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Bill Clinton: Israeli-Palestinian deal still possible

The former US president discusses Russia’s role in Syria, Middle East peace, and his wife’s presidential campaign.

After more than 20 years in the limelight, former US President Bill Clinton is still in the public arena. But his main focus now is his foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative, which is trying to tackle the most pressing challenges facing the developing world.

Right now, you've got ISIS in Iraq, you've got ISIS in Syria, you've got renewed troubles in Afghanistan ... none of these things are really very good for Russia. And they don't have a good record of solving problems on their own ... so it seems to me that there needs to be a global coalition to deal with it ...

by Bill Clinton

He says he is “out of politics”, but that is hard to believe given that his wife is running for president.

When Hillary Clinton put on a strong performance at the first Democratic debate in Las Vegas, it seemed to reignite her campaign, which had suffered earlier this summer, when criticism of her private email use as secretary of state saw many supporters flock to her main Democratic opponent Bernie Sanders instead.

It has been the sort of back-and-forth political campaign her husband is familiar with, as well.

Meanwhile, in the Middle East, the war in Syria has taken a dramatic turn with Russia’s military campaign in support of Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Despite increasing tension over Russia’s bombing campaign, Bill Clinton believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama will work out some sort of understanding.

“He [Putin] believes that he has to maintain an influence in the Middle East, which we have no problem with … But he thinks he can only exercise this influence in opposition to the US and to Europe … So as long as he has a different world view of how Russia can restore its greatness, we’re going to have these conflicts.”

“Nonetheless, he surely does not want ISIS to succeed … So I still believe if we work together for the purpose of blocking the gains of ISIS … if we can get this under control, that’s what’s best for the Syrians, that’s what’s best for the region, and I think, in the long run, that’s what’s best for the Russians,” says Clinton, using an alternate acronym for ISIL.

The volatile situation in Israeli-occupied territories is leading to fears of a total meltdown between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

But Clinton, who dealt extensively with both sides as president, is surprisingly optimistic. He thinks there is potential for a Palestinian deal with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

“If you just looked at what just happened, you wouldn’t be very hopeful [that a two-state solution can be achieved] … but I would not give up on it – for a simple reason that Israel is still worried about Iran…. [After the last election in Israel] Netanyahu is now in a better position than he has been in a long time to make some sort of more comprehensive agreement with the Palestinians, if – but only if – he can sell it as part of a rapprochement with people who will help them be secure against terror and Iran. So, it might happen; I wouldn’t write it off. Netanyahu is a clever man. He may finally be able to get there …”

Former US President Bill Clinton talks to Al Jazeera about Putin’s role in the Syrian war, the refugee crisis, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, his foundation’s achievements, and his wife’s presidential campaign. 

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