Without naming him, Democratic Presidential contender Hillary Clinton criticized her Republican rival Donald Trump Monday, telling AIPAC supporters “Israel’s security is non-negotiable.”
“We need steady hands, not a president who says he’s neutral on Sunday, pro-Israel on Monday and who knows what on Tuesday, because everything is negotiable,” she said. “Well, my friends, Israel’s security is non-negotiable.”
Trump, the New York businessman who is the frontrunner in the Republican presidential contest, has said he would be “neutral” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in order to be able to better negotiate a peace accord. And during a Republican debate last month, Trump noted that he was "a negotiator" when asked whether the United States should continue to support the Palestinian Authority.
“As a negotiator, I cannot do that as well if I’m taking sides,” he said. “That being said, I am totally pro-Israel.”
But Clinton, a former secretary and state and senator from New York, received applause and cheers when she said, “America can’t ever be neutral when it comes to Israel’s security and survival. We can’t be neutral when suicide bombers target the innocent. Some things aren’t negotiable and anyone who doesn’t understand that has no business in being our president.”
After delineating some of Trump’s more controversial statements, including advocating a temporary ban on Muslim immigrants and encouraging the violence that has erupted at his rallies, Clinton said of Trump’s AIPAC speech scheduled for this evening: “Tonight, you will get a glimpse of a potential U.S. foreign policy that would insult our allies, not engage with them and embolden our adversaries, not defeat them.”
She said one of the first things she would do as president “is invite the Israeli prime minister to visit the White House” and also send a “delegation from the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs” to Israel for collaboration with their counterparts. And she said she would like to see greater ties between “Silicon Valley and Israeli entrepreneurs,” as well as a fostering of relationships between Israelis and “our young people.”
Clinton also told the audience of 18,000 people at the annual Policy Conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that the deadly Palestinian stabbings, shootings and car attacks against Israelis that began Oct. 1 “must end immediately, and Palestinian leaders need to stop inciting violence and celebrating the terrorists as martyrs and then paying rewards to their families.”
Clinton, whose remarks were punctuated with several standing ovations, said that if elected, “the U.S. will reaffirm that we have a strong and enduring commitment to Israel’s security. …When we have differences we will work to resolve them quickly and respectfully.”
She said she hopes a new 10-year Memorandum of Understanding would be signed soon between the U.S. and Israel that would spell-out the U.S. military aid package to Israel over the next 10 years.
“That will also send a clear message to Israel’s enemies that the U.S. and Israel stand tighter united, and Israel will maintain its qualitative military edge,” she said, adding that the U.S. “should provide Israel with the most sophisticated” weaponry to be able to protect itself.
“America needs an Israel strong enough to deter and defend against its enemies and to work with us to tackle the strong challenges and to take bold steps in pursuit of peace,” she said.
There was silence in the room when Clinton said she lead the efforts to bring Iran to the negotiating table to halt its nuclear program. She garnered applause, however, when she insisted that the deal that was reached has “made the world safer as a result, but it is still not good enough to trust and verify, our approach must be distrust and verify. This deal must come with clear consequences for violations.”
Although Iran’s nuclear development program may be on hold, Clinton said Iran continues to foment unrest throughout the region, including amassing an arsenal of weapons for Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon that is capable of hitting every part of Israel.
“Our next president has to hold Iran responsible for even small violations and turn sanctions back on if we see any evidence of violations,” she said. “The U.S. will act to stop it and we will do so with force if necessary.”
Noting that Iran this month test fired several missiles, including two bearing the words, “Israel should be wiped from the pages of history,” Clinton said: “This is a serious danger and it demands a serious response.”
So far, the U.S. went to the United Nations, but Russia has blocked any action by the Security Council.
Noting that the Arab League has recently designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, Clinton chastised “our friends in Europe” for failing to do the same.
She noted that ISIS is in the Sinai and “making inroads to partner” with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. She said it is responsible for the weekend suicide bombing in Istanbul that killed four civilians, including three Israelis, two of whom had dual American citizenship. [Reports from Turkey said security cameras captured the attacker follow the Israelis from their hotel to a restaurant and then wait outside until they emerged before blowing himself up.]
“This is a threat that know no borders,” Clinton said. “Our goal cannot be to contain ISIS, we must defeat ISIS.”
Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she said she would continue to work for a two-state solution, and remains “convinced that peace with security is possible and the only way to guarantee Israel’s long-term survival as a Jewish and democratic state. … Inaction cannot be an option.” She noted that there have been “recent constructive meetings” between Israeli and Palestinian finance ministers and security officials.
“But at the same time, all of us must condemn terrorists, and children should not be taught to hate in schools,” Clinton said. “That poisons the future. As president, I would continue the pursuit of direct negotiations and not allow outside parties to impose a solution, including the U.N. Security Council.”
Inset Image: Hillary Clinton arrives to speak during the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) 2016 Policy Conference at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC, March 21, 2016. Getty Images