As the New York primary heats up, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders’s views on Israel are in the news; and remarkably, Clinton is criticizing settlements but is being careful not to ascribe that settlement activity to Israel as such. It’s a dodge she executed first at AIPAC. Last night her spox did it again on a radio show.
"Israel will not have a better friend in the White House than Hillary," Jake Sullivan, @HillaryClinton's top adviser tells me now on AM620
— David G. Greenfield (@NYCGreenfield) April 7, 2016
Jewish Insider reports on the latest careful statement from Clinton’s adviser Jake Sullivan, speaking on a city councilman’s radio show last night, the David Greenfield show. Sullivan begins with the pander:
“If she’s elected president, she will immediately start by reaffirming America’s strong and enduring national interest in Israel’s security and the importance of the alliance. And then she’s going to take concrete steps – one would be to invite the Israeli Prime Minister to visit in her first month in office. Another would be to send a senior delegation from the Pentagon and the joint chief’s to Israel for consultations so we can get on the same page on the array of common security threats that we face. And then, you know, I think, she said at AIPAC is very focused on ensuring that we never allow Israel’s enemies to think that they can drive a wedge between us; that when we have differences, as any friends would have, we will work to resolve them quickly and respectfully.”
Greenfield then asked, “What is Hillary’s view on settlements? Does she view them as illegal, or does she view them as a key stumbling block in the negotiations?” Clinton clearly views them as the latter, a stumbling block. Notice that Sullivan declines to ascribe the settlements to Israel:
“What she said about settlements is that she believes that everybody has to do their part to avoid damaging actions, and that includes with respect to settlements. Sec. Clinton comes out on the bipartisan tradition on this issue going back several presidents with respect to her view on the settlement issue. She also believes that it is very important that as we move forward, we try to do everything we can to support those voices who want to see a two-state solution, and that we support the efforts that Sec. Kerry is trying right now to try and de-escalate the situation on the ground and avoid more violence. From her perspective, the key thing is securing Israel’s future as a democratic-Jewish state, and a two-state solution that results in a peaceful and secure outcome. What she would do as president is everything she could to support direct negotiations and not seeing a solution imposed from the outside. She was very clear at AIPAC that she would vigorously oppose any outside parties to impose a solution, including by the UN.”
Sullivan’s formulation is a repetition of Hillary Clinton’s refusal to ascribe settlement activity to Israel at AIPAC two weeks ago:
“Everyone has to do their part by avoiding damaging actions, including with respect to settlements. Now, America has an important role to play in supporting peace efforts. And as president, I would continue the pursuit of direct negotiations.”
Sanders clarifies comments on Israel after phone conversation with ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt: “As many people know, Sen. Sanders, as a young man, spent months in Israel and, in fact, has family living there now. There is no candidate for president who will be a stronger supporter of Israel’s right to exist in freedom, peace and security,” Sanders’ spokesman Michael Briggs said in a statement.
According to the Sanders campaign, the Vermont senator immediately corrected that his recollection was about the total number of casualties, not the death toll. “The idea that Sen. Sanders stated definitely that 10,000 Palestinians were killed is just not accurate and a distortion of that discussion,” Briggs said. “Bringing peace between Israel and the Palestinians will not be easy. It would help if candidates’ positions on this issue are not distorted.”“The senator assured me that he did not mean his remarks to be a definitive statement and that he would make every effort to set the record straight. We appreciate his responsiveness on this issue, especially at a time when there are many false and incendiary reports blaming Israel for applying disproportionate force in its struggle for self-defense.”
Another controversy surrounds Jesse Alexander Myerson’s excellent piece in the Village Voice putting Sanders in the prophetic Jewish tradition. J.J. Goldberg criticized the piece in the Forward and Myerson has now responded to that criticism. Associating himself with an anti-Zionist and socialist Jewish tradition, Myerson endorses BDS, as a young Jew. The world is turning. Myerson excerpts:
[M]y contention is not that Zionists and socialists are distinct sorts of Jews locked in eternal struggle. Instead, I am accounting for how the dominant ideology of American Jewry shifted from socialism (Zionist and non-Zionist alike) to increasingly reactionary Zionism and trying to locate Bernie Sanders — from his upbringing to his campaign — in this new configuration.
My insistence on “linking…anti-Zionism with the prophetic tradition of social justice” implies that I think “Zionism is…somehow opposed to the best in Judaism.” Bingo! He is also correct to associate me with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which I support. BDS is “gaining adherents at an alarming rate,” Goldberg hyperventilates, “turning well-meaning young Jews into enemies of the Jewish state.” The alarm this causes Goldberg is complemented by the apprehension he feels about the “worrisome rifts between Israel and American Jews” that are opening up.
He should have seen it coming. These rifts were prophesied as early as 1948 by the sage Hannah Arendt, when she predicted that the “Palestine Jewry would eventually separate itself from the larger body of world Jewry and in its isolation develop into an entirely new people.” Already, she could see that “a Jewish state [could] only be erected at the price of the Jewish homeland.” Goldberg’s sweaty, frenzied tone suggests that, as he watches Arendt’s forecast unfold, he is losing faith in the liberal Zionist project. That speaks well of him
Goldberg and his fellow liberal Zionists used to be able to write our site off as outliers and nuts. That period of anti-Zionist history is over. And yes, Bernie Sanders is changing the U.S. discourse on this question, albeit in a quiet and shillyshallying way.