WASHINGTON – Donald J. Trump has “no business” being president of the United States if he is neutral on the issue of Palestinian terrorism, Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Monday, in an aggressive and concerted attack against the GOP front-runner at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference.
Clinton, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, appealed to the liberal democratic inclinations of some 18,000 pro-Israel activists gathered here, targeting Trump’s “bigotry” and “bullying,” while underscoring the need for steady hands in a world full of perils.
“America can’t ever be neutral when it comes to Israel’s security or survival,” Clinton said. “Some things aren’t negotiable.”
Clinton, the former first lady, senator from New York and secretary of state, recounted her experience with victims of Palestinian attacks.
The US cannot be neutral on the issue, she said, because “in Israel’s story, we see our own, and the stories of all people who struggled for freedom and self-determination.”
Her assault on Trump – a substantial portion of her speech – received repeated and enthusiastic applause from the crowd.
Accusing the billionaire of being “neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday and who knows what on Wednesday,” Clinton said: “For the security of Israel and the world, we need America to remain a respected global leader.”
Trump, a real-estate tycoon, media personality and leading Republican presidential candidate, has said he would remain “neutral” between Israel and the Palestinians in order to clinch the “deal of all deals” – a two-state solution.
He was to speak to AIPAC’s confab on Monday evening, along with rivals Ohio Governor John Kasich and Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
Clinton also outlined her own position on the recent wave of violence in Israel, which has hit Israeli and American civilians in the country, explicitly condemning Palestinian leadership for “inciting violence” and for failing to condemn the killing. “These attacks must end immediately,” she said.
While she briefly acknowledged differences with the Israeli government on stalled peace efforts with Palestinian leadership, she repeated her opposition to any political process imposed by outside parties “including by the UN Security Council.”
The Obama administration and the French government are reportedly considering a resolution that would codify parameters of a two-state solution in the Security Council chamber.
Echoing Vice President Joseph Biden’s speech to AIPAC the night before, Clinton noted the potential for convergence between Israel and the Arab world on a host of security issues; if the Arab League can designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, so too can Europe, she charged, once again to applause.
Above all else, Iran’s policies region-wide have brought Israel and its Arab neighbors together around common security threats – and while Clinton stated that the nuclear deal reached last summer would put a “lid” on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear work, she said she would be uniquely strict in enforcing the deal as president.
“There’s a big difference between talking about holding Iran accountable and actually doing it,” she said, adding that force remains on the table should Tehran significantly violate the pact, and she called for a “significant response” to Iran’s continued ballistic missile work.
Clinton expressed concern over the rising tide of anti-Semitism afflicting Europe, embodied by the boycott, divestment and sanction (BDS) movement. One line particularly well-received in the hall was her rebuke of those boycotting Israel’s scientists, intellectuals and students, which she characterized as anti-Semitic bullying.
Her speech was yet another indication that Clinton is pivoting from the primary campaign against Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who trails her in delegates, to the Democratic National Convention.
Clinton suggested that, as president, her White House would approach the US-Israel relationship with gentler hands than has the Obama administration, which has had a historically fractious relationship with the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
One of her first orders of business would be to invite Netanyahu to the Oval Office, Clinton said, and dispatch a delegation from the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Israel for defense consultations.
“We will never allow Israel’s adversaries to think a wedge can be driven between us,” she said.
“Ceding the mantle of leadership” in the Middle East, she added, “is not an option.”