Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of opinion pieces advocating for candidates in the 2016 presidential race.
American exceptionalism, the doctrine that the United States, as a people and a nation imbued with democratic values, has the unique ability and responsibility to promote these values on the world stage, needs to be a major component of how our leadership views the challenges facing our country.
As we look forward to the 2016 presidential election and take note of all the dangers that surround us, we realize how important it is for the next president to embrace American exceptionalism with pride. Hillary Clinton is the candidate who will best express the grandeur and bear the responsibility of American exceptionalism.
I am an advocate for the former New York senator and secretary of state based on personal experience, as I have known her personally for years. In 1994, I was invited to accompany the Clintons to witness the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. During a luncheon in Jerusalem, the then-first lady expressed an interest in Jewish doctrine, which led to an interesting discussion, including her view on the moral significance of the Akeda, the binding of Isaac. In the course of that conversation and many subsequent interactions, I came to realize that she has an extraordinary intellect, an open mind, a clear vision for the United States, and a deeply rooted friendship with Israel and the American Jewish community.
These are times that cannot afford the absence of American leadership. With the growing threat of radical Islam and the risks posed by a resurgent Iran, the United States needs a foreign policy that will use all of the tools in our power to address these threats. With Hillary Clinton as president, I believe America will be engaged in the world — and to great effect.
She can and will be the leader who will apply deep strategic thinking to deal with the foreign policy issues confronting us. She will put America at the forefront of world leadership.
I personally believe the Iran nuclear deal, in particular, creates great risks not only for Israel, but for the United States. We need a president who will mobilize American power, strategy and policy to ensure that the Iran nuclear deal does not simply become a cover for Iran’s pursuit of nuclear arms. As president, Clinton will take the necessary action to protect against these risks. She has made clear that “there can be no doubt in Tehran that if we see any indication that Iran’s leaders are violating their commitments in the deal not to seek, develop, or acquire any nuclear weapons, we will stop them.” I know she means it. She will not only vigorously enforce the deal; she will also work with America’s traditional allies in the Middle East — Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Emirates — to stymie Iranian expansionism. This realignment could have other beneficial results as well. With Israel and its Arab neighbors sitting on the same side of the table to address their common strategic concerns, a greater openness to solving the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate will ensue.
From the Senate floor to the Situation Room, Clinton has proven to be a true friend of Israel. She has spent decades developing and nurturing relationships with Israeli leaders that would continue if she becomes president. For example, as senator she successfully helped pressure the International Red Cross to officially recognize Magen David Adom, Israel’s emergency medical service and blood bank, that had been denied recognition for decades. Beginning in 2009, Secretary of State Clinton was Israel’s most steadfast ally in challenging times. She led negotiations in 2012 to establish a cease-fire in Gaza and end Hamas rocket attacks, has requested additional funding for Israel’s security every fiscal year, and took a stand against powerful organizations like the United Nations Human Rights Council that displayed anti-Israel bias.
Clinton has articulated a clear plan for renewing and strengthening what she called the “unshakable and unbreakable” bond the United States shares with Israel. As president, she would expand security and intelligence cooperation with Israel and increase support for Israel’s rocket and missile defense systems. She would oppose any efforts to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state outside of negotiations with Israel and will oppose the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. These policy positions are not simply matters of diplomacy — they are personal commitments, a natural outgrowth of her interacting with Israeli leaders and members of the Jewish community throughout her career, listening to their voices and fighting for their rights.
Let me share one more personal incident about Hillary Clinton that demonstrates her extraordinary qualities. Some years ago, when I introduced a friend of mine, Jamie Fox, New Jersey’s former commissioner of transportation, to then-Sen. Clinton, she said to him, “I recently saw your name quoted in an op-ed piece about port security by [Republican Sen.] Lindsey Graham.” I was stunned by her capacity to absorb information, to recall it and put it to use. The incident also brought home her ability to build working relationships. Sen. Graham was one of the managers of the trial to impeach former President Clinton. And yet, Hillary Clinton subsequently worked with the senator on pressing issues, including port security.
Today, we are living in a world where foreign policy issues, conflicts, and negotiations are fraught with complexity, fear and danger. Absent American leadership, the world will be a bleaker and more dangerous place. With Hillary Clinton as president, we will see an engaged America rising to meet these challenges. This is a woman whose life and mind are truly exceptional; she will personify American exceptionalism. There is no one I trust more, and no one better suited than she to keep a level head, protect Israel’s best interests, and lead our country through these trying times.
Rabbi Menachem Genack is CEO of the Orthodox Union’s kosher division and spiritual leader of Congregation Shomrei Emunah in Englewood, N.J. His views do not represent those of the OU.