Hillary Rodham Clinton Addresses AJC on Iran, Israeli-Palestinian Talks

Hillary Rodham Clinton Addresses AJC on Iran, Israeli-Palestinian Talks

May 15, 2014—Washington—Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the AJC Global Forum that "no deal is better than a bad deal" regarding current negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program.

Speaking before an audience of more than 2,000 people from 70 countries gathered for AJC’s signature annual event and thousands more via live webcast, Clinton discussed Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, both of which she dealt with as Secretary of State, as examples of the kind of “hard choices”—the name of her new book—that diplomats face. “Making policy at the highest levels is always a balancing act,” she said.

Iran, Clinton recalled, was rapidly expanding its quest for nuclear capability when she took the helm of the State Department. She described how the Obama Administration decided to “tear up the old playbook” and devise a two-track policy, engaging with Tehran and holding out the promise of better relations, but at the same time applying economic pressure through the use of sanctions. This, she said, placed the burden of “hard choices” on the Iranian leadership, since rejection of the American offer of cooperation would demonstrate to the world that Iran, not the West, was at fault. “That is, more or less, what happened,” she said, and even Russia and China, which at first were reluctant to confront Iran, voted in the UN Security Council for “some of the toughest multilateral sanctions ever.”

Those sanctions, together with additional ones imposed by the U.S. and the EU, “cut Iran off from global commerce,” and its oil exports dropped by more than half. And they had the desired political effect. In 2013, said Clinton, the Iranian people responded by electing Hassan Rouhani—who had said the sanctions were responsible for Iran’s problems—as president, and Iran had “no choice but to return to the negotiating table.” She said that the current negotiations on a permanent deal would test if Iran was serious about an accommodation with the West, and expressed her own skepticism. The United States, she said, “will have to be tough, clear-eyed and ready to walk away and increase the pressure if need be.” If the talks fail, Clinton noted, “Every option remains on the table.”

Referring to the stalled talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the former Secretary of State observed that “the parties were not ready to make the choices and compromises necessary to reach agreement on core issues,” even though it was “no mystery” what a peace agreement would look like. She considered the new cooperative arrangement between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas a blow to peace, and insisted that Hamas would remain a “pariah” until it renounced violence, recognized Israel, and accepted all existing agreements.

Noting the close defense cooperation between Israel and the U.S., Clinton stressed “the friendship and partnership between the United States and Israel,” adding that she is “proud to have done my part to keep our relationship rock-solid over the years.” She called Israel “a dream nurtured for generations and made real by men and women who refused to bow to the toughest of all odds.”

Clinton, who said she had “long admired the leadership and the tireless advocacy of the American Jewish Committee” and praised its “clear moral voice,” has addressed the AJC Global Forum on three previous occasions—as First Lady, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State.