The lobby of the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem was quiet and calm on Monday evening as journalists trickled in to see Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speak as part of her 13-day foreign tour. The atmosphere before the event was subdued, with only a few Israeli soldiers and navy blue, blazer-clad security agents milling about to give away the magnitude of what was coming.
After going through an intense security screening, we awaited her arrival…and waited. And waited.
About 45 minutes after she was scheduled to begin, there was still no sign of her. The anticipation and excitement were building as chatter filled the press room. A lady then took the microphone…to tell the crowd that Hillary would be another 40 minutes.
Finally, at close to 10:45 PM, an hour and forty-five minutes later than promised, Hillary stepped up to the podium.
When she entered, the sound of flashing cameras immediately flooded the room. It was the only noise to be heard—minus the soft click-clacking of her shoes.
She looked serene, calm and prepared.
It was a short conference, lasting less time than the wait for her arrival. She spoke for a few minutes about her recent trip to Egypt and reiterated her commitment to peace in the Middle East. It was clear that she knew what topics would be asked about, as her eyes regularly glanced down to her notes before she responded. Even so, there was one answer that was not so expected, and actually yielded a quite shocking response:
Speaking about the fate of Jonathan Pollard, Secretary Clinton said she believed that he would never be freed from his life sentence in America. The room was stunned by the blunt nature of the statement, and jolted as that harsh reality was brought out into the open.
Clinton’s politics have been discussed only slightly more than her appearance in the media. It’s often to my disappointment (if she were a man, it would never be such a point of discussion), but I will say that she was poised, confident and well put-together. Known for pastel colors, the Secretary of State updated the inevitable pants suit look to a clean black and cream.
The media often use the pants suits as fuel to criticize a masculine air, but tonight Secretary Clinton was both feminine and assertive. She even generated laughter in the room a couple of times. A few days ago tomatoes and shoes were thrown at her motorcade in Egypt, but Clinton remained un-phased, even joking that she felt bad that good tomatoes were wasted. When referencing the incident seriously, she explained it as people expressing a new type of freedom, even though their assumptions and conclusions were wrong.
A busy woman, it was clear that she was tired. But she charmed the crowd when, in the beginning, she said that although her traveling team is anxious to get home, she’d like to be hanging out in Jerusalem.
Personally, I also wish we could have hung out with her for a little longer in the holy city. The room covered the basics, such as Iran’s nuclear threat and U.S. involvement in the future, but we were still left with unanswered questions. One reporter made a last attempt by shouting that he wanted to ask about Turkey as Hillary stepped out of the room. Whisked away immediately to her awaiting motorcade, Clinton did not respond to the shout.
In reference to Egypt’s current situation, Clinton said, “Never in the 5,000-year history of Egypt have they ever had this opportunity or challenge.”
The Obama Administration doesn’t have 5,000 years. With Mitt Romney’s visit to Israel only a month away, Obama’s side needs its Israel creds to garner the Jewish American vote.