It reminds us of the old joke: "Why doesn't Bill stay home, and just let her be the President" It is difficult to see this as "a slip of the lip" !

Hillary Clinton says Palestinians deserve an independent state


NEW YORK (May 8) - Stepping away from the official US position, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton told a group of Israeli and Arab youths that she supports the eventual creation of an independent Palestinian state.

In remarks released yesterday by US officials, Clinton said: "I think it will be in the long-term interests of the Middle East for Palestine to be a state, and for it to be a state that is responsible for its citizens' well-being ... a state that has to accept the responsibility of governing."

"I think that is very important for the Palestinian people, but I also think it is very important for the broader goal of peace in the Middle East," Clinton added.

The remarks were made Wednesday during a question-and-answer session to a gathering of 75 Arab and Israeli youths in Villars, Switzerland. Clinton spoke via satellite from Washington.

They prompted measured expressions of concern among Israeli officials and American Jewish leaders, with the latter questioning Clinton's timing and motives.

Both the White House and State Department denied yesterday that Clinton was breaking new ground in US policy on a Palestinian state, saying that she was merely expressing her own opinion.

"That view expressed personally by the First Lady is not the view of the president" and is "not part of any kind of calculated strategy," White House press secretary Mike McCurry told reporters.

In Jerusalem, Foreign Ministry spokesman Aviv Shir-On said he had taken heard the disclaimer. However, he added: "It is important for Mrs. Clinton to know that many Israelis regard an independent Palestinian state as a danger to the State of Israel."

In New York, Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said that "it is unfortunate that Mrs. Clinton's comments came at a sensitive stage of the negotiating process.

"While we appreciate the administration's dissociating itself from these comments, they certainly will raise questions about whether this constitutes a shift in policy, a tactical decision or an off-the-cuff remark that runs counter to long-established policy," he said.

Mel Salberg, chairman of the President's Conference, termed Clinton's remark " an unfortunate statement at this delicate time."

"For the First Lady to make this kind of statement could have a significant impact," Salberg said.

Twenty-four Israeli high school students joined Palestinian, Jordanian, Egyptian and American teenagers at the conference, called the Middle East Youth Summit, organized by the Washington-based Seeds for Peace Organization.

Clinton urged the young people to exercise caution during their military service.

While countries must defend themselves, she said, "I think it is very important to always ask yourselves, 'Is what I am being asked to do honest and right and ethical?'"

For the last week, the youths have been meeting in the Swiss resort to develop a "Charter of Villars," which was expected to be a set of principles for Middle East peace.

The charter, which was scheduled to be completed last night, will be distributed to government leaders in the Middle East, and to the US and UN, a spokeswoman for the conference said.

The conference also hosted dignitaries from the region, including former prime minister Shimon Peres, coalition chairman MK Meir Sheetrit (Likud), Palestinian Minister Saeb Erekat and Jordan's Queen Noor.

© The Jerusalem Post

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