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Clinton’s foreign policy speech downplays Israel (and leaves out Palestine)

on 31 Comments
Over the past 48 hours, we’ve been inundated by the news that Hillary Clinton would give a “major” foreign policy speech in California where, according to the latest polls, the Democratic primary race is running neck-and-neck. The truth is, despite a strong and well-carried-out performance (Fareed Zakaria said it’s “the strongest speech she’s ever made”), you could only look at her speech in two ways: It was an exemplary exercise of circumlocution, delivering vague and not-so-major remarks; or it was a major speech because of the things downplayed.

Of course, the concern was not foreign policy per se; the intended goal was to contrast Clinton’s résumé of this area with Trump’s “dangerously incoherent” blathering about other countries. The problem that leaves is simple: Clinton’s record and expertise are well established and known by many, especially those who remain undecided and skeptical about her. After all, their skepticism is fueled by what they believe is her mixed record on a variety of domestic and international issues. What remains to be known is what exactly will a Commander in Chief who received the largest sums – compared to other candidates – of campaign contributions from the weapons manufacturing and defense industries do around the world.

Clinton’s easy sell and decades-old pitch about “securing America” is not an answer, let alone anything “major.” It is self-evident that America wants to secure itself, as is the case with every other nation on Earth. What is needed more than ever before is an America that is better at securing itself. A series of Middle Eastern quagmires over the past 65 years, some while under Clinton’s watch as Secretary of State, serve to remind us that this kind of speeches can be awfully shortsighted and dishonest. For all we know, Clinton’s speech may have served its purpose already – to show that Trump is an idiot – without much expectation to hinge on it.

Another look, and perhaps more curious, considers the issues that were downplayed, most clearly among them is the question of Israel and Palestine. Predictably, Clinton made no mention of Palestine, Palestinians, the Palestinian Authority, or the Two-State solution, all of which are words typically used to avert difficult questions about the occupation. Clinton only mentioned how she managed brokering a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, a “tough call” of the kind Trump can’t handle.

And, as you recall, Clinton made no mention of Palestine during her speech at the annual AIPAC conference and displayed a fierce tone during her New York faceoff with Bernie Sanders, in which she said regarding Israel’s disproportionate response during the 2014 war on Gaza:
They [Israel] do not seek this kind of attacks. They do not invite rockets raining down on their towns and villages. They do not believe that there should be a constant incitement by Hamas, aided and abetted by Iran against Israel. And so when it came time after they had taken the incoming rockets, taken the assaults and ambushes on their soldiers, and they called and told me…they were getting ready to have to invade Gaza again because they couldn’t find anyone to talk to tell them to stop it…I don’t know how you run a country if you are under constant threat.”
However, in San Diego, Clinton dedicated far less time and passion to Israel, merely reiterating:
“The world must understand the United States will act decisively if necessary, including with military action to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Israel’s security is nonnegotiable. We have a moral obligation to defend Israel.”
In another remark, Clinton said that Trump’s neutrality on Israel is “no small thing,” along with his comments on Mexicans, NATO, North Korea, Japan, China, and a dozen other problems.
What stands out in these recycled platitudes is that Israel’s place in the speech was pretty narrow, in addition to a suggestion that those who advocated for military action against Iran, (think: the pro-Israel/Netanyahu lobby, as they did against Iraq), would have been mistaken and “could have ignited a broader war.”
Contrast this with how Clinton emphasized the importance of allies: Japan and South Korea received the lion’s share of praise as allies that bring tangible benefits to the table:
“We worked closely with our allies, Japan and South Korea, to respond to this thread including why creating a missile defense system that stands ready to shoot down a North Korean warhead should the leaders the reckless enough to launch one. The technology is ours. Key parts are located on Japanese ships. All three countries contributed to it and all three of our militaries will run a joint drill to test it. That is the power of allies.”
Whether intended or otherwise, it wasn’t difficult to miss how this stark disparity in assessing the importance of allies underscored the great cost of America’s longstanding unquestionable support of Israel, politically, economically, militarily, and morally around the globe – some would argue at no benefit comparable to other alliances, besides Israel being a highly valued electoral commodity here at home.

