Hillary Clinton and a future Palestine

"I think it will be in the long-term interests of the Middle East for Palestine to be a state."

Does it really matter that America's First Lady uttered these words last week, declaring her support for Palestinian statehood?

Unfortunately, no and yes.

No, for several reasons. Hillary Clinton isn't an elected official. She isn't involved in Middle East diplomacy. Clinton is a private citizen who has the right to believe and say anything she darned well pleases.

In addition, official U.S. policy still states that the future of any Palestinian entity must be left to the official negotiating parties.

Yes, for other reasons. Clinton may be a private citizen but she is the wedded partner of the world's most powerful leader, the man who controls U.S. strategy as the neutral mediator.

Her beliefs about Palestinian statehood may even be shared by her husband, who knows he can't say a word in either direction regardless of what he really believes.

Hillary Clinton's supposed slip could even be part of a White House strategy to pressure Israel back into negotiations, or to prepare Israel for a future in which the United States recognizes a Palestinian state without Israel's blessing.

The White House spokesperson's attempt to downplay her words was weak, at best.

Moreover, Clinton's alleged gaffe came at a sensitive time. Two weeks ago, Yasser Arafat said he will declare a Palestinian state in May 1999 regardless of how the negotiations stand.

So, should the Jewish community ignore Clinton's statement – or rake her over the coals for it?

Neither one.

There's no need to overreact. Indeed, it's important to know where she stands.

Her pronouncement may be an early warning signal. And it's better to have good lead time for something as tricky as reassessing administration policy.

The only thing that could quell this controversy would be her husband standing up and saying directly: "Hillary is wrong."

Don't hold your breath.