Hillary Clinton’s Ups And Downs On Israel: A Timeline
By: Jacob Kamaras Alina Dain Sharon and Sean Savage
The Jewish Press, January 29th, 2016
Hillary Clinton has long been the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in the 2016 presidential race, although her polling numbers have recently fallen significantly. If she’s elected, how would U.S.-Israel relations fare under her watch? The following timeline looks, 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 Presidential Candidate
Clinton disagrees with an assertion by Bernie Sanders, senator from Vermont and Clinton’s leading rival for the Democratic nomination, 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.”
In November, Clinton appoints Earl F. Hilliard, a congressman 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.
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 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…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 Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s position.
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 e-mail 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 e-mail 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.
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.
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 e-mail 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 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,” 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 sponsors S.Res. 92 (110th): “A resolution calling for the immediate and unconditional release of soldiers of Israel held captive by Hamas and Hizbullah.”
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 Yasir Arafat, raises more than $100,000 for Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.
At a rally near United Nations headquarters in New York City, Clinton supports taking “whatever steps are necessary” to defend Israel against Hamas, Hizbullah, 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.
Hillary says it is incumbent on Palestinian leader Yasir 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 Yasir, 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 described as following diplomatic protocol.
Hillary generates controversy by laying out her own vision for the Middle East, declaring, in a satellite address to Israeli, Palestinian, and Jordanian teens from the Seeds of Peace group, support for an independent Palestinian state.
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.” 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. – JNS
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