(January 21, 2016 / JNS)
By Jacob Kamaras, Alina Dain Sharon, and Sean Savage/JNS.org
After narrowly defeating Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Iowa caucus, Hillary Clinton bolstered her status as the front-runner for the Democratic nomination in the 2016 presidential race. If elected, how would U.S.-Israel relations fare under her watch? To gain insight into the prospect of a Clinton administration for the Jewish state, JNS.org looks back—in reverse chronological order—at her words, policies, and relationships as they relate to Israel over the course of the various stages of her political career.
SECRETARY OF STATE AND 2016 U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
Speaking at the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines in Iowa, Clinton notes that the administration of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “has never stopped cooperation with Israel on security, even when there had been outbursts of terrorism; even when Hamas has tried to provoke such a breach.” Her comments come as Israeli leaders blame Abbas for inciting an ongoing terror wave in Israel through his claims that the Jewish state is trying to change the status quo at the Temple Mount holy site.
In the latest Democratic presidential debate, Clinton disagrees with an assertion by Sanders that “what we’ve got to do is move as aggressively as we can to normalize relations with Iran.” While Clinton expresses that she is “very proud” of the newly implemented nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, she cautions, “We’ve had one good day over 36 years, and I think we need more good days before we move more rapidly—before more normalization.” Israeli leaders across the political spectrum have opposed the Iran deal over security concerns.
In November, Clinton appoints Earl F. Hilliard, a former House of Representatives member who blamed an election defeat on “Jewish interests” and the “Jewish media,” to her presidential campaign’s Alabama leadership team. Hilliard was considered one of the most vocal opponents of Israel in Congress while he represented Alabama in the House from 1993-2003.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Clinton and her campaign team “have regularly reached out to opponents of the Iran deal in recent weeks, including American Jewish leaders. The outreach to the Jewish community appears to be working. A number of Jewish leaders said they remained deeply concerned about the agreement, but said Mrs. Clinton wasn’t facing the same type of criticism as Mr. [Barack] Obama.”
In July, former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren comes out with his much-discussed memoir, “Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide.” Oren recalls being consistently rebuffed in his attempts to meet with Clinton during her time as secretary of state on the grounds that she “did not receive ambassadors,” in contrast to former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice’s willingness to regularly meet with Sallai Meridor, the Israeli envoy at the time.
In an op-ed for the Forward, Clinton writes, “I am deeply committed to Israel’s future as a secure and democratic Jewish state, and just as convinced that the only way to guarantee that outcome is through diplomacy. And while no solution can be imposed from outside, I believe the United States has a responsibility to help bring Israelis and Palestinians to the table and to encourage the difficult but necessary decisions that will lead to peace. As president I will never stop working to advance the goal of two states for two peoples living in peace, security, and dignity.”
In March, Clinton says in a phone conversation with Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, that “we need to all work together to return the special U.S.-Israel relationship to constructive footing.” The U.S. and Israel, she says, should “get back to basic shared concerns and interests, including a two-state solution pursued through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians….We must ensure that Israel never becomes a partisan issue.”
In her new memoir, “Hard Choices,” Clinton characterizes Israel as an occupying force. “When we left the city and visited Jericho, in the West Bank, I got my first glimpse of life under occupation for Palestinians, who were denied the dignity and self-determination that Americans take for granted,” she writes, recounting a 1981 trip with her husband.
Clinton also writes in the memoir, “In retrospect, our early, hard line on settlements didn’t work,” arguing that the Obama administration’s stance against Israeli settlement construction hardened Abbas’s position. But Noah Pollak, executive director of the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI), writes for the Weekly Standard that Clinton was trying to rewrite her position on settlements. “It is very difficult, looking at her record during this period, to conclude that the presentation of her role in her book is accurate,” writes Pollak. “There is a simple and likely explanation for this revisionist history: She knows that her prominent role in the past five years of acrimony between the Obama administration and Israel is unhelpful to her presidential ambitions, and so she is attempting to distance herself from the administration’s record by downgrading her involvement in its Israel policy.”
A television advertisement from ECI questions Clinton’s silence on Secretary of State John Kerry’s comment in April that Israel risks becoming an “apartheid state” if a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not reached soon. The ad notes that American Jewish groups, Democratic Party organizations, and Democratic legislators spoke out against Kerry’s remark, but Clinton did not.
