The latest hacked emails from the Clinton campaign expose a lot of fawning toward the Israel lobby, especially during the runup to the Iran deal, when Hillary Clinton had to balance her devotion to Israel with her loyalty to the Obama administration.
For instance, when Benjamin Netanyahu prepared to give his speech to Congress in March 2015 seeking to submarine President Obama’s signature foreign policy achievement, Clinton’s top foreign policy aide Jake Sullivan expressed concern that Clinton not say anything publicly to offend “Bibi.”
At the time, Sullivan was advised by Stuart Eisenstat, Clinton’s ambassador from the Jewish community, that Clinton needed to make an “adult” statement, so as to ameliorate “the deteriorating U.S.-Israel relationship, with the increasingly bitter Obama-Bibi tiff.”
Here a simple call from Hillary that it is important to stop the downward spiral of events with our close ally, notwithstanding mistakes, so we can focus on the key issues of Middle East peace and preventing Iran for acquiring a bomb would be a welcome positive, “adult” statement.
Stu – how would you craft the… statement so it doesn’t look like a rebuke of potus [President of the United States], bibi, or both?
Clinton soon made the “simple call” that Eisenstat had advised so as to placate the Israel lobby. She called Malcolm Hoenlein, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (and the very man Obama had used to feel Clinton out in 2008 when he wanted to hire her as secretary of state), and Hoenlein released a statement: “Secretary Clinton thinks we need to all work together to return the special U.S.-Israel relationship to constructive footing, to get back to basic shared concerns and interests.” And the New York Times, among other publications, ran a story on the call, headlined, “Clinton Wants to Improve Ties to Israel.”
One of Clinton’s biggest financial supporters was pleased. Haim Saban sent an email to Clinton aides Huma Abedin and John Podesta describing the Clinton comments as “Very smart and politically correct” because they did not criticize the Obama administration. “Pls say thanks to the lady.”
Saban added that “thousands” of people, meaning pro-Israel donors, were going to like the call, because they wondered Where Hillary is on Israel.
Also pls be aware that these articles will be mailed to thousands of people who are interested in the subject matter and who have been asking themselves ,,,,and me ,many times ”Where is Hillary on this”
Iran was still a problem, though. That summer of 2015, the Iran deal came to Congress, and Politico published an article saying that Hillary Clinton was confusing “Jewish donors.” On the one hand, she was telling them, “I’ll be better for Israel than Obama.” On the other, these same donors came out of meetings with her with “sometimes widely varying interpretations” of her view of the Iran deal. Mixed signals!
The article caused considerable consternation in the Clinton braintrust. Virtually the entire campaign leadership discussed what to do over the course of an afternoon, July 3, 2015. Campaign manager Robby Mook said he got the Israeli questions from “donors all the time”:
I was just thinking: has she made a clear statement on Israel yet? I get this question from donors all the time. Does she need to state her principles on Israel before Iran? Or do both at the same time?
In saying “before Iran,” Mook was anticipating Clinton’s public support for the Iran deal, which she announced ten days later.
Speechwriter Dan Schwerin said Clinton was taking care of her position on Israel:
That’s basically the goal of the BDS letter.
The BDS letter was a letter Clinton had written to Saban the day before, dated July 2, promising to fight Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, along with Republicans. The letter had not yet gone public.
Mook responded that the letter wasn’t enough.
Do we need to push it harder over the next few days? Get something written? I feel like we’re going to want something to point to. Or maybe even just content on the website?
Deputy communications director Christina Reynolds suggested:
We could either get a donor to leak it or just give it to a reporter if we want to get it out there. I’m semi-surprised it’s not out yet.
If Haim’s going to give it to the Jewish media, I think that solves our problem. Once they write, we can make sure it gets picked up by some of our beat guys.
Jake Sullivan also got into the act that afternoon, July 3:
We have a two pager I’m getting clearance from her on. That is what we have to ship around.
Reynolds again emphasized the need to cover her “Israel support”:
Right, but if we wanted to have a reporter cover the Israel support now, a leak of the letter could probably get written. Otherwise, we can work around the Israel support for reporters covering Iran.
Mook responded that afternoon that it was vital to get the word out before Hillary Clinton endorsed the Iran deal:
Let’s def give it to someone. I see zero downside to a story. Then we can circulate around right away (hopefully) in advance of Iran
The Clinton-to-Saban letter against BDS appeared in Politico on July 6. Politico wrote, “A campaign aide said Clinton was motivated to write the letter after hearing from a number of people on the issue over the past few months.”
A week later Stu Eizenstat warned the campaign that “in Israel there is wall-to-wall opposition” to the Iran Deal, including from the center-left Jewish leaders Yitzhak Herzog and Tzipi Livni.
Another warning came on January 27, 2016. M Bronfein, who would seem to be Michael Bronfein, a big contributor to the Clintons. warned the campaign about an article in the Washington Post by the neoconservative Jennifer Rubin pointing out that Chelsea Clinton had held a fundraiser in California at the home of a board member of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), which Rubin called “a notorious group with links to the Iranian regime that opposed, among other things, any sanctions on Iran.” Bronfein wrote:
I am fielding quite a few concerns over this.. , seems to have some viral qualities.. FYI
Dennis Cheng, the national finance chair for the Clinton campaign, wrote back the same day to Bronfein:
Thanks for flagging – will look into this asap
As you read these emails, which were hacked from Clinton campaign chair John Podesta’s email accounts, remember that after the Iran Deal was signed in 2015, Netanyahu was invited to an embarrassingly-obsequious interview by the person holding Podesta’s former job as head of the Center for American Progress: Neera Tanden. Part of the strategy from on high.