Here, Clinton’s speech could be interpreted along two ways, perhaps simultaneously. One, it could have been a genuine effort to highlight a central tenet of her foreign policy — continuing Obama’s agenda concerning America’s pivot to Asia. Or, it could have also been an effort divert attention from the consequences of the Sanders’ campaign, whose positions on Israel have already highlighted sharp differences between the Democratic candidates and their constituents.
Dorgham Abusalim

Dorgham Abusalim recently graduated with a Master in International Affairs from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, Switzerland. You can follow him on Twitter @dabusalim.

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31 Responses

  1. Kay24 on June 3, 2016, 4:31 pm

    Hillary did mention very strongly that we have a moral obligation to protect Israel, and no mention about the helpless civilians who suffer from Israel’s occupation, the true victims.

    That spoke volumes.

    • pabelmont on June 4, 2016, 8:20 am

      But it did not speak volumes to people who are accustomed to hearing these “eternal truths”. They confirmed the pleasantly-moralistic feeling of “of course we’d protect Israel, it’s our duty”. Palestine was NEVER mentioned (except as enemies). Just as, in Israel,. Jews have usually referred to Arabs rather than to Palestinians. Not named, not thought of as victims or even as people.

    • JWalters on June 5, 2016, 2:46 am

      So true. And the establishment media’s 100% blackout of the Nakba also speaks volumes. Now the same media is assuring us the system is not rigged for Hillary.

    • JWalters on June 5, 2016, 6:15 pm

      Her efforts to protect CIA agents were like those of Bush II. Her unsecured emails contained names of CIA and NSA employees. Which was certainly poor judgement, sloppy on national security, and illegal.

  2. just on June 3, 2016, 5:20 pm

    “Sanders Seeks ‘Compassion’ for Palestinians in Changes to Democrats’ Policy

    Member of the Democrats’ platform drafting committee says desired changes are about more than the two-state solution while Sanders surrogate says she plans to ‘act out’ if she’s excluded from process at convention.

    This article was originally published on Jewish Insider.

    The changes Bernie Sanders is pushing for to the Democratic Party’s platform on Israel are not just about the two-state solution but “compassion” for the Palestinian cause, James Zogby, a member of the platform drafting committee, said on Thursday.

    “This is the first presidential candidate since [Jesse] Jackson in 1988 that has made a point of advocating justice for Palestine and not just a two-state solution that everyone talks about. He talked about compassion,” Zogby said during a campaign rally organized by Arab Americans for Bernie Sanders in New Jersey on Thursday, according to Politicker NJ. “We now have a chance to support a presidential candidate who not only advocates for our issues but has gone out on a limb. We have the power to be a decisive power for him.”

    Pro-Palestinian activist Linda Sarsour, a surrogate for the Sanders campaign and one of his 23 New York’s at-large delegates for the convention, told Politico that she plans to “act out” if she feels excluded from the process. “I’m not expecting violence or assaults, but chanting, doing mass walk-outs,” Sarsour said of plans to disrupt the convention from the floor. “It depends on what happens there. What you’re going to watch unfold is democracy. The onus is on the party to make sure our voices are heard.”

    Sanders’ pro-Palestinian supporters expect a discussion on the Israel-Palestine conflict in which, Sarsour said, America “has not been an honest broker in the conflict.”

    In 2012, a last-minute effort to include the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – after heavy criticism for initially omitting it from the platform – was met with loud opposition on the Democratic National Convention floor. …

    … “The Democratic Party has always, in the platform, reflected longstanding, strong support for Israel. I don’t expect that to change,” Wendy Sherman, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and a foreign policy advisor to Clinton, told Jewish Insider last week. “I believe that everybody is in strong support for Israel’s security and I think that Secretary Clinton views about the importance of Israel’s security and the unbreakable bond between the U.S. and Israel is something that is held by all Democrats.””

    read more:

    Zogby & Sansour understand the past, present, and future very well. Sherman & Clinton are hopelessly stuck in the past, and are pledging allegiance to a foreign flag.

    Thanks, Dorgham Abusalim.

    • traintosiberia on June 4, 2016, 10:26 am

      “In 2012, a last-minute effort to include the ………”

      Was it George Bush or was it someone else in his administration who inspired himself and the audience with the discovery of democracy at work in America allegedly evident in the side show of allowing some protesters to scream against war ?

      Here is Democrtaic version of that. liberal interventionist and Neo Conservatives have 2 things in common – more support for Israel more plans for more wars .Rest of the attributes or any of the differences are for consumption for the domesticated idiots.

