High-level diplomacy is a carefully stage-managed affair. Under normal circumstances, the public doesn’t get to see how the sausage is made in places like the U.S. State Department, as the more outlandish ideas pitched to and rejected by world leaders wait to be immortalized in the history books, if ever.
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But presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s unfortunate decision to maintain a private email address while she served as President Barack Obama’s Secretary of State from 2009-2013 changed the rules of the game. In March 2015 it became publicly known that Clinton exclusively used her family's private email server for her official email communications, the fall-out has meant that the State Department has released more than 40,000 pages of her communications from that server in response to various Freedom of Information Act requests.
When it comes to Israel, candidate Clinton’s public statements have always been particularly carefully crafted, walking a tightrope between strong supporters of Israel among her major donors, and the current White House’s chilly relationship with Jerusalem. An Israel-friendly stance has been laid out in Op-Eds like the one from January in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal “Taking the US-Israel to the Next Level,” or as published in The Forward in November, “How I Would Reaffirm Unbreakable Bond With Israel — and Benjamin Netanyahu.”
But three- and four-year-old emails from the Clinton private server have opened a window into advice her close aides fed her when when she was in office, and is giving ammunition to opponents who do their best to paint her as hostile to Israel, based on the company she keeps and some of the suggestions that were thrown her way.
The newest missives to raise eyebrows were contained in the recent email dump, released last week and spotted and highlighted by the neo-conservative Washington Free Beacon.
The first is an email from former career diplomat and US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Pickering sent in December 2011 which proposes that the US somehow surreptitiously back a widespread Palestinian protest movement.
Even Pickering described a women-led non-violent Gandhi-style revolution “too far out” - but apparently, he decided to pitch it anyway. Using a borderline racist description of Palestinians, he suggests that “a major effort to use non-violent protests and demonstrations needs to be female-led.”
“Women can and ought to be at the center of these demonstrations. Many men and others will denigrate the idea ... It must be all and only women. Why? On the Palestinian side the male culture is to use force. Bedouins were for years tribal raiders and bride stealers from other tribes. It defined the male being and the Arabs invented 'macho'. 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 U.S. involvement, he stresses, must be undetectable: “The United States, in my view, cannot be seen to have stimulated, encouraged or be the power behind it for reasons you will understand better than anyone.”
Another out-of-the-box idea came from Anne-Marie Slaughter, who, unlike Pickering, was an active member of Clinton’s staff at the time, working as director of Policy Planning in the State Department. In a September 28, 2010 Email, Slaughter suggests that the State Department consider creating a "Pledge for Palestine" campaign based on billionaire Warren Buffet's "Giving Pledge" in which wealthy individuals and families would publically pledge support to a Palestinian charity as a way to encourage the Palestinians to stay at the negotiating table.
Slaughter argued that “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 (there would also be a certain shaming effect re Israelis, who would be building settlements in the face of a pledge for peace). With even 30 calls to the right people in the Clinton fundraising network it should be possible to generate a substantial enough amount quickly enough  to serve as an expression of global solidarity with the Palestinians and but also a meaningful promise of material improvements for Palestinians on the West Bank. That could significantly bolster Abbas in a way that could help him stay in the talks.”
Slaughter precedes her pitch with “This may be a crazy idea, but as far as we can tell we need ideas.” Clinton - at least in writing, did not shoot it down as crazy. When she received it, she responded to Slaughter: “I am very interested - please flesh out.” But obviously, nothing ever came of the idea.
Clinton’s reaction to Pickering was harder to interpret - the only response was an instruction to her staff to print it out. Her reaction was slammed in the right-wing journal Front Page in a piece not very subtly headlined: "Hillary’s Emails: Hating Israel." Regarding Pickering’s missive, the author wrote, “One would think that Hillary would have dismissed such an outrageous suggestion outright but instead, she ordered an aide to print the email providing keen insight into the extent of Clinton’s disdain for the Jewish State.”
The latest round of emails has stepped up the ire aimed at Clinton’s association with Sidney Blumenthal, the journalist-turned-advisor, who was not in the State Department, but received consultancy fees from the Clinton Foundation. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, a friend and associate of Republican kingmaker and Netanyahu backer Sheldon Adelson has been using social media to attempt to crowd-source funds to run an anti-Clinton ad in the New York Times, writing: “Friends, I urgently need your help to raise $37,500 to place a full-page ad in The New York Times and call on Mrs. Clinton to disassociate herself from Sid and Max Blumenthal.”
Before the emails were unearthed, it was a stretch for Boteach and his ilk to draw a line from Max Blumenthal, a controversial anti-Zionist author and journalist and activist hostile to Israel - to his father Sidney - and through to the Clintons.
But the emails supplied potent ammunition by revealing that Blumenthal, a proud father, frequently sent his son’s work to the Secretary of State - not always, but frequently about Israel. Clinton responds approvingly at various junctures, calling Max’s work “interesting reading” or “a very smart piece – as usual” or “Pls congratulate Max for another impressive piece. He’s so good.”
Interpreting her approbation for Blumenthal’s son’s work as an endorsement of his views rather than friendly support for her friend’s pride in his son’s accomplishment has provided an opening for those who want to undermine her candidacy with Israel supporters.
So far, Hillary, hasn’t taken the bait, and it doesn’t seem likely she will deem it necessary during primary season, whether or not Boteach pulls together the funds for his desired New York Times ad. Whether she can ignore the email scandal fallout if she wins the nomination - should a Republican opponent for the presidency use it as strategic weapon against her - has yet to be seen.