NBC’s Mitchell Recounts Hillary Clinton Kissing Arafat’s Wife

On Friday’s NBC Nightly News, correspondent Andrea Mitchell filed a report that reminded viewers of an embarrassing political episode from Hillary Clinton’s past: the controversial hug and kiss she shared with Yasser Arafat’s wife, Suha, during a trip to the West Bank. The NBC correspondent related that Clinton had taken a position favoring a Palestinian state early on, but, after her controversial "embrace" with Mrs. Arafat, she became known for being "an unrelenting supporter of Israel," and argued that Mrs. Clinton’s popularity in the Arab world, and that of former President Clinton, would be an asset as Secretary of State.

Mitchell: "As first lady, Hillary Clinton was an early advocate of a Palestinian state until a misplaced embrace of Yasser Arafat's wife, Suha, backfired politically back home. From then on, Clinton was an unrelenting supporter of Israel but, experts say, is still well known and liked by Arab leaders."

Below is a complete transcript of the story from the Friday, January 2, NBC Nightly News:

LESTER HOLT: This latest outbreak of violence in the Middle East comes at an awkward time for the U.S. as the Bush administration is in its last days, and a new foreign policy team, likely to be led by Hillary Clinton, gets ready to take over. More on that tonight from NBC's chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Even to the end, the outgoing Bush administration was unflagging again today in its public support for Israel.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: We're going to continue our work toward a cease-fire that will not allow a return to the status quo and that will be durable.

MITCHELL: But privately, George Bush's diplomats are asking what is Israel's endgame? Gaza will now become the first test for the next Secretary of State.

DAVID IGNATIUS, WASHINGTON POST: It sharpens the polarization in the Middle East all over again at a time when President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary-designate Hillary Clinton, must have hoped for a clean slate on which they could write new formulas, fresh starts.

MITCHELL: As first lady, Hillary Clinton was an early advocate of a Palestinian state-

HILLARY CLINTON, DATED MAY 7, 1998: I think that is very important for the Palestinian people.

MITCHELL: -until a misplaced embrace of Yasser Arafat's wife, Suha, backfired politically back home. From then on, Clinton was an unrelenting supporter of Israel but, experts say, is still well known and liked by Arab leaders.

SHIBLEY TELHAMI, SABAN CENTER FOR MIDDLE EAST POLICY: Hillary Clinton is credible in the Arab world, and she's also associated with her, with President Bill Clinton, who's also credible in the Arab world.

MITCHELL: Now Gaza has complicated the terrain for Clinton, dividing the Arab world. While some Arab leaders quietly oppose Hamas, the Arab street is inflamed against Israel. As in Amman today, where demonstrators clashed with police. Some say Obama picked Hillary Clinton to be Secretary of State precisely because he knows better than anyone that she is tough and relentless. Now she will need every bit of that strength for the challenge that has eluded every previous administration, including her husband's: securing Middle East peace. Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Washington.