Define ‘establishment candidate’: Rubio and Clinton both love Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu and Marco Rubio in Netanyahu's office in 2013

One of the main storylines coming out of Iowa is that two Establishment candidates won out there. Hillary Clinton, with her razor thin margin over Bernie Sanders. And Senator Marco Rubio, with his surprising 3d place finish at 23 percent, just behind Donald Trump. Both are hailed as Establishment candidates, and the mainstream press is firming up around them out of fear of the abyss that is represented by Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. The New York Times endorsed Clinton for the nomination, and Chris Matthews embraced Clinton last night. The Washington Post and Paul Krugman have led the vilification effort against Sanders.

One sign of Rubio and Clinton’s acceptability to the Establishment is the love they share: they both praise Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And both have sought to advance their campaigns by kissing up to Israel.

Rubio has promised that on his first day in office he would tear up the Iran deal. Hillary Clinton has promised that on her first day in office she would invite Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to visit the White House within a month. So love for Israel is the definition of an Establishment candidate.

Let’s look at Marco Rubio first. His Iowa showing has solidified his status as the neoconservative favorite, with all the contributions that flow from such an endorsement. Noah Pollak of the Emergency Committee for Israel tweeted today:

Friend in Republican donor-world: “Out of respect they’re waiting a week before leaving Jeb for Marco, but emotionally they’re already gone”

Eli Clifton reports at Lobelog that Rubio is now poised to win the vaunted Sheldon Adelson primary, the candidate on whom the billionaire would pour his resources. He says Rubio has

made a crucial play for the long-sought endorsement from casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam. If secured, their support could unlock the key to as much as $100 million in supportive super PAC spending, if the past presidential election cycle is any indication as to their future political investments.

Going into last night, Rubio struggled to secure the most important endorsement of the hawkish pro-Israel wing of the Republican Party. To be clear, he had the next best thing: the endorsement of billionaire hedge funder Paul Singer who contributed $2.5 million to a super PAC supporting Rubio and held fundraisers for the candidate. Singer, like Adelson, is a generous supporter to groups and politicians that have opposed the White House’s diplomatic efforts to constrain Iran’s nuclear program. They are both board members of the neoconservative and pro-Likud Republican Jewish Coalition.

Rubio, like Singer, has staked out hawkish foreign policy positions. He cryptically accused Obama of betraying “the commitment this nation has made to the right of a Jewish state to exist in peace.” Pledging his unconditional support to Israel if elected president, Rubio promised he would “absolutely” revoke the Iran nuclear deal if elected president.

As you read that, remember that Adelson called on Obama to nuke Iran, that Donald Trump said that Adelson would mold Rubio into his “perfect little puppet,” and that Paul Singer is a liberal on such issues as marriage equality. But Israel comes first for him.

Last month David Corn called out Rubio at Mother Jones: “Is Marco Rubio a Sleeper Agent for Netanyahu? Why else would the GOP presidential candidate oppose US intelligence keeping an eye on Israel?” Corn focused on an ad in which Rubio attacked Obama for the news that the US had spied on Netanyahu during the Iran deal, so as to counter his moves.

as part of his indictment of Obama, Rubio huffs, “He spies on Israel.”

Rubio’s message seems to be that a strong and effective US leader would not spy on Israel, and that Rubio would not green-light espionage operations that keep an eye on that nation…

Yet Rubio, a favorite of Likud-loving neocons (and reportedly Adelson), castigates Obama for spying on Israel and its spies. Would he really turn off all US espionage programs focused on Israel, which would give the Israelis a free hand to continue their intelligence operations against the United States?

Rubio got his start at a national level with the backing of Norman Braman, a Florida billionaire who regards Israel as the necessary historical answer to the Holocaust, when Jews went like lambs to the slaughter in his view; and that the U.S. must back Israel for it to survive. Rubio first went to Israel just days after he was elected to the Senate in 2010, with Braman.

Now let’s move to Hillary Clinton. Being the establishment candidate on the Democratic side also means being Netanyahu’s friend. Clinton has already won the Haim Saban primary in her party; last summer she promised the megadonor that she would work with Republicans to oppose the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign aimed at Israel.

