Mrs. Clinton flunks pop quiz in Middle East

November 16, 1999|By Arnold Rosenfeld

HILLARY Clinton stepped into the Middle East the other day with little more in mind than making politically nice. That's impossible in the Middle East. Mrs. Clinton stepped on a large, squishy cow chip placed beneath her unwary foot by Soha Arafat, wife of Palestinian honcho Yasser.

Accusing Israel of murdering Palestinian women and children with carcinogenic poison gas, which is what Mrs. Arafat did, represents the plain vanilla of Arab rhetoric. Still, Mrs. Clinton was notably slow in expressing indignation and, when she did, complained starchily that the Palestinians had promised they wouldn't do that anymore.

Since there are still those who take words seriously, the incident amounted to the worst sort of pop quiz for the senator-in-waiting. Mrs. Clinton was denounced for sitting on her hands while the equivalent of medieval blood libels were proclaimed in her presence. Not surprisingly, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani declared he would have handled the matter promptly and with fierce eloquence.

Lost in the swirl is what the impenitent Mrs. Arafat had in mind. A senate seat in Gaza?

Arnold Rosenfeld is editor-in-chief of the Cox Newspapers.

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