U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested Wednesday that unspecified "women" could be a major force in bringing about a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
At a town hall meeting with civic leaders in Muscat, Oman, Clinton evoked women's role in the successful peace process in Northern Ireland as evidence that women could help resolve conflicts between nations. "She suggested that a meeting of minds between Arab and Israeli women could provide a similar impetus for peace," the Associated Press reported.
"Women played a major role in pushing the politicians to find some solutions," Clinton said. "It was very clear that there just couldn't be a divide when people on both sides were suffering in the same way."
Clinton said she harbored no illusions that such a process would be easy, and that there was no guarantee of its success. "There is a lot of work that we need to do in this world to try and create this awareness," she explained to her audience. A united demand by women concerned about their families' futures, she added, could "press government and leaders to make the necessary decisions that will lead to sustainable peace," according to the AP report. A failure to address the aspirations of Middle Eastern women and youth could have disastrous consequences, she warned, adding that the region is seeing a "generation larger than anything we have ever seen coming of age" who need to be heard.
Meant for Israeli audience?
A study published in October determined that "peace processes and attempts to end regional conflicts do not succeed because women are prevented from taking an active part in advancing world peace."
The study was published in advance of the tenth anniversary of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, which calls on UN member states to include women in delegations that negotiate peace. The organization most closely associated with UNSCR 1325 is the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, a 95-year-old pacifist organization that is virulently anti-Israel.
While Clinton's remarks were made in an Arab country, they are probably intended for an Israeli audience, since Israel is the only country in the Middle East in which women have equal right and the feminist movement has any real clout. In Saudi Arabia, for example, women are not allowed to vote - or even drive.
The feminist movement in Israel is led by a stream sometimes referred to as "gender feminism
," which is ideologically leftist. While claiming to speak for all women and fight for their rights, the stream's leaders have no tolerance for women with pro-Israel views (such as Melanie Phillips
or Prof. Phyllis Chesler
, for example).
Clinton's message may be intended to shore up Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni's standing as an alternative to the government coalition. A poll published in Ha'aretz after the last elections found that 60% of secular women voted for Livni's Kadima party, a statistic which would account for much of its electoral success. Livni (in photo at right) staunchly supports ceding Israel's heartland to a new Arab state.
Clinton began her trip in the United Arab Emirates and visited Yemen before arriving in Oman. She will visit Qatar on Thursday and return to Washington.
Photo: Flash 90