Washington, D.C. – U.S. presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used her platform on the stage at the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) this morning to repeatedly hit out at Republican front runner Donald Trump over his position on Israel and the Middle East peace process.
Sec. Clinton, who took to the stage almost 90 minutes after her billed time of 8am, touched on the spate of terrorist stabbings and attacks in Israel, the boycott movement, ISIS, and of course the Middle East Peace Process. But her most significant comments to the thousands-strong crowd were about Mr. Trump, who is due to speak at the event later today. And she worked the Republican candidate into almost every part of her speech.
She began: Our next president will walk into the Oval Office next January and immediately face a world with perils we must meet with strength and skill…” she added that “walking away is not an option”.
Mrs. Clinton was robust for most of her hour-long speech about the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency, coming back to the issue time and again, littering her comments with disparaging remarks about the Republican candidate.
She said: “Candidates for President who think the U.S. can outsource Middle East security to dictators, or that America no longer has vital national interests at stake in this region, are dangerously wrong”. The comments were a reference to Mr. Trump’s long-held view that had Arab strongmen like Saddam Hussein or Bashar al Assad maintained absolute control in their countries, the region would be more stable.
Sec. Clinton made passing reference to the spate of terrorist attacks in Israel, mentioning by name Taylor Force, a 28-year-old West Point graduate who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, who was killed in a terrorist attack in Israel just two weeks ago.
She added the usual, AIPAC-style, stump statements. That Palestinians must stop funding, supporting, celebrating, and endorsing terrorism. That the Iran nuclear deal is working. And that she believes in ever closer union with Israel.
Mrs. Clinton slammed the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, many of whose activists were lined up outside the venue – the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in downtown D.C. – many of whom have voiced support for Mrs. Clinton’s Democratic adversary Bernie Sanders.
And speaking on anti-Semitism, she told Jewish students in the audience at AIPAC: “Don’t let anyone silence you, bully you, or shut down debate especially in places of learning like colleges and universities”.
Then, she pivoted back to Mr. Trump, noting that we have had “a glimpse of a potential U.S. foreign policy that would insult our allies, not engage them. And that would embolden our adversaries, not defeat them”.
With specific reference to the U.S.-Israel relationship she argued, “the alternative is unthinkable,” adding: “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’!”
“Israel’s security is non negotiable,” she roared, stating that whoever does not think so “has no business being our President”.
Of the Iran nuclear deal, Sec. Clinton commented: “It is not good enough to trust and verify… our approach must be to distrust and verify” and hit out at the European Union for failing to designate Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist entity.
She said on ISIS: “[The] goal cannot be to contain ISIS, we must defeat ISIS,” before once again pivoting to Mr. Trump: “We cannot be neutral about Israel and Israel’s future,” she noted – a nod to Mr. Trump’s comments that he would like to be a “neutral” negotiator in any deal between the Israelis and Palestinians.
And speaking of her own shot at the Presidency, Mrs. Clinton lamented, “Of course some of us remember Golda Meir” who was the female prime minister of Israel, leading from 1969 to 1974. “So we in America are wondering, what’s taking us so long?” adding Mrs. Clinton – an allusion to the idea that she should be made president because she is a woman.
And finally, Mrs. Clinton turned to Donald Trump again, noting his positions on a temporary ban on Muslim immigration to the United States, and a preference for Syrian Christians in terms of refugees. Mrs. Clinton invoked the memory of “1000 Jews aboard the St. Louis who were refused entry in 1939 and sent back to Europe”, pulling at the heartstrings of delegates.
In fact the 908 Jewish refugees on the St. Louis were turned away from Cuba, Canada, and the United States – and almost a third of them who returned are believed to have died during the Holocaust.
“America should be better than this,” Mrs. Clinton declared, before imploring the audience to “stand up” to “a bully” without mentioning Mr. Trump by name once throughout her entire speech.
“Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim,” she said, before closing with idea that America and Israel are already great, and do not need a Trump presidency to make it happen.
AIPAC is being attended by nearly 18,000 delegates this year, making it the largest event in the organisation’s history. Mrs. Clinton speaks in Phoenix, Arizona, later today.