Addressing the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Monday, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton derided her Republican opponent Donald Trump as a feckless negotiator, saying that “walking away” from the Middle East was not an option for the United States.
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The comment was an apparent dig at Trump who has made comments indicating that he would be neutral on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. He has also said, however, that he is a supporter of Israel.
“We need steady hands, not a president who says he is neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday and who knows what on Wednesday,” the former secretary of state and front-runner for the Democratic presidential nod told the gathering of the pro-Israel lobby at its meeting in Washington.
“America can’t ever be neutral when it comes to Israel’s security and survival,” she said to repeated cheers and applause. “Some things aren’t negotiable and anyone who doesn’t understand that has no business in being our president.”
Trump, along with his Republican challengers, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, were slated to address the gathering later on Monday.
Clinton expressed support for a resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict that would provide for an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. "Inaction cannot be an option," she said. "Only a negotiated two-state agreement can provide" peace and security in the region.
She condemned the recent wave of stabbing attacks and other violence by Palestinians against Israelis and took the Palestinian leadership to task as well. "These attacks must end immediately. And Palestinian leaders need to stop inciting violence and stop celebrating terrorists as martyrs and stop paying rewards to their families."
"The United States and Israel must be closer than ever, stronger than ever and more determined than ever to prevail against our shared adversaries and advance our shared values," she said, and pledged that if she is elected president, one of her first acts would be to invite the prime minister of Israel to the White House.
The comment may be seen as an attempt to distinguish herself somewhat from the presidency of Barack Obama, whose relations with the incumbent prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, have been strained.
But she expressed support for the Iranian nuclear agreement that the Obama administration along with a group of other world powers negotiated over Netanyahu's vehement objections. "I really believe the Unites States, Israel and the world are safer as a result" of the agreement, she asserted, but added: " If I’m elected, the leaders of Iran will have no doubt that if we see any indication that they are violating their commitments 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."
In a reference to Israel in her speech, which came in the middle of her campaign to become America's first female president, she told her AIPAC audience: "We marvel that such a bastion of liberty exists in a region so plagued by intolerance. We see the vigorous – even raucous – debate in Israeli politics and feel right at home. And of course 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."
Referring to a particular incident involving European Jews who fled the Nazis in 1939 only to be denied entry into the United States, Clinton said America should do better. “If you see bigotry oppose it, if you see violence, condemn it, if you see a bully stand up to him,” she said to a standing ovation. “Let us never be neutral or silent in the face of bigotry.”
Clinton's Democratic Party challenger, Bernie Sanders, declined an invitation to address the conference, citing scheduling difficulties.