As the two democratic candidates for president spar over foreign policy, it’s clear that Clinton’s and Sanders’ views on Israel-US relations are far apart. Sanders has been highly critical of Israel’s military action against the Palestinians and of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s heavy handed efforts to block U.S. approval of a nuclear non-proliferation agreement with Iran last year. Sanders complains that U.S. policy has for too long been to back up Israel with military aid and “looked the other way when Israel did bad things” to the Palestinians.
But Sanders vs. Clinton doesn’t begin to compete with Trump vs. Clinton, especially before the crowd of roughly 18,000 people who gathered for the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the foremost pro-Israel lobbying organization in the country. Clinton and Trump seemingly tried to outdo themselves in vowing unflinching support for Israel. And in another preview of the bruising general election campaign battle awaiting them, Clinton and Trump exchanged insults and criticism during their separate appearances at AIPAC and later on CNN’s “Final Five” interviews of the five remaining presidential candidates.
During her AIPAC speech yesterday, Clinton said – without specifically mentioning his name – that Trump lacked the temperament and “steady hands” to forge U.S. policy overseas. Israel could not trust him to protect their interests in Middle East talks, she insisted. She focused on Trump’s conflicting statements as to whether he would be an unwavering ally of Israel or strike a “neutral” pose in an effort to negotiate a Middle East peace agreement.
“We need steady hands, not a president who says he’s neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday and who-knows what on Wednesday,” Clinton said to the cheering crowd. “Everything’s negotiable [with Trump]. Well my friends, Israel’s security is not negotiable.”
For his part, Trump had nothing nasty to say about Clinton in his prepared remarks, although he ad-libbed this line: “Hillary Clinton, who is a total disaster by the way, she and President Obama have treated Israel very, very badly.”
Later, during his appearance on CNN, Trump, a notorious counter-puncher, went after Clinton with more personal attacks. He touched on the FBI investigation of her mishandling of sensitive email during her four years at the State Department and the so-called Whitewater real estate business scandal that marred Bill Clinton’s governorship of Arkansas decades ago.
“I think she doesn’t have the stamina to be president,” Trump said. “She’s always got problems, whether it’s Whitewater or whether it’s emails, there is always drama. It should end. It should end. Honestly, she shouldn’t be allowed to run based on the emails, to be totally honest with you. She’s being protected.”