Israeli envoy told Clinton camp: Obama ‘tone deaf’ to threat from Iran
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Israeli envoy told Clinton camp: Obama ‘tone deaf’ to threat from Iran

In leaked 2015 email, Ron Dermer is said to have given campaign advice on how candidate should express herself on Iran deal, support for Israel

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

Israel's Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, July 29, 2014 (Ron Sachs)
Israel's Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, July 29, 2014 (Ron Sachs)

WASHINGTON — Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer told a campaign aide of Hillary Clinton that the Obama administration was “tone deaf” to the “existential threat” Israel faces from Iran, according to an email from Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta that has been released by WikiLeaks.

On July 2, 2015, roughly two weeks before the nuclear accord between Iran and world powers was reached, former US diplomat Stuart Eizenstat sent Clinton’s top foreign policy adviser Jake Sullivan a summation of a recent meeting with Dermer.

In that message, Eizenstat relayed that Dermer upbraided President Obama’s team for its failure to appreciate Israeli concerns over the Iranian accord. “The Administration is ‘tone deaf’ about the ‘existential threat’ to Israel from Iran,” he quoted Dermer as saying.

The Israeli ambassador also recognized that the former secretary of state would likely need to support the deal in her campaign for the presidency, but went on to issue advice for how she should best handle that support amid her bid for the White House.

“It is important that even as Hillary endorses the agreement, and says she would vote for it if she was in the Senate, she ‘should not get too invested in it,'” Dermer said, according to Eizenstat. “She should ‘list the concerns’ she has with it, while saying that ‘it is better than no deal.'”

Stuart E. Eizenstat, the chief negotiator of the Jewish Claims Conference, walks through the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin on Thursday. (Markus Schreiber/AP)
Stuart E. Eizenstat, the chief negotiator of the Jewish Claims Conference, walks through the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin in 2011. (Markus Schreiber/AP)

Much of the further counsel that Dermer reportedly provided was seemingly heeded by the presidential hopeful.

Eizenstat told Sullivan that Clinton needed to emphasize that she would, as president: “confront Iran’s challenges in other areas (terrorism, Syria, Iraq)”; “maintain all the non-nuclear sanctions on Iran (human rights, terrorism, etc.)”; “join her support for the nuclear deal with a strong statement that as president she would strengthen all of the US allies in the region, starting with Israel,”; and vow to “redouble efforts to work closely with Israel.”

Indeed, in her first speech expressing support for the landmark pact, at the Brookings Institution in September 2015, Clinton promised to “vigorously enforce and strengthen, if necessary, the American sanctions on Iran and its Revolutionary Guard for its sponsorship of terrorism, its ballistic missile program, and other destabilizing activities.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks about the Iran nuclear agreement at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, on September 9, 2015. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks about the Iran nuclear agreement at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, on September 9, 2015. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

“I’ll enforce and strengthen, if necessary, our restrictions on sending arms to Iran and from Iran, to bad actors like Syria,” she continued. “And I’ll impose these sanctions on everyone involved in these activities, whether they’re in Iran or overseas.”

She also said of Tehran: “They vowed to destroy Israel. And that’s worth saying again, they vowed to destroy Israel. We cannot ever take that lightly, particularly when Iran ships advanced missiles to Hezbollah, and the ayatollah outlines an actual strategy for eliminating Israel or talks about how Israel won’t exist in 25 years.”

When introducing her strategy for managing the Iran issue after implementation of the deal, Clinton stressed her objective of fortifying the US-Israel relationship and enhancing the Jewish state’s military capabilities.

“First, I will deepen America’s unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security, including our longstanding tradition of guaranteeing Israel’s qualitative military edge,” she said. “I’ll increase support for Israel rocket and missile defenses and for intelligence sharing. I’ll sell Israel the most sophisticated fighter aircraft ever developed, the F-35. We’ll work together to develop and implement better tunnel detection technology to prevent arms smuggling and kidnapping, as well as the strongest possible missile defense system for Northern Israel, which has been subjected to Hezbollah’s attacks for years.”

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton waves as she arrive to speak during the 2016 AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC, March 21, 2016. (AFP / Jim Watson)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton waves as she arrive to speak during the 2016 AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC, March 21, 2016. (AFP / Jim Watson)

Throughout her campaign Clinton has made similar pledges when prodded to discuss the Middle East, including signaling that she would enforce the Iran deal strenuously and would be willing to exert force if necessary.

“If I’m elected the leaders of Iran will have no doubt that if we see any indication that they are violating their commitment not to seek, develop or acquire nuclear weapons, the United States will act to stop it, and that we will do so with force if necessary,” she said to the AIPAC Policy Conference in March.

WikiLeaks began divulging the Podesta emails last week, and has been releasing a steady stream of messages from the hacked account on an almost daily basis. They mark an unprecedented effort by the group to inject itself into this year’s presidential campaign.

US officials have said WikiLeaks is working with Russian operatives to undermine Clinton’s candidacy and boost her opponent Donald Trump. So far the group has unveiled 11,000 hacked emails and purports to release 50,000 more before the November 8 election.

The Clinton campaign has neither denied nor confirmed the authenticity of these emails.

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