If there was any doubt that Hillary Clinton is running to the right of Donald Trump on Israel, she removed it this morning with a fist-pumping hard-right speech to the Israel lobby group AIPAC that mentioned Israeli settlements just once, in passing, and continually derided the idea of American “neutrality” in the conflict, which Trump has embraced.
“We need steady hands, not a president who says he is neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday and who knows what on Wednesday, because everything is negotiable!” Clinton said. In clear reference to Trump, she went on,”Well my friends, Israel’s security is not negotiable.”
The comments were a clear reference to Trump’s assertion that he wants to be neutral in what he says about the conflict because he aims to negotiate a deal between the sides as president, the hardest deal in the world.
“America can’t ever be neutral when it comes to Israel’s security and survival,” Clinton said. “Some things aren’t negotiable. And anyone who doesn’t understand that has no business being America’s president.”
The speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee was filled with red meat for Israel supporters. Clinton repeatedly denounced the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, BDS, as “anti-semitic”– an effort to “undermine Israel and the Jewish people.” She thereby equated Israel and Judaism, an equation that AIPAC wants her to make, but which many Jews do not accept.
She said that anti-Semitism was rife on American campuses and in Europe, and she told pro-Israel students: “Don’t let anyone try to silence you, bully you or try to shut down debate.”
Often projecting an adamant posture in the speech, Clinton said she was willing to use force against Iran if it violates the Iran deal, praised Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, and promised to invite the PM to the White House in one of her first acts in office. She concluded the speech by thrusting her fist in the air as she vowed to take the relationship to the “next level” so that Israel and the U.S. could face the future together.
Clinton’s speech contained scant reference to the peace process. Israel must be strong so it can take steps toward peace, she said, and after repeatedly criticizing Palestinians for allegedly inciting terrorism and teaching their children to hate Israelis, she noted that Israeli “settlements” also are not helpful. Though she would oppose any outside effort to impose a solution on the conflict, she added. And she urged the Obama administration to sign a ten-year aid agreement with Israel for more aid than ever, something the Israeli government has sought.
The big AIPAC audience at the DC convention center repeatedly interrupted her speech with applause, including when she praised Israelis for making a woman, Golda Meir, prime minister in the 70s and then asked, smiling, “Why has it taken us so long?”
She also said that democratic traditions were endangered in both the U.S. and Israel, but while citing Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim and Hispanic statements as evidence of such a worrying trend here, she had nothing to say about anti-Palestinian bigotry expressed by leading Israeli politicians.
Trump and his two Republican rivals, John Kasich and Ted Cruz, will address AIPAC tonight.