Israel’s interests are becoming an explicit issue in the Democratic nomination to be president. The Clinton campaign says Bernie Sanders’s recent comments about Iran are risking Israel’s security. Sanders wants to normalize relations with a country that “seeks the destruction of Israel,” the campaign says. And his ideas for Iranian ground troops in Syria would put Israel’s enemy “right on Israel’s doorstep.”
The swipes are featured in a new video of Jake Sullivan, a senior foreign policy adviser to Clinton. He first blasts Sanders for suggesting that Iran take a more active role against ISIS in Syria. Sanders has said, “Iran has to join us… I think the folks that have got to be on the ground are the people who are fighting for the soul of Islam. That is not American troops, that is troops from the region. They can’t sit it out.”
It would be putting more Iranian firepower right on Israel’s doorstep.
A letter Clinton released from ten foreign policy veterans earlier this week also made the Israeli “doorstep” charge (Full text at TPM):
Supporting Iranian soldiers on Israel’s doorstep is a grave mistake.
Later in his video, Jake Sullivan calls out Sanders for saying that we “should move aggressively as we can to normalize relations with Iran.” Sullivan says:
Iran seeks the destruction of Israel. Iran is a leading sponsor of terror in the region. Iran is flouting international law with its ballistic tests and its threats against our international partners….
Normal relations with Iran? President Obama doesn’t support that idea… and it’s not at all clear why Senator Sanders is suggesting it.
When you look at all these ideas it’s pretty clear that he just hasn’t thought it through.
[The press] should keep asking these questions because the stakes are too high to just let this slide.
On an earlier conference call with reporters Sullivan said that Iranian normalization “would cause very real consternation among our allies and partners.” Meaning Israel and Saudi Arabia. The New York Times says Sullivan first made the Israel charge on that conference call:
Later, in a conference call with reporters, Mr. Sullivan was more direct: “Many of you know Iran has pledged the destruction of Israel.”
The destruction claim is a dubious one. While some Iranian leaders have predicted that Israel will cease to exist in the next generation, and some hotheads have called for its destruction (in a climate of mutual threats), the foreign minister has said that if Israel resolves the Palestinian issue, Iran could recognize the state.
Donors and the Israel lobby are a big part of Clinton’s tactics. The Times even wrote, “The Clinton strategy on this front raises the risk of deterring powerful supporters of Israel from embracing Mr. Sanders should he capture the nomination.”
Clinton herself voiced the criticism of Sanders’s foreign policy ideas as unthought-through in “blistering” attacks on Sanders yesterday in Iowa, according to CNN. And CNN notes that Sanders has responded by questioning Clinton’s judgment on foreign policy.
Sanders’ campaign has responded to the critiques by questioning Clinton’s judgment and noting her 2002 vote for the Iraq War, something that then-Sen. Barack Obama used against her during her failed 2008 campaign.
In related news, Clinton has hired a Jewish outreach director who has strong pro-Israel cred. And another story on the importance of the Israel lobby: Lobelog has a good story up that says Senator Marco Rubio has been parroting neoconservative Elliott Abrams’s talking points on the Iranian hostage deal earlier this week. The piece notes that neocons are blasting the American deal when they praised Israel’s deal for Gilad Shalit. Israel is always virtuous.