In mid-2015, as preparations got underway for the US presidential election, Hillary Clinton’s campaign team worried that mentioning Israel during election speeches could put off Democratic voters, according to a leaked email released by WikiLeaks this week.
In correspondence dated May 2005 discussing the Democratic candidate’s stump speech, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said he thinks she “shouldn’t have Israel at public events,” for fear of pushing off party activists.
It was instead agreed that overt support for Israel would be better received with fundraisers and should be avoided in speeches directed at the Democratic base.
The revelation came amid a batch of emails posted by the WikiLeaks organization on Monday, calling the documents the latest collection of thousands of emails obtained in a hack of Clinton campaign head John Podesta’s personal email account. Another tranche of emails was released Tuesday.
As part of an email conversation focusing messaging, top policy aide Jake Sullivan clashed with several speechwriters and policy advisers when he suggested adding “a sentence on standing up for our allies and our values, including Israel and other fellow democracies, and confronting terrorists and dictators with strength and cunning.”
The query spurred a series of responses on the need, and possible risks of mentioning Israel at campaign events
“I though this was largely for her TP [talking points] with public events not fundraisers. Do we need Israel etc for that?” communications adviser Mandy Grunwald responded.
“Why would we call out Israel in public events now? The only voters elevating FP [foreign policy] at all are Republican primary voters. To me we deal with this in stride when an if we are asked about FP,” chief strategist and pollster Joel Benenson said.
“I’m w Joel,” Mook added. “We shouldn’t have Israel at public events. Especially dem activists.”
After some back and forth over various foreign policy positions, speechwriter Dan Schwerin suggested a boiler-plate paragraph omitting Israel, “and then she can drop in Israel when she’s with donors.”
On Tuesday, in another email dump, Stuart Eizenstat, a former US diplomat and close associate of the Clintons, in November 2015 counseled Clinton not to appear “naive” on the two-state solution in a column for The Forward.
“Attached are my edits to an excellent draft. We must be careful on not seeming naïve on the two state solution. She must support it, but suggest initial confidence building steps now, which is all that can be expected, to set a stage for broader negotiations,” he wrote.