Clinton greets attendees prior to her AIPAC address on Monday. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
Hillary Clinton did not mention Donald Trump during her keynote address at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference in Washington, D.C., on Monday. But her words were sharply pointed at the Republican frontrunner.
“I know that all of you understand what’s at stake in this election,” Clinton said. “We need steady hands, not a president who says he is neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday, and who knows what on Wednesday because everything’s negotiable. Well, my friends, Israel’s security is nonnegotiable.”
Last month, Trump suggested he was “neutral” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict so that he could negotiate with both parties.
“I think making a deal would be in Israel’s interests,” the brash billionaire said on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” on Sunday. “I don’t know one Jewish person that doesn’t want to have a deal, a good deal, a proper deal, but a really good deal. But I would say it’s probably one of the toughest deals. Me being a dealmaker, it’s probably one of the toughest deals in the world to make, because there’s just so many — there’s just so many decades of hatred between the two sides.”
Clinton seized on Trump’s reluctance to take a stand.
“America can’t ever be neutral when it comes to Israel’s security or survival,” she said. “We can’t be neutral when rockets rain down on residential neighborhoods, when civilians are stabbed in the street, when suicide bombers target the innocent. Some things aren’t negotiable. And anyone who doesn’t understand that has no business being our president.
“The next president will sit down at that desk and start making decisions that will affect both the lives and livelihoods of every American, and the security of our friends around the world. So we have to get this right,” Clinton said. “Candidates for president who think the United States can outsource Middle East security to dictators, or that America no longer has vital national interests at stake in this region are dangerously wrong.”
Clinton speaking at AIPAC’s annual policy conference: “America can’t ever be neutral when it comes to Israel’s security or survival.” (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP)
Both Americans and Israelis “face currents of intolerance and extremism,” the Democratic frontrunner said. “In a democracy, we are going to have differences, but 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.
“Now we have had dark chapters in our history before,” Clinton continued. “But America should be better than this, and I think it is our responsibility as citizens to say so. If you see bigotry, oppose it. If you see violence, condemn it. If you see a bully, stand up to him.”
Trump is scheduled to speak at the same conference later on Monday in an appearance that a group of rabbis is planning to boycott.
Trump’s GOP rivals, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, are are also slated to address the conference on Monday. Clinton’s Democratic challenger, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, was invited to speak but will deliver an address on foreign policy from the campaign trail on Monday afternoon instead.
“Tonight you’ll hear from candidates with very different visions of American leadership in the region and around the world,” Clinton said. “You’ll get a glimpse of a potential U.S. foreign policy that would insult our allies, not engage them, and embolden our adversaries, not defeat them.
“For the security of Israel and the world, we need America to remain a respected global leader,” she said. “The alternative is unthinkable.”
Clinton’s comments about Trump drew plenty of applause, but the former secretary received the biggest ovation from AIPAC attendees for saying she’d keep the Oval Office doors open if elected president — a reference to President Obama’s fairly frosty relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“One of the first things I’ll do in office is invite the Israeli prime minister to visit the White House,” Clinton said.