Bill Clinton to Florida Jews: Hillary Will Strengthen Alliance with Israel

Patrick Semansky/AP Photo
Patrick Semansky/AP Photo

TEL AVIV — Former U.S. President Bill Clinton told members of a Florida Jewish community on Monday that strengthening the U.S.-Israel alliance will be one of his wife’s top priorities.

The meeting with 100 leaders of Palm Beach’s Jewish community followed a large rally in support of Hillary Clinton at which the former president filled in for his wife, who stayed in Nevada for Saturday’s caucuses.

At the closed-door meeting with community rabbis and elected officials, Clinton stressed the deep connection he and his wife have with Israel and the Jewish community at large. The Times of Israel reported that Clinton vowed his wife would make relations with Israel one of her top priorities.

The meeting was attended by U.S. Rep Lois Frankel (D-FL), a Jewish congresswoman who represents parts of South Florida; Rabbi Mark Winer, former head of the Central Conference of American Rabbis; and Nan Rich, former president of the National Council of Jewish Women.

Approximately half a million Jews live in South Florida and the Jewish vote in the Florida primary, slated for March 15, is seen as critical.

In regard to Israel, Bill Clinton’s presidency was viewed favorably by both Israelis and American Jewry, positioning him as an effective campaigner in securing the Jewish vote for Hillary. This despite Clinton’s involvement in brokering the failed Camp David Accords in 2000, which sought an Israeli withdrawal from much of the strategic West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, and a complete withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in exchange the creation of a Palestinian state and Palestinian promises of peace.  PLO Leader Yasser Arafat rejected the offer and instead launched an intifada, or terrorist war targeting Israeli civilians.

“For decades, President Clinton and Hillary have maintained strong ties to South Florida’s Jewish community — and today’s conversation was an opportunity to build upon years of friendship and shared values,” said Sarah Bard, director of Jewish outreach for Hillary for America, in a statement. “From lowering prescription drug costs to providing paid family leave to reaffirming our unbreakable bond with Israel, they understand deeply the issues that matter most to our community.”

At the rally before his meeting with members of the Jewish community, Clinton scorned his wife’s rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), saying he doesn’t know how to get along with people who hold different views than his.

Never mentioning Sanders by name, the former president said, “If you don’t deal with the fact that we are too politically polarized and we keep rewarding people who tell us things we know we can’t do because it pushes their hot buttons, we can’t go forward together,” adding that supporters of the Sanders campaign were like the Tea Party faction within the Republican party.

“It’s not altogether mysterious that there are a lot of people that say, well, the Republican party rewarded the Tea Party. They just tell people what they want to hear, move them to the right, and we’ll be rewarded, except they didn’t get anything done,” Clinton said. “That’s going on in our party now.”