Clinton met with anger and frustration in Israel, Pakistan

Palestinians say Hillary Clinton is 'back-pedaling' after a comment in Israel Sunday, and her 'charm offensive' in Pakistan was dogged by persistent outbursts against US policy there.

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

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    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, speaks as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton listens during a press conference in Jerusalem on Saturday.
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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Israel and Pakistan this week in part put her stamp on two key areas of American foreign policy. Along the way, she is making a lot of people unhappy.

The Palestinian Authority Sunday accused the United States of "back-pedaling" after Secretary Clinton suggested that a full freeze of Israeli activity in settlement areas was no longer a precondition to the resumption of peace talks.

Clinton instead chose to laud Israel for making "unprecedented" concessions toward slowing the rate of expansion within Israeli settlements. The Palestinians have said that they would not return to the negotiating table until all settlement construction was halted – a position backed by the United States until Sunday.

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"The negotiations are in a state of paralysis and the result of Israel's intransigence and America's back-peddling is that there is no hope of negotiations on the horizon," said Nabil Abu Rudeinah, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

This comes on the heels of a contentious trip to Pakistan. Pakistanis had dubbed the three-day trip a "charm offensive" intended to address pervasive anti-American sentiment in Pakistan – born of the pervasive perception that America uses Pakistan only for its own strategic interests.

"We are turning the page on what has been for the past several years primarily a security, anti-terrorist agenda," she told the Associated Press before arriving in Pakistan.

When Clinton arrived, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi added: "This visit of yours will build bridges."

That did not appear to be the case. Instead, in two town halls, she and the Pakistanis questioning her appeared to talk mostly at cross-purposes.

She talked of America's sincere interest in bringing security and prosperity to Pakistan. They invariably grilled her about why the US is using drone aircraft to fire missiles at terrorist targets in tribal areas. The campaign has had some success – killing the leader of the Pakistani Taliban this summer – but Pakistanis say that hundreds civilians have been killed and that the strikes are a violation of national sovereignty.

"As a PR exercise and the creation of an illusion of debate and dialogue, Ms Clinton's recent visit was a triumph of style over content," wrote The News, an English-language Pakistani daily newspaper. "Ms Clinton … was well briefed and had a lawyerly way of answering questions that left you wondering if she had actually answered the question she was asked – or had answered a question she had asked herself unspoken."

Coming out of one town-hall meeting with Clinton, one assistant professor from the Fatima Jinnah Women's University in Rawalpindi told The Monitor: "Frankly, it was a waste of my time. [Clinton] wasn't interested in hearing the about the layman's problems or the reality of our daily lives."

Curiously the comment that seemed to resonate most with Pakistanis was her disbelief at the fact that Pakistani leaders still don't know where Al Qaeda leaders are. "I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn't get them if they really wanted to," she told a group of newspaper editors during a meeting in Lahore.

Noting the exchange, The News said with a touch of admiration: "She occasionally gave a glimpse of the mailed fist inside the velvet glove."

With President Obama assigning special envoys to the Middle East and South Asia, the trip was seen partly as an effort by Clinton to bring her personal touch, hoping that might help progress in these areas, which has been slow.

She finishes the trip with two days in Morocco, where she will meet with several Arab leaders.

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