At AIPAC, Clinton attacks Trump, calls for elevating US-Israel alliance
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At AIPAC, Clinton attacks Trump, calls for elevating US-Israel alliance

Democratic hopeful says next president needs 'a personal commitment to Israel’s future,' vows to seek a negotiated settlement to Israeli-Palestinian conflict, prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear arsenal

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during the 2016 AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC, March 21, 2016. ( AFP / Jim Watson)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during the 2016 AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC, March 21, 2016. ( AFP / Jim Watson)

WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton lambasted Republican front-runner Donald Trump, accusing him of a lack of commitment to Israel as she addressed the American pro-Israel community‘s largest annual gathering Monday.

Referring to the billionaire businessman’s behavior on the campaign trail along with his vow to remain “neutral” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the former secretary of state painted Trump as someone who has “no business being our next president.”

“You can’t be neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday and who-knows-what on Wednesday,” she told the crowd to roaring applause at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference in Washington.

Click here for Clinton’s full speech to AIPAC

At the Verizon Center sports arena in downtown Washington, she trolled the bombastic billionaire for his call to temporarily ban Muslim entry into the United States, his divisive rhetoric toward immigrants, his hesitance throughout the campaign to disavow white supremacists supporting his candidacy and the recent escalation of violence at his rallies, for which he’s received much heat for subtly inciting this kind of behavior from his backers.

“If you see bigotry, oppose it; if you see violence, condemn it; and if you see a bully stand up to it,” she said, urging those present to resist the rhetoric that has inflamed the real estate mogul’s controversial campaign.

Trump is slated to address the conference Monday night, and scores are planning to protest by walking out as he speaks.

AIPAC has repeatedly urged delegates to grant him a civil reception and has reiterated its commitment to removing those who disrupt speakers.

In her address, in front of a record audience of some 18,000, Clinton sought to affirm her commitment to Israel’s security and repeatedly called for elevating the US-Israel alliance to “the next level.”

She urged negotiations between Washington and Jerusalem over a memorandum of understanding that would boost US military aid to Israel over the next 10 years to be concluded “as soon as possible,” and vowed that, if elected president, she would ensure Israel maintain its “qualitative military edge” over its regional adversaries.

Clinton reiterated her position on preventing Iran from developing a nuclear arsenal as one of “distrust and verify” and tried to make the case to AIPAC, a lion’s den of Iran nuclear deal opponents, that she would have clear eyes regarding the regime’s intentions for Middle East hegemony.

She tried to assure the audience that under a Clinton administration, the Iranian regime would be held accountable for any violations of the nuclear accord and that if necessary, the US would respond with military force to the Islamic Republic, if it worked to develop a nuclear program.

Finding daylight between her and the current White House, she also said that Iran’s latest testing of ballistic missiles needed to be responded to “quickly and firmly” and with sanctions.

Touching an emotional chord for many in attendance, she denounced the current terror wave of stabbings throughout Israel and called out Palestinian leaders for “inciting violence,” “celebrating terrorists” and “paying rewards to their families.”

While she acknowledged “setbacks” that have led many Israelis to feel they don’t have a partner for peace with the Palestinians, she said that she would not give up hope for reaching a negotiated settlement between the parties that would result in a two-state outcome, which she said was “needed for survival of Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state.”

She also stated that she “vigorously opposed” any attempts for outside international institutions to “impose solutions,” including those from the United Nations. As president, she would pursue direct negotiations, she insisted.

Speaking before 4,000 students, Clinton spoke forcefully against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel. “Particularly at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise,” she said, “we must repudiate all attempts to isolate and undermine Israel and the Jewish people.”

Moreover, she praised students for being on the “front lines” in the fight against BDS, and encouraged them to “keep speaking out” and not allow their voices to be silenced.

In what was likely an attempt to suggest a distinction between her approach to managing US relations with Israel and that of President Barack Obama, she said she would manage differences between the allies “respectfully” and also indicated she would keep such differences behind closed doors, a policy approach that is more typical of her husband, former president Bill Clinton, than Obama.

Indeed, she stated, if elected, one of her first actions would be to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House.

Clinton, who is currently enjoying a significant delegate lead in the Democratic primary, emphasized her emotional ties to the Jewish state and further stressed her belief that such a conviction is necessary for the next US president. “Our next president should have a deep personal commitment to Israel’s future,” she said.

As Clinton spoke, the results were announced for the Democratic primaries held for over 34,000 Democratic voters living abroad. The party front-runner suffered a substantial defeat to Senator Bernie Sanders, who garnered 69 percent of the vote, yielding him nine delegates to the party’s convention. Clinton received 31 percent of the vote, adding an additional four delegates to her total count.

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