In May Clinton revealed at a press conference that Obama’s call for an Israeli settlement freeze included any “natural growth” within existing settlements. The circumstances remain murky, but two sources with detailed knowledge of the U.S.-Israeli relationship say that the Obama team was not yet prepared to make public this departure from Bush-era policy. Rather than leave his secretary of state twisting in the wind, says one of the sources, Obama wound up repeating her formulation a few days later, touching off months of tension with the Israelis.
The second flap occurred on November 1 in Jerusalem, where Clinton abruptly reversed course on settlements–this time saying that a proposal by the Netanyahu government that falls short of the freeze Obama has sought nevertheless amounts to an “unprecedented” concession by Israel. The formulation–which infuriated Arab leaders and made it seem that Obama had surrendered to Netanyahu–had not been endorsed by the White House, which was not pleased with the statement. The Times subsequently reported that even Clinton’s aides considered the remark poorly worded.