Clinton Seeks Jewish Support, Slams Trump at AIPAC
Hillary Clinton test marketed a biting general election playbook Monday, casting Donald Trump as an erratic, dangerous candidate who would harm U.S. leadership and international policy if elected president.
Speaking in Washington to the largest pro-Israel lobbying group, Clinton did not mention Trump by name, but left no doubt she considers the businessman’s inexperience in foreign policy and nativist rhetoric among his most vivid vulnerabilities as voters weigh their choices before November.
“I know that all of you understand what's at stake in this election,” Clinton told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC. “Our next president will walk into the Oval Office next January and immediately face a world of both perils we must meet with strength and skill, and opportunities we must seize and build on.”
Clinton described Trump as a potential menace to Israel and U.S. foreign policy in general, based on his stated inclination to assume a neutral stance on Israel-Palestinian relations.
“For the security of Israel and the world, we need America to remain a respected global leader, committed to defending and advancing the international order, an
America able to block efforts to isolate or attack Israel,” she said.
“The alternative is unthinkable,” Clinton continued to loud applause. “Yes, we need steady hands, not a president who says he's neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday, and who-knows-what on Wednesday, because everything's negotiable. Well, my friends, Israel's security is non-negotiable.”
The former New York senator denounced Trump’s campaign rhetoric, arguing it stirred rather than rejected hatred and bigotry.
“What Americans are hearing on the campaign trail this year is something else entirely: encouraging violence, playing coy with white supremacists, calling for 12 million immigrants to be rounded up and deported, demanding we turn away refugees because of their religion, and proposing a ban on all Muslims entering the United States,” Clinton said.
While Trump continues to be heckled by demonstrators at events, and some in the Jewish community boycotted the real estate mogul’s AIPAC appearance, the Democratic front-runner exploited the negative reactions Trump has engendered.
“If you see bigotry, oppose it. If you see violence, condemn it. If you see a bully, stand up to him,” she told her listeners.
The former secretary of state spoke hours before Trump joined GOP presidential rivals Gov. John Kasich and Sen. Ted Cruz in delivering separate addresses to AIPAC. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Jew raised in Brooklyn, spoke about foreign policy at an event in Salt Lake City ahead of Tuesday’s Utah caucuses.
Clinton used her address to outline her Middle East policies and to affirm her support for the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by President Obama with international partners. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an outspoken opponent of the agreement with Tehran, did not meet with Obama in Washington last week. The White House said the two leaders could not find a mutually agreeable time before the president departed for Cuba on Sunday.
Clinton emphasized her working relationship with Netanyahu while serving as a member of Obama’s Cabinet and as a New York senator, assuring the audience she could build on those ties in 2017, if elected president.
“One of the first things I'll do in office is invite the Israeli prime minister to visit the White House,” she said. “And I will send a delegation from the Pentagon and the joint chiefs [of staff] to Israel for early consultations.”
In defending the Iran nuclear deal, Clinton also created some distance from Obama, urging the administration to respond more forcefully with sanctions to Iran’s recent ballistic missile tests.
“If I'm elected, the leaders of Iran will have no doubt that if we see any indication that they are violating their commitment not to seek, develop or acquire nuclear weapons, the United States will act to stop it, and that we will do so with force if necessary,” she said.
“Iranian provocations, like the recent ballistic missile tests, are also unacceptable and should be answered firmly and quickly including with more sanctions,” Clinton added. “Those missiles were stamped with words declaring, and I quote, `Israel should be wiped from the pages of history.’ We know they could reach Israel or hit the tens of thousands of American troops stationed in the Middle East. This is a serious danger and it demands a serious response,” she continued.
While enumerating shared values between Israel and the United States, Clinton had some fun pointing out where America has lagged behind its friend and ally, returning to politics and history.
“Some of us remember a woman, Golda Meir, leading Israel's government decades ago and wonder what's taking us so long here in America?” she joked.
The Jewish vote is an important demographic within the political coalition Clinton hopes to build if she’s the Democratic nominee. In 2008, 65 percent of Jewish voters backed Obama against Sen. John McCain, according to exit polls. In 2012, 69 percent of Jewish voters supported the president against Republican nominee Mitt Romney.