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Gritty Hillary

I don't envy Hillary her job. She has just finished her three-day tour of Egypt, Israel, and the West Bank. And she had lots of things to say. According to a report from Ramallah by Mark Landler in today's New York Times, among other reproaches, Secretary Clinton criticized Israel for something it had not done: "We have obviously expressed concern about the border crossings. We want humanitarian aid to get into Gaza in sufficient amounts to help the suffering people of Gaza." Landler observes, however, that Israel does not restrict these supplies. "Humanitarian goods, like food and medicine, regularly pass through the crossings." What Israel heavily restricts are building materials like cement. After all, Hamas is still sending missiles and rockets over into the Negev. One of these Grads, a more advanced trajectile than usual, just hit a synagogue in Netivot. And don't forget Gilad Shalit, still languishing in Hamas captivity (if they haven't killed him already, which I suspect) nigh on to three years.

Apropos of these two facts, Congresswoman Shelley Berkeley of Nevada has drafted a petition to Clinton demanding that the $300 million in aid for Gaza (or is it $900 million, as originally made public?) be delayed until the rocketry stops and Shalit is released, whether breathing or not.

Mrs. Clinton somehow feels she has to comment on everything, even on matters that have nothing directly (or even indirectly) to do with the peace process. Now, Jerusalem is a very difficult city to govern. And for the first time in years its mayor, Nir Barkat, a highly successful computer entrepreneur, is someone who will not countenance favors for ultra-orthodox Jews over more secular Jews, and he will not countenance neglect of Arab neighborhoods. Anyway, the issue upon which the secretary of state brought down her thunder was the razing of Arab houses by the municipal authorities.

According to an Associated Press dispatch today, Barkat reported that since the beginning of the year the city had demolished 28 illegally built houses, 17 owned by Arabs in Arab districts of Jerusalem, 11 in Jewish districts. Urban planning is not very much respected in the Middle East, even in westernized Israel. Believe me, there are many similar demolitions in largely or even wholly Jewish municipalities around the country. Nonetheless, it is true that this form of lawlessness has become more routine in east Jerusalem, as anyone who knows Arab cities elsewhere will recognize.

Modern municipalities cannot tolerate such willful and spontaneous deviations from an urban planning map. Mrs. Clinton's dry comment that demolitions of such houses are "not helpful" is a haughty intrusion into the life of an intricate population organism. Her observation that these acts also violate an American peace plan is sheer nonsense.

Poor lady. She came away from her Gaza aid conference in Cairo overwhelmed by the terror Arab states feel about Iran. Yet her mind moves like a tropism to what is in the end inconsequential.