  3. ToivoS on June 4, 2016, 5:18 am

    If this speech is considered by the Hillary supporters as her best speech ever on foreign policy then those fools are really grasping at straws.

    Besides not mentioning justice for Palestinians she made zero reference to Libya. Do note, that 18 months ago when her book came out she lauded her role in convincing Obama to destroy the Khadaffi government. Now that it is looking like Libya is another failed state and the city of Sirte has become a major base for ISIS she is quiet about that fiasco.

    She also failed to say too much about Syria. She strongly pushed for US active military involvement with the over-throw of Assad when she was SoS. At least, that is what she claimed in her book. Obama actually rejected that advice in this case. Now all she has to say about Syria is how bad Trump’s suggestions are without letting her audience know that she was pushing Obama to give more support to the Islamists rebels. Her most substantive proposal, mentioned a few months ago, was that the US should establish a no fly zone over Northern Syria. She didn’t bring that insanity up in this latest speech since any half conscious observer of the Syrian war would know that if that ever became policy it would lead almost certainly into a shooting war with Russia.

    And what did she have to say about Saudi Arabia, the major source of financial support for al qaida and ISIS? I might have missed this, but it seems like zero.

    Now we consider Russia. It was Hillary’s appointee, Victoria Nuland, that threw the US behind the coup that toppled the Yanukovitch government. When that policy blew up in our face turning Ukraine into another failed state, she started babbling incoherently that Putin was anther Hitler.

    Can anyone who wishes to avoid WWIII even consider voting for Hillary even if she is running against Trump? Trump might be bad but based on what he has said so far he is less likely to start a war with Russia.

    • annie on June 4, 2016, 8:47 am

      exactly toivos

    • BeamMeUp on June 4, 2016, 9:34 am

      We aren’t locked in to a choice of Hillary or Trump, you know. The sanest, and most constitutionally correct (i.e.. ‘for the people’) candidate is Bernie. Why do you think he’s being largely ignored and being asked to drop out? Our corporate owned government doesn’t want him. All the more reason he needs to be elected if we are going to see any glimpse of hope and change. We voted for that once, and apparently, need to keep doing it until we get there. We need a government for, of and by the people, not a government for, of and by the corporations. And we need to pick up our war toys and come home. The US has been at war 93% of the time since 1776. Google it. We are, sadly, the world’s terrorists.

      • ritzl on June 4, 2016, 10:20 am

        I would love to see the Greens and the Libertarians suck up their guts and join forces to get the 20% vote requirement to be a feasible party. There’s some commonality there (eg. foreign aid, solving problems domestically, ending perpetual war lowers taxes, anti-security state, etc.) even on big issues.

        Combined they’re polling at about 8% now (3% Green and 5% Libertarian). A “Libergreenian” message might create some voting synergy, or maybe even enough, to make a national difference next time. I wish they would both try to be open-minded enough to see the opportunity to lift themselves out of obscurity and give us all a credible non-protest voting alternative.

        Sanders has shown it’s fundable.

    • Mooser on June 4, 2016, 12:13 pm

      “Trump might be bad but based on what he has said…”

      And if there’s one thing you can count on in this crazy, mixed-up world, it’s that Trump says what he means and means what he says!

  4. traintosiberia on June 4, 2016, 8:05 am

    There is a consensus among figures like Zakaria or Bill O Reily ,WaPo,NYT and WSJ that someone aspiring to be president would be at his or her best as a new ground breaking visionary bold foreign
    Policy strategist if the aspirant articulates followings- Total enduring overacting embrace of Israel
    Total annihilation of the terrorist
    Roll back of Chinese and Russian powers
    Removal of dictators like Putin, Basher, Bolivian,Venejuealean leaders and bringing Baltic nations as new front for resetting NATO ‘s strategy against Russia,
    Dismantling Iran deal,
    Spreading Drones over the sky of Africa to Pakistan