Then last December she went further, telling the Saban Forum at the Brookings Institution during a conference on the future of Israel and Palestine (to which no Palestinian speakers were invited), that Israel’s “prowess” in war is “inspiring”, that she and the Jewish state were born within months of one another, and she would take the relationship between the U.S. and Israel to “the next level.” That means on her very first day in office she would reach out to Netanyahu:

on the first day I would extend an invitation to the Israeli prime minister to come to the United States hopefully within the first month, certainly as soon as it could be arranged to do exactly what I briefly outlined. To work toward very much strengthening and intensifying our relationship on military matters, on terrorism and on everything else that we can do more to cooperate on that will send a strong message to our own peoples as well as the rest of the world. So that is on my list for the first day.
Marjorie Cohn at Truthdig reminds us of Clinton’s obedient service to Israel after it slaughtered 2100 Palestinians in 2014, including 500 children.

When [Jeffrey] Goldberg asked Clinton whom she held responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian children, she demurred, saying, “[I]t’s impossible to know what happens in the fog of war.” She blamed only the Palestinians, saying, “There’s no doubt in my mind that Hamas initiated this conflict.” Claiming “Israel has a right to defend itself,” she said, “I think Israel did what it had to do to respond to the rockets.”

Cohn says that Clinton affects cluelessness on the cause of the conflict, and international condemnation of the Gaza slaughter:

Yet Clinton was puzzled by what she calls “this enormous international reaction against Israel,” adding, “This reaction is uncalled for and unfair.”

She attributed the “enormous international reaction” to “a number of factors” but only mentioned anti-Semitism, never citing Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian lands or its periodic massacres in Gaza.

A wonderful piece of reporting by Peter Beinart from last year is now circulating on the net, in which he showed that Clinton has sided with Netanyahu again and again, against the Obama administration and even her own husband’s policies.

In her book [Hard Choices], Hillary also implies that Obama pressured Netanyahu too much. In 2009, in a widely reported encounter, Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told Obama, “If you want Israel to take risks, then its leaders must know that the United States is right next to them.” Obama disagreed. “When there is no daylight,” he said, “Israel just sits on the sidelines, and that erodes our credibility with the Arab states.” In “Hard Choices,” Hillary takes Hoenlein’s side. “I learned,” she writes, “that Bibi would fight if he felt he was being cornered, but if you connected with him as a friend, there was a chance you could get something done together.”

So eager is Hillary to prove that Netanyahu responded to her reassurances that she abandons the parameters for a two-state solution her husband famously laid out in 2000. In “Hard Choices,” she mentions that Abbas “said that he could live with an Israeli military deployment in the Jordan Valley for a few years beyond the establishment of a new state,” while Netanyahu “insisted that Israeli troops remain along the border for many decades without a fixed date for withdrawal.” Hillary deems these two perspectives equally valid, and even sees in Bibi’s a glimmer of hope. “I thought that was a potentially significant opening,” she writes. “If the conversation was about years, not decades or months, then perhaps the right mix of international security support and advanced border protection tactics and techniques could bridge the gap.”

What Hillary doesn’t mention is that Abbas’ approach conforms to the Clinton parameters – the very document she elsewhere in the book slams Yasser Arafat for not accepting – which propose that Israel leave the Jordan Valley in three years. Netanyahu’s approach, by contrast, flagrantly contradicts those parameters.

In the year since Hillary released her book, she’s done this again and again: Embraced Netanyahu’s perspective even though it eviscerates her husband’s, and Obama’s, vision of a viable Palestinian state.

It’s more understandable that Marco Rubio is running with Netanyahu at his side. Apart from Trump’s possible jibes, what’s the downside? The Christian Zionist branch of the Israel lobby pervades the Republican grass roots. And the rightwing Jewish branch of the lobby, neoconservatism, defines the Republican establishment. So Rubio is a neoconservative “sleeper agent” for the prime minister, as Mother Jones put it in its sensational headline. Though if Donald Trump finds himself in a struggle to the death with Rubio, we can expect him to go after neoconservative donors, in much the way he made fun of the Republican Jewish Coalition for wanting to buy its candidates.

As for Democrats, many despise Netanyahu– Netanyahu ought to be a liability for the Democratic base. Last year two-thirds of Democrats opposed Netanyahu’s appearance at Congress when he defied our president on the Iran deal; only 12 percent of Democrats had a favorable view of him. That number is surely even lower among African-Americans and the young. Of course, the Israel lobby is still such a powerful force in the Democratic Party that even the president was fawning to the Netanyahu administration last week at the Israeli Embassy, but the liberal Zionist branch of the Israel lobby (J Street, Beinart, Peace Now) doesn’t like Netanyahu either. But that’s the establishment! Bernie Sanders is an anti-establishment candidate. Shouldn’t he be running against Netanyahu right now? He wants to expose substantive differences between himself and Clinton. This is one of them.

Thanks to Jewish Insider, James North, Hazel Kahan, Annie Robbins and Adam Horowitz.