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Hillary Clinton Private Speech From 2015 Mentioned Palestinian Rights—Until She Actually Gave It

Wednesday, October 26, 2016 11:30
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  Hillary Clinton delivering a speech to the Saban forum in 2011. (Flickr / CC 2.0)

The “Podesta emails” being released by WikiLeaks continue to illuminate concealed aspects of Hillary Clinton’s policy positions. Recent batches of the emails, originating from the server of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, include segments of speeches—and a few full transcripts—made by the now Democratic presidential nominee to various organizations behind closed doors.

The emails and speeches are being dumped almost daily and shine a light on many of Clinton’s positions—on the environment, foreign policy, big business, health care and more. An email released Tuesday, however, provides an interesting glimpse into the editing of one of Clinton’s many speeches and focuses on a controversial political issue: the U.S. relationship with Israel and Palestine.

The email “reveals that an extensive section on Palestinian rights was completely removed from an early draft of the speech” Clinton delivered on Dec. 6, 2015, at the Saban Forum in Washington, reporter Eli Clifton explains:

Palestinian rights and acknowledgment of their national aspirations are nearly completely lacking from the final version. The speech only made a brief reference to Israeli settlement construction, which Clinton loosely described as a “damaging action.” It also made only one passing, and indirect, acknowledgement of Palestinian suffering, saying, “Israeli children have been killed as have Palestinian children.” …

A Dec. 4, 2015, version of the speech, apparently drafted by Clinton speechwriter Dan [Schwerin], made specific references to Palestinian suffering and right to self-determination. Although holding to the position of the Democratic Party and the Clinton camp that a two-state solution cannot be imposed by outside actors like the United Nations, this earlier version of the speech explicitly mentioned settlement construction as an impediment to the peace process.

The Saban Forum “is organized by the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution” and was created and is currently chaired by billionaire Haim Saban, who has a history of pro-Israel policy. Saban is also co-owner of Univision, which recently purchased Gawker Media Group Inc.

Clifton noted that in another email, Podesta himself suggested a “cut or rework” to a section of the speech that might “evoke how people feel about how Israel is treating the Palestinians,” and Clifton added that Podesta described Saban as “not [being] with [Clinton] if she wasn’t totally committed to Israeli security.”

Podesta was probably referring to this segment of Schwerin’s draft, which was notably absent from the version Clinton ultimately delivered to the Saban Forum:

“Israelis cannot live forever in a state of siege. They must not be condemned to the constant fear that they might be stabbed in the street or attacked on a bus. Generation after generation of parents should not have to send their children off to combat. Israelis deserve security, recognition, and a peaceful, normal life. They deserve to live in a nation defined by its founding ideals—democratic, Jewish, and free.

“And Palestinians have the right to yearn for the freedom to govern themselves, in peace and dignity. For most Americans, it is hard, if not impossible, to imagine living behind checkpoints and roadblocks. Palestinians should be able to achieve their legitimate aspirations.

“So as difficult as this will be, all the parties must work to preserve the possibility of a two-state solution and create the conditions for progress by avoiding unilateral or damaging actions, whether on the ground, in settlement construction, or at the United Nations.”

Neither Clinton, Podesta or Schwerin (who is now Clinton’s director of speechwriting) has commented on the leaked email and speech.

—Posted by Emma Niles

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