(WASHINGTON) — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized Iranian and Palestinian leaders, and didn’t spare Israel, either, in her address at the Saban Forum, continuing her trend of increased frankness as her time in the Obama administration winds down.
Clinton gave the 30-minute keynote address, focusing on the Middle East and Israel, but it was during the question and answer period when the secretary was most animated and blunt. Clinton named Iran as “the hardest of the hard boards because of the dangers its behavior already poses and the geometrically greater danger that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose.”
“It is an issue that has consumed a significant part of my time as secretary of state,” Clinton told the audience of diplomats and lawmakers at the annual U.S.-Israeli forum.
Clinton described the lack of an international response to Iran’s recent history of extremism as “totally unacceptable.”
“It is an incredibly dangerous aggressive behavior that is going on every single day,” Clinton said.
“They are relentless in their desire to exercise influence and to build a very intimidating, even hegemonic presence in the Gulf, and then you get to what they’re doing internally with the oppression of the Iranian people, and then you’ve got the nuclear program.”
“It’s a never-ending requirement of extraordinary vigilance,” she said.
Clinton also spoke frankly about the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians.
She condemned the UN resolution passed Friday recognizing Palestine as a non-member observer state, saying that for President Abbas it was “a step in the wrong direction … to say the least.”
Without veiling her meaning, Clinton blamed the Palestinian leaders for passing up numerous attempts at peace, starting from her time as first lady, to when she was in the Senate, to the current day.
But she did not let Israel off scot-free.
“We opposed his resolution. But we also need to see that the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank still offers the most compelling alternative to rockets and permanent resistance. At a time when religious extremists claim to offer rewards in the hereafter, Israel needs to help those committed to peace to deliver for their people in the here and now,” Clinton said during her speech.
She revisited that theme in the question and answer session, encouraging Israelis to continue the “good faith effort” she recognized in the last 20 years.
“I really believe this with all my heart: I think that even if you cannot reach a complete agreement that resolves all these incredibly hard issues, it is in Israel’s interest to be trying. It gives Israel a moral high ground that I want Israel to occupy. That’s what I want Israel to occupy — the moral high ground,” Clinton said, to loud applause.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Barbie Latza Nadeau, Tim Hume and Vasco Cotovio, CNN
Euan McKirdy, Bryony Jones and Barry Neild, CNN
Mohammed Tawfeeq, Joe Sterling and Susanna Capelouto, CNN
Oren Liebermann, CNN