I’ve been on the road for days, and a few more Clinton emails have thudded down from the Wikileaks heavens revealing deliberations about Israel inside the Clinton braintrust. Some day we will put together a leatherbound edition with morocco covers of Clinton’s Israel emails, but for now we’re just trying to chase the latest.
And these three are stunners because they baldly expose the importance of Israel to donors and the party establishment.
First, there was this amazing email thread among top strategists from May 2015 about revising Clinton’s talking points in her speeches at rallies and fundraisers in the weeks before she officially launched her candidacy. You just gotta read these comments as they fall. The conversation started out on a bunch of different talking points, but everyone quickly turned to Israel, and the public and private messaging.
Jake Sullivan, foreign policy aide: “Would add a sentence on standing up for our allies and our values, including Israel and other fellow democracies, and confronting terrorists and dictators with strength and cunning.”
Mandy Grunwald, media advisor: “I thought this was largely for her TP [talking points] with public events not fundraisers. Do we need Israel etc for that?”
Sullivan: “We def need the etc. I think good to have Israel too.”
Joel Benenson, pollster and chief strategist: “Why would we call out Israel in public events now? The only voters elevating FP at all are Republican primary voters.”
Robby Mook, campaign manager: “I’m w Joel. We shouldn’t have Israel at public events. Especially dem activists.”
Sullivan: “I won’t fall on sword over Israel but we need more than climate in that paragraph.”
Dan Schwerin, speechwriter: “What about this as a base, and then she can drop in Israel when she’s with donors:
“Fourth and finally, we have to protect our country from the global threats that we see, from terrorists to dictators to diseases – and the ones that are still over the horizon. We have to assert confident American leadership to shape global events rather than be shaped by them. That includes taking on global warming and those who continue to deny that it exists. And it means always standing up for our allies and our values, especially our fellow democracies.”
Mook: “I’m fine with that.”
That’s a smoking gun email. It says just what Stephanie Schriock of Emily’s List and J.J. Goldberg said at J Street earlier this year, the role of Jewish donors on the Democratic side is “gigantic” and “shocking.” And those Jewish donors are seen as pro-Israel all the time, by folks who study politics.
But meantime, Robby Mook says just what we’ve been saying here for a couple of years: the lobby has lost the Democratic base on Israel. Young Dems, people of color, women — they’re more sympathetic to Palestinians than Israelis. Don’t mention Israel with dem activists.
So the system really is rigged. They don’t want to hear from the people on this.
One other thing: Chief strategist Benenson shows how pathetic the Bernie Sanders campaign was on this issue. He says that the only voters who care about foreign policy are Republicans. It would be a year before Bernie made Israel a wedge issue, in the New York primary debate, when he dared to say that Benjamin Netanyahu is not right all the time, and Clinton had no response. That moment was brave, reluctant, and spasmodic. Had Bernie worked the Israel issue, there was political capital to be made. And everyone in the Clinton braintrust knew it. Don’t mention Israel with dem activists. Bernie followed the same script, pretty much.
Gotta keep going here. Here’s another leaked email to campaign chair John Podesta from his daughter Megan Rouse in May 2015, headlined “Israel”:
I’ve heard a concern from some folks who care deeply about Israel that Hillary will be the president “most unfriendly to Israel in our history, worse than Obama.” Thoughts on how I might respond in conversation?
Podesta wrote back:
That’s a bit crazy. Obama developed a real feud with Bibi, but she has been a staunch defender of Israel since her Senate days. Probably her very best supporters are Haim Saban, and Danny Abraham who would not be with her if she wasn’t totally committed to Israeli security.
“Podesta’s acknowledgement that two of Hillary Clinton’s key donors condition their support on her support of Israel’s security is a striking moment of candor from Podesta, but a statement which is consistent with her previous actions to placate the concerns of her biggest financial backers.”
This is also fantastic. When “Bibi” — no one calls him Benjamin Netanyahu in Dem circles– won reelection in the Israeli elections in March 2015, Clinton campaign chair John Podesta asked Paul Begala for his take on Netanyahu’s victory. Wow is Begala a whiz. He worked for Yitzhak Herzog, who lost; and he wrote back in part:
Just as patterns of immigration are moving the US left, patterns of immigration are moving Israel right. I have never seen anything like Bibi’s furious surge to the right in the last 4 days. Nothing like it in America. He had robo-calls calling the President “Hussein Obama, the Muslim,” he had ads saying the Arabs will vote in droves. He accused Herzog of wanting to divide Jerusalem. Bibi did not win because of Iran. He won because of race. He cannibalized the smaller parties on the right: Bennett’s Jewish Home lost 4 seats, Shas lost 4 seats, Lieberman’s party lost 5 seats, United Torah lost 1. That is a 14 seat decline on the right. Bibi gained 10…
All the smart guys in Tel Aviv thought Bibi was having a nervous breakdown. In the US you could never get away with those kind of racist appeals. But, man, did it work.
There’s really only one thing to say about this email. Begala is on television all the time slashing Donald Trump. Has he ever told American audiences that Benjamin Netanyahu is a racist in a way that no American politician could be? Not even Trump? And Israel is a place of creeping fascism (as Moshe Ya’alon and Yair Golan have explained)? Begala doesn’t say that because of emails 1 and 2 in this post; “Bibi” is necessary for the maintenance of the American establishment as it now stands.
And President Clinton has promised: “I would also invite the Israeli prime minister to the White House in my first month in office.” Another leaked email says that Clinton says reaching out to Netanyahu, I mean Bibi, is “near the top” of her list of priorities. I wonder why.
Thanks to Adam Horowitz.