Former US President Bill Clinton responded to a heckler at a recent event while campaigning for his wife, saying: “I killed myself to give the Palestinians a state. I had a deal they turned down”. He was referring to the failed 2000 Camp David peace talks he brokered between Israel and the Palestinians, thus putting the blame for the failure squarely in the Palestinian camp.
Ever since Clinton made this comment, Israeli (and Jewish) media and internet sites have quoted and re-quoted Clinton countless times, declaring this is proof – finally! – that the Palestinians are the bad guys in this story. Right-wing internet magazine Mida wrote: “16 years later, the truth is exposed“. Leading newspaper Yediot Aharonot labeled it “Clinton’s Zionist speech“. And these are just two examples.
The truth of the matter is that this is non-news. Clinton said many times in the past that the Palestinians were to blame. In a statement issued when Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died, Clinton wrote: “I regret that in 2000 he missed the opportunity to bring that nation into being“. In his memoir “My Life”, Clinton wrote that he responded to Arafat who called him a great man, saying: “I am not a great man. I am a failure, and you made me one”. And not only Clinton. His key negotiator at the time, Dennis Ross, repeatedly wrote and said that the Palestinians are to blame for the failure of the peace talks.
So why are Israelis so excited about Clinton’s offhand comment this week? Why do they laud this comment as “proof” when it’s already been stated so many times in the past?
In my mind, this is all a sign of insecurity. Somewhat paradoxically for a nation that prides itself for inventing chutzhpah and for being overtly confident about everything and anything, this “we told you so” frenzy uncovers a deep sense of insecurity. Instead of moving on after such an obvious statement, many Israelis cling to it as if it were a life raft, to vindicate their opinions not only towards to the “world who is always against us” but also (perhaps mainly) to themselves.
This baffling insecurity is very telling and very disturbing.