If there is one Palestinian outreach event on the Washington calendar that the city’s establishment is likely to attend, a senior Hill staffer told me earlier this week, it’s the annual gala of the American Task Force on Palestine, a seven-year-old group that advocates for a two-state solution. Last night’s event proved the point: The $250-a-plate dinner, at the Ritz-Carlton in Foggy Bottom, was headlined by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and boasted an illustrious host committee headed by one of her predecessors, Madeleine Albright, and including a bipartisan roster of foreign-policy heavy-hitters like Sen. John Kerry and former Bush National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley.
In her remarks, which came right at the start of the evening, Clinton reiterated the administration’s “rock-solid and unwavering” commitment to Israel, before affirming equal support for a Palestinian state “based on 1967 lines, with agreed swaps.” There was applause on the first as well as the second count, and not just from the table full of attendees from Jewish groups—a tally that included J Street’s chief policy strategist Hadar Susskind, former AIPAC spokesman Josh Block, and Israel Project head Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi. Clinton went on to discuss the growth of the de facto Palestinian state and economy over the past two years, and cheerfully congratulated the crowd on the success (which some dispute) of Palestinian state-building. “Today, although Palestinians still have many obstacles to overcome, it is easier than ever to envision an independent Palestine able to govern itself, uphold its responsibilities to provide for its own people, and ensure security,” Clinton said.
What she didn’t explicitly say is that it is so easy to envision a Palestinian state, in fact, that the West Bank’s Palestinian leadership is actually discussing plans, bruited off and on since last year, to petition the United Nations and other international bodies for non-negotiated recognition. The Israelis are in turn pushing the Obama administration to take a public stance against the possibility of Ramallah making an end run around the Oslo Accords—which hasn’t been forthcoming.
Clinton made clear that the administration is still working toward the resumption of negotiations, including sending envoy George Mitchell back to Jerusalem and Ramallah for another round shuttle diplomacy, and asserted that “there is no substitute for face-to-face discussion and, ultimately, for an agreement that leads to a just and lasting peace.” But she also commended the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah for its attention to state-building and economic development, and cited the World Bank’s recent assessment of the situation on the ground: “if the Palestinian Authority maintains its momentum in building institutions and delivering public services, it is, and I quote, ‘Well-positioned for the establishment of a state at any point in the near future.’”