In appointing Hillary to Secretary of State, Obama has made not only a clever political maneuver, but probably the least bad decision possible, at least as far as Israel is concerned. During the election, Obama's paying homage to Jimmy "Israel is Apartheid" Carter and seeking advice from Zbigniew Brzezinski on the middle east was enough to cause any lover of Jewish political freedom in Israel to break a cold sweat.
Hillary, on the other hand, is a known quantity. Sure, there was the time she hugged Suha Arafat immediately after one of Suha's anti-Semitic tirades. I don't think Hillary actually believed Suha's rehash of medieval accusations that Jews poison wells and the like; she was merely doing the smart thing rather than the right thing. And let's remember, Suha's husband Yasser said and did far worse and still received kisses on the cheek from Israeli Prime Ministers. The main thing I like about Hillary is that, despite her failure in this election, no ego that big sits still for eight years. She is running for President in 2016, age or no, and she will need to avoid alienating her Jewish supporters.
Let's be clear; this will be no Bush administration. No more friendly Whitehouse meetings with the latest Israeli Prime Minister, both pretending to care about the lack of a 23rd Islamic Arab state called "Palestine" for the press while dealing with adult issues like Iran and Al Quaida behind closed doors. For eight years, under Bush, the Democratic party has complained of his squandering the goodwill of the world the United States received by the death of over 3,000 civilians on September 11th, or of having alienated anonymous moderate Muslims by passing moral value judgments about America's adversaries. The new focus on America's "image abroad," rather than achievement, is worrisome because a clash of interests is coming.
America's European allies share none of America's sympathy for Israel's predicament. Europe views Jewish political independence not only as annoyingly cumbersome in disrupting relations with their Arab suppliers of energy, but also as enraging to the surging Islamic minorities gestating within their own borders. In Europe you don't need to be a classical anti-Semite to want to see Israel wiped off the map, a realistic assessment of your own self-interest will do. Hence, every time Bush visits Europe he is hounded by dignitaries and world leaders exasperatedly imploring him to please "do something" about the Middle East. "Something" always boils down to accelerating the destruction of Jewish villages, sanitized as "Settlement Dismantling," or lowering Israel's defenses by removing life-saving checkpoints, sanitized as "Easing Up Restrictions."
The real clash of interests will come when Obama's promise to support Israel's freedom clashes with improving America's image abroad. President Clinton's response was to sidestep the issue by having an all too willing Israel feed the alligator of the Palestinian Authority, arguing that supplying them with land, weapons, and vast sums of cash was in Israel's interest. Now that this method has been discredited, and Hillary's husband's foreign policy legacy is forever tarnished by this failure, I have hope she will have learned. I don't have faith in Hillary to do the right thing, but I do have some hope she will do the smart thing, and perhaps give Obama a moment of pause before opting for image over substance.