    These are nothing new . But still the mouthpieces sitting on “leftist ” and ” conservative” platforms will ask for those old tried and repeated failed strategies from any putative potential candidate. Otherwise it is not ground breaking and not bold and not capable enough of securing America or protecting America . This is general model that is accepted by hacks masquerading as experts and accepted by Clinton supporters as bare minimum . One gets a feeling that the leaders,supporters of leaders,and the media honcho – all are swimming passively with the stream that is devoid of new ideas,afraid of new ideas,and pushed by interests groups ,guided by lobbyist and supported by collective stupidities reinforced by collective ignorance
    Very few Clinton supporters know her embrace of crony bankers,accepting gifts and bribes ,frequent lyings ,manufacturing of lies,apocalyptic nature of her foreign policies ,proclivities to getting into unnecessary wars ,and support for mst regressive autocratic regimes abroad. She brings to table what Bush jr couldn’t despite trying . She brings the worst of McCain ,Bush,and Mitt Romney in one single platform that is Clintonite as far as foreign and economic policies are concerned .

    There is no education. There is no information. There is no effort to analyse ,debate,refine ,challenge shred ideas and build ideas in the media . Forced group thinking dominates media with limited or no space for dissent or changes .
    Being exposed to same lies day and night leave American people as knowledgable as were the Europeans and Americans until fairly recently who grew up and who died listening to the same world views day and night generations after generations and years after year from the religious pulpit in the local church .

  5. Curatica on June 4, 2016, 8:28 am

    Why would anyone care about the hypocritical slogans of this base woman? She is shallow like a dead oyster shell. Between her, and the hateful knucklehead Trump, America has no real choice. This country is doomed.

    • pabelmont on June 4, 2016, 9:13 am

      And M/E, in that case, is doomed. That is the importance of the Sanders effort and the thoughts of many Sanders-istas about a continuing revolution. Clinton is a creature of the military-industrial-imperialist-interventionist-complex. She doesn’t know and cannot imagine another way to “be”. And if she somehow wanted (in her heart) to be otherwise, she couldn’t imagine a way to break out. She is trapped in her “past”, by her fund-raising, and probably by her lack of imagination (and apparent lack of humane principles). Taking her at face value, she believes that America is “great” (and “safe”) when it is pulverizing other countries, usually in a push for cheap natural resources and monocultured produce (coffee, bananas, etc., produced by large commercial “farmers” in countries where poor people are disposable, countries with the authoritarian governments that the USA has typically imposed and supported).

  6. JWalters on June 5, 2016, 2:47 am

    Hillary and many of her supporters may be thinking something like, “We’ll just let Israel take over the rest of Palestine, and then everything will settle down.”

    This appeasement will not work for two reasons. First, the religious crazies driving Israel’s land thefts will not stop at Palestine. For them, “messianic” Israel goes to the Euphrates river, incorporating the western half of Iraq. This appeasement will only strengthen their belief that God is behind their “success”.

    Their policies are based on the Torah. Deuteronomy 7:1-2 says, “When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations — … seven nations larger and stronger than you — and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.”

    Second, the war profiteers who have always been the money muscle sustaining the religious crazies will not want the regional conflicts to end. This appeasement will only embolden them to manufacture more wars.

    For readers who haven’t seen it, the central role of Israel’s military industry is discussed here.
    Relevant historical information routinely omitted from establishment media discussions is online at “War Profiteers and the Roots of the War on Terror”.

    • MHughes976 on June 5, 2016, 4:03 pm

      That is indeed one of the reasons why the Grand Population Transfer would not bring closure or finality. Another is that its monstrous injustice would not be forgotten over centuries. But that will not stop either the Clinton or the Trump regimes, for their different reasons, convincing themselves that this pretended solution would indeed be final and save us all a lot of bother. There would of course be a much advertised ‘compensation’ system, lauded as ‘generous’: the problem would be that Israel would demand that Western taxpayers foot the bill and that would cause some friction. We need to prepare ourselves for the accompanying propaganda onslaught, the biggest ever, but ever.

  7. MaxNarr on June 6, 2016, 9:20 am

    Israel can take care of itself. USA needs not get involved.

    • Kay24 on June 6, 2016, 10:06 am

      Lol what pathetic words.

      “Yet, as thousands of “Israel-first” citizen lobbyists descend on Capitol Hill tomorrow as part of the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) — the largest and most influential of the many groups comprising the “Israel lobby” — concern for these millions of Americans will not be on its legislative agenda. 

Instead, AIPAC will be lobbying to avert the impact of sequestration on record-breaking levels of U.S. military aid to Israel. It will also be pushing for legislation to boost the U.S.-Israel “strategic alliance” and green light an Israeli attack on Iran, measures which will both inevitably entail demands for additional U.S. taxpayer-funded weapons to Israel.

      How about this?

      DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tangled publicly with the White House last year over the Iran nuclear agreement. But after that deal went through, he showed up at the Oval Office to talk about another deal, one that would keep billions of dollars flowing every year, so that Israel could, as Netanyahu put it, defend itself by itself.

      Yep despite trying to sabotage Obama’s Iran nuclear agreement, they shamefully appear to take advantage and ASK FOR MORE.

      Face it, without the US support and aid Israel will not be standing today, and unfortunately not become the parasite it is. They beg for more aid at every turn, using victimhood to do so.
      The moment there is a hint of their precious aid being stopped or cut, they become desperate.
      What is surprising is that their minions are ungrateful and arrogant. USA not get involved indeed.

    • Mooser on June 6, 2016, 11:16 am

      “Israel can take care of itself. USA needs not get involved.”

      “MaxNarr” is the best parody-Zionist we’ve ever had. He’s worth bending the comment rules for.

      • Mooser on June 6, 2016, 12:58 pm

        Has anybody ever, could anybody else ever do as much to point out both the absurdity and stupidity of today’s Zionism with 11 words?
        Two very short declarative sentences.
        And that little presumptuous “needs not”, the perfect touch.
        I tip my yarmulke to a master parodist.

    • eljay on June 6, 2016, 1:43 pm

      || MaxNarr: Israel can take care of itself. USA needs not get involved. ||

      That’s right. The USA should stay the hell out of Israel’s business and stick to providing only military, financial, political and economic support.

      You’re funny. :-)

  8. Ossinev on June 6, 2016, 1:44 pm

    “Israel can take care of itself. USA needs not get involved”

    Absolutely stunning news. A high profile hasbarist at the risk to his own job has broken cover and effectively advocated the decommissioning of AIPAC and the return of Saban`s and Addledbrained`s millions. The latter makes sense as instead of handing them over directly to Hillary and Donald they can simply send them directly to JSIL`s bank account( perhaps with a few million for “legitimate expenses” being slushed into one of the Yahoo`s accounts).

    Unless of course the”taking care of itself” is a purely military assessment and means a thorough digging up of all of the offending lawns in the neighbouring Middle East as opposed to the restrained Gaza type mowing we have witnessed to date.

    Might also then mean a deployment of JSIL`s we might have we might not have nuclear arsenal and a plea for extra fervent wall prayers imploring Yahweh to ensure that the terrestrial winds blow the fall out dust well away from his beloved chosen land and people.

    Please do enlighten Max.

    • MaxNarr on June 6, 2016, 6:34 pm

      Hi Ossinev, I’m sorry your words are so confusing with weird acronyms like JSIL and words like “Addledbrained’s” I’m sorry but they make no sense. Could you please use plain English and respectful discourse when soliciting a response?


      • annie on June 6, 2016, 7:12 pm

        there’s an excellent discussion about JSIL in this comment section:

      • MaxNarr on June 6, 2016, 8:27 pm

        Hi Annie, that’s ridiculous to the point of absurdity and I reject it out of hand. It just sounds to me like the previous comments are making fun of Jews who pray at the Western Wall which I find baffling. Private donors can give billions and more to Israel and they should. Israel does not need the USA’s help from a financial perspective even though foreign aide is less than 1% of the budget.

      • annie on June 7, 2016, 12:31 am

        Israel does not need the USA’s help from a financial perspective


      • Mooser on June 6, 2016, 9:21 pm

        “Could you please use plain English and respectful discourse”

        Holey Moley! This guy is good.
        Only a very vehement and long-nurtured animus against Zionism (and Jews and Judaism, too, I’m afraid) that he’s been honing, refining, and polishing unto a a parody Zionist persona for years could account for it.

      • eljay on June 7, 2016, 8:58 am

        I love how this…

        MaxNarr: Israel can take care of itself. USA needs not get involved.

        …has been softened to this:

        MaxNarr: … Israel does not need the USA’s help from a financial perspective …

        The guy is comedy gold! :-)

  9. Mooser on June 7, 2016, 1:25 pm

    “The guy is comedy gold!”

    Pitch-perfect! Nobody else comes close, or does it with such economy of words.

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