Clinton: Iran poses ‘existential threat’ to Israel

Democratic presidential candidate hopes nuke deal in works will ