Hillary Clinton addresses AIPAC in Washington DC.
(photo credit: screenshot)
It’s been a wild two weeks in American politics. The Republican Convention – filled with anger, lacking hope – bristled with blistering moments, as delegates, whipped into a frenzy by Donald Trump’s demonization and demagoguery, shouted creepily about Hillary Clinton, “Lock her up, lock her up!” I know politics is tough, but can’t people dislike a politician without filing criminal charges? The Democratic Convention – filled with hope, lacking sufficient anger against terrorists and criminals – was kinder, gentler, and staggered to a surprisingly boring finale. Clinton’s pedestrian, paint-by-numbers speech was less moving than Michelle Obama’s, less inspiring than Barack Obama’s, less charming than Bill Clinton’s – but not as saccharine as Chelsea’s, at least.
Now, the fight is on, between the maniac and the mannequin. Clinton is too robotic and privileged, truly, as Trump’s running mate Mike Pence said, the “secretary of the status quo.” My son Aviv said her introductory film felt like a bat mitzvah video. The only accomplishments she or the video touted that night were killing Osama bin Laden (she was a small part of that) and getting $20 billion in funding for New York State after 9/11 (a true no-brainer). Is that all she achieved in 12 years as senator and secretary of state? Still, at least she’s stable, reasonable, reliable. She’s not the Master of Mayhem, playing to the lowest common denominator or stirring the electorate’s base instincts.
Clearly, especially with Trump nominating an Evangelical running mate, most American Jews will vote Democratic.
Most American Jews are more pro-choice than pro-Israel, voting based on domestic American considerations.
But the fundraising race gives generous donors an opportunity to make demands or at least clarify the candidate’s stances before writing their checks. Here are the three questions supporters should ask Clinton before contributing a dime to her campaign.
First, “In your acceptance you boasted about the Iran nuclear deal and admitted ‘we have to enforce it.’ How many violations will you tolerate?” I would ask Clinton to subscribe to the fact sheet distributed by Omri Ceren, a managing director at The Israel Project, an organization that works with journalists on Middle East issues. She would learn that in the past two weeks alone: “Iran abducted another American hostage.... launched another round of ballistic missile tests,” continued harboring at least three senior al-Qaida operatives, and “imported the physical missiles for their advanced S-300 anti-aircraft system,” which should trigger presidential sanctions. Furthermore, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif “bragged that Iran rolled US diplomats to get a secret side agreement on advanced centrifuges.... The Iranian Atomic Energy Organization was instructed to create a plan for restarting shuttered nuclear facilities,” and “Iran was revealed to be using textbooks praising the murder of Israelis and Jews.”
Second, “Will you combat Palestinian incitement? Will you punish the Palestinian Authority with aid cutoffs – and lobby the Europeans and the UN to join you – unless the Palestinians start educating toward peace rather than toward hatred?” Even the latest Quartet report said the PA has “not consistently and clearly” condemned terrorist attacks. A MEMRI report last March found that some Palestinian civil society organizations funded by “Western countries, institutions, and foundations are openly expressing support for terrorism.” Peace will remain elusive if Palestinians continue demonizing Jews.
Third, “Will you end the Obama administration’s obsession with ‘the’ settlements by distinguishing between illegal outposts that complicate attempts at a two-state solution and expanding communities, including parts of Jerusalem, which the international consensus – and the (Bill) Clinton plan – assume will remain part of Israel?” Clinton should read the blog by Elliott Abrams of the Council of Foreign Relations calling the latest State Department attacks on Israel “politically quite stupid,” lacking nuance and proportion, foolishly and unfairly treating peaceful Jewish housing starts as the great threat in a violent, volatile Middle East.
These three questions reflect the deeper challenge. Both Obama and Bill Clinton endorse a two-state solution and envision similar maps. Obama failed with his “tough love” approach to Israel, not being anti-Israel but being very, very hard on the Jewish state, treating Israel as the obstacle to peace. President Clinton came agonizingly close to success – only to be undermined by Yasser Arafat’s refusal to compromise – by taking a “love love” approach to Israel. President Clinton understood that when Israelis feel supported, respected, loved, they compromise; when they feel attacked, isolated, delegimitized, they, like most people and countries, naturally become defensive.
Now, during this high stakes campaign, pro-Israel donors must push Clinton and her team to hold Iran to its commitments, demand the Palestinians stop demonizing Israel, and return to treating Israel as a trusted friend, not a perpetual headache.
Trump has defied expectations by exploiting Americans’ fears that Obama and his supporters have a broken moral compass, that they cannot tell the good guys from the bad, preferring to squeeze allies and indulge adversaries. Here, good policy and good politics overlap. If Clinton can convince American voters, especially in key swing states like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, that she will be tougher, fairer and more effective, at home and abroad, voters will accept her slogan that they are “stronger together” and send the carrot-topped demagogue into the gilded exile this man who tries leading by insulting and inciting deserves.The author, a professor of history at McGill University, is the author of
The Age of Clinton: America in the 1990s, published by St. Martin’s Press. His next book will update Arthur Hertzberg’s The Zionist Idea. Follow on Twitter @GilTroy.