Speaking at the Saban Forum, Clinton says Israel lacks generosity and empathy in its approach to the Palestinian issue. “So, look, I’m not making excuses for the missed opportunities of the Israelis, or the lack of generosity, the lack of empathy that I think goes hand-in-hand with the suspicion,” she says. “So, yes, there is more that the Israelis need to do to really demonstrate that they do understand the pain of an oppressed people in their minds, and they want to figure out, within the bounds of security and a Jewish democratic state, what can be accomplished.”
Responding to an email containing a quote in which Netanyahu tells the Jerusalem Post, “We have two main enemies….the New York Times and Haaretz,” Clinton sarcastically replies, “Further Bibi lore.”
In an article published two months after the Obama administration brokers a nuclear deal with Iran in 2015, Jay Solomon and Laura Meckler write for the Wall Street Journal that three years earlier, “Hillary Clinton, in her last months as secretary of state, helped open the door to…an acceptance that Tehran would maintain at least some capacity to produce nuclear fuel.” In July 2012, according to the report, Hillary’s foreign policy aide Jake Sullivan “met in secret with Iranian diplomats in Oman, but made no progress in ending the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program. In a string of high-level meetings here over the next six months, the secretary of state and White House concluded that they might have to let Iran continue to enrich uranium at small levels, if the diplomacy had any hope of succeeding.”
In an email dated Dec. 18, 2011, former U.S. ambassador to Israel Thomas Pickering, an adviser to Clinton, suggests that the U.S. covertly generate Palestinian unrest in an effort to push the Israeli government to jump-start stalled peace talks. “What will change the situation is a major effort to use nonviolent protests and demonstrations to put peace back in the center of people’s aspirations as well as their thoughts, and use that to influence the political leadership,” Pickering writes, adding that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “cannot deliver anything the Palestinians can accept without our help.” It is unclear how Clinton reacts to Pickering’s idea.
Clinton expresses concern about the state of Israeli democracy, describing reports of gender segregation on buses operating in Jerusalem as “reminiscent of Rosa Parks,” the black civil rights icon who in 1955 refused to give up her seat on an Alabama bus to white passengers. Israeli finance minister Yuval Steinitz calls Clinton’s remark “completely exaggerated.”
In March, Clinton devotes a 45-minute phone conversation with Netanyahu to rebuking the prime minister for Israel’s decision to move ahead with 1,600 new housing units in eastern Jerusalem.
Clinton confidante Sidney Blumenthal, in a memo to the secretary of state, offers what JNS.org columnist Rafael Medoff later calls an “armchair psychiatric analysis” of Netanyahu. Blumenthal writes in an email to Hillary that Netanyahu is haunted by the fear that he “can never equal his dead brother,” Entebbe rescue hero Yoni Netanyahu. The prime minister is obsessed with a feeling that he “has never measured up” to his brother in their father’s eyes, writes Blumenthal.
In a September email to Sidney Blumenthal, Clinton praises “Republican Gomorrah,” a book written by Sidney’s son, anti-Israel activist and Hamas supporter Max Blumenthal. “I just finished the book and it’s great. Congrats to all!” Clinton tells Sidney.
In May, Clinton tells Al Jazeera, “We want to see a stop to [Israeli] settlement construction, additions, natural growth—any kind of settlement activity. That is what the president has called for.” Later that month, at a press conference with Egypt’s foreign minister, Clinton says Obama “wants to see a stop to settlements—not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions.”
Michael Oren writes in “Ally” that the 2009 demand by the Obama administration for a complete Israeli settlement freeze marked the “first time in the history of the U.S.-Israel alliance” that the White House “denied the validity of a previous presidential commitment.” Oren was referring to the George W. Bush administration’s reported commitment to Israel that the Jewish state could build inside the construction lines of established settlements. But according to an email made public by the State Department, Clinton in July 2009 writes to two aides that Bush-era secretary of state Condoleezza Rice “called to tell me I was on strong ground, saying what I did about there being no agreement [on settlements] between the Bush admin[istration] and Israel.”
U.S. SENATOR AND 2008 U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
In an interview with the Jewish Exponent of Philadelphia, Clinton supports “limited talks” with the Hamas terrorist group if Israel deems such outreach to be in its best interests. She refuses to address the “hypothetical question” of what she would do if Iran gains nuclear capability.
In a statement, Clinton says, “I deplore and condemn the Hamas rocket attacks on southern Israel…Israel has the right to defend its citizens….I call on Hamas to stop this irresponsible aggression immediately, which would enable Israeli and Palestinian civilians to return to normal life.” She adds that the Bush administration “should have been taking a much more active role in bringing international pressure on Hamas to stop its attacks.”
On ABC’s “Good Morning America” program, Clinton asserts that if she were president, the U.S. could “totally obliterate” Iran in retaliation for a nuclear strike against Israel.
At a press conference with Palestinian Media Watch, Clinton says regarding incitement to violence in Palestinian school textbooks, “We must stop the propaganda to which Palestinian children are being exposed. That must be a priority for all people who care about children, who care about the kind of peace, stability, safety, and security that Israel deserves to be guaranteed. And it should be a priority for everyone who cares about the future of the Palestinian people.”
Clinton votes to label Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist group.
Hamas’s governance of Gaza should not be officially recognized until the terror group “renounces violence and terror and recognizes Israel’s right to exist,” Clinton tells the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Palestinian lobbyist Hani Masri, a close associate of Yasser Arafat, raises more than $100,000 for Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Clinton sponsors S.Con.Res. 113 (109th): “A concurrent resolution congratulating the Magen David Adom Society in Israel for achieving full membership in the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and for other purposes.”
At a rally near United Nations headquarters in New York City, Clinton supports taking “whatever steps are necessary” to defend Israel against Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria. She adds, “I want us here in New York to imagine, if extremist terrorists were launching rocket attacks across the Mexican or Canadian border, would we stand by or would we defend America against these attacks from extremists?”
CANDIDATE FOR U.S. SENATOR FROM NEW YORK
Hillary accepts a campaign donation from the Muslim Brotherhood-linked American Muslim Alliance’s Massachusetts Chapter and tries to hide it by recording the donation on federal filing forms as being from the “American Museum Alliance.” Eventually, she returns the funds four months after receiving them. “I learned that an organization claimed credit for sponsoring a fundraiser I attended; an organization whose members have made statements that I find offensive and have condemned. And as soon as I found out the facts, I returned all of the money that was raised because I did not want anyone to have a false impression about my strong support for Israel’s safety and security,” Hillary says.
Hillary says it is incumbent on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to “do everything in his power to stop the violence and to maintain the cease-fire that was reached yesterday,” and to “make it clear that violence is not an acceptable political statement.”
In a letter to the Orthodox Union, Hillary writes that she considers Jerusalem the “eternal and indivisible capital of Israel,” and that if elected senator, she would advocate moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
THE ARKANSAS YEARS AND U.S. FIRST LADY
During Hillary’s visit to Ramallah in 1999, Suha Arafat—wife of Yasser—openly accuses Israel of poisoning the West Bank’s water supply and land. Following those remarks, Hillary is photographed embracing Suha and kissing her on the cheek, a move Hillary describes as following diplomatic protocol.
Hillary generates controversy by laying out her own vision for the Middle East, declaring support for an independent Palestinian state before president Bill Clinton expresses a viewpoint on the issue. “It would be in the long-term interests of peace in the Middle East for there to be a state of Palestine, a functioning modern state that is on the same footing as other states,” she says in a satellite address to Israeli, Palestinian, and Jordanian teens from the Seeds of Peace group.
During a visit to Israel and the disputed Palestinian territories, the New York Times describes Hillary as being “hailed here as a champion of Palestinian statehood.” She was greeted with thunderous applause at a gathering of the Palestinian National Council. During the same visit, Hillary praises “the leadership of Chairman Arafat” in the peace process and “hope for the future.”
While Bill Clinton is the governor of Arkansas, Hillary brings the Israeli literacy program Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) to her state after inviting the program’s founder, Hebrew University Professor Avima Lombard, to Arkansas as part of a major school reform push. The program has been a resounding success and now serves 15,000 families in 21 U.S. states.
In his 2004 book “American Evita,” author Christopher Anderson writes that Hillary told friends she was “sympathetic” to the PLO and its leader, Yasser Arafat, during the early 1970s. Furthermore, when Arafat made his infamous “gun and olive branch” speech to the United Nations General Assembly in 1974, Bill Clinton was “outraged like everybody else,” but Hillary tried to convince Bill that Arafat was a “freedom fighter” trying to free his people from their Israeli “oppressors,” writes Anderson.
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