Clinton: Bring US-Israel ties back to ‘constructive’ footing
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Clinton: Bring US-Israel ties back to ‘constructive’ footing

Prospective presidential candidate says relationship should never become partisan issue, as ties between Obama and PM get worse

Lazar Berman is a former breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the 67th United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 27, 2012. (Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)
Then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the 67th United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 27, 2012. (Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)

As the relationship between US President Barack Obama and Prime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu becomes even more frayed, prospective Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton appeared to emphasize that her approach to Israel would be different than that of the current administration.

In a telephone conversation Sunday with Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman of Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Clinton said that “we need to all work together to return the special US-Israel relationship to constructive footing, to get back to basic shared concerns and interests.”

“We must ensure that Israel never becomes a partisan issue,” she added.

Clinton also called for “a two-state solution pursued through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.”

Hoenlein initiated the conversation, according to the Conference of Presidents.

Clinton, who is expected to announce her campaign in April, had avoided commenting on US-Israel relations in recent weeks.

Clinton’s comments came as ties between Washington and Jerusalem have sunk to new lows in recent weeks over disagreements between Netanyahu and Obama regarding negotiations with Iran and peace efforts with the Palestinians.

Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations seen during an Interview in the Inbal Hotel, Jerusalem, January 7, 2014. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations seen during an Interview in the Inbal Hotel, Jerusalem, January 7, 2014. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Netanyahu was castigated by the Obama administration for saying, on the eve of Israel’s March 17 elections, that he would not allow a Palestinian state on his watch, drawing an American threat to reevaluate its approach to the peace process.

The White House rejected Netanyahu’s post-election clarification, in which he said he was not opposed to establishing a Palestinian state in principle, just not under current circumstances. He said he still supported a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution, but that the region was increasingly dangerous and that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was refusing to come to terms with Israel as a Jewish state.

The PM also apologized for Election Day remarks about Arab Israelis voting “in droves” — for which he was criticized at home and abroad, notably by Obama — saying he never meant to harm the feelings of the minority community.

Despite her comments on Israel, Clinton has aligned herself with Obama far more often than not.

Last week, a few hours after meeting Obama at the White House, Clinton tweeted a list of accomplishments of the president’s health care law on its fifth anniversary. “Repeal those things? Embrace them!” she declared, posting an old photo of herself extending her arms to hug Obama at the White House.

One of Hillary Clinton’s most public breaks with Obama came last summer when she took a veiled shot at his “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” foreign policy doctrine. In an interview with The Atlantic magazine, she said, “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”

Clinton scrambled to walk back the jab, calling up her old boss to try to smooth things over. Obama and Clinton met in person a few days later and “hugged it out,” aides said.

Clinton also has largely backed Obama’s decision to take military action against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. She’s supported his nuclear negotiations with Iran and joined him in sharply criticizing Republican senators who wrote to Tehran’s leadership warning that Congress could disrupt a deal.

It’s unclear whether Clinton will ultimately back a nuclear deal if the US and its negotiating partners achieve one. But she was involved in the administration’s early efforts to start secret talks with the Iranians, dispatching her policy adviser, Jake Sullivan, to lead them.

Despite the sour ties between Obama and Netanyahu, Republican House Speaker John Boehner asserted Sunday that US-Israel relations have improved dramatically in the past few months, especially in the Republican-led Congress.

Boehner controversially invited Netanyahu to address Congress, where the prime minister urged lawmakers to thwart a nuclear deal between Iran and several world powers, which is backed firmly by Obama. The visit, which was not coordinated with administration officials, was said to greatly anger the White House, as Netanyahu was perceived by critics to be publicly undermining the president.

Justin Jalil and AP contributed to this report.

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