaza has the same right as a child anywhere in the world to a good education, to health care, and to a better future. Parents in the West Bank have the same right as parents anywhere in the world to a good job, to housing, to a better opportunity for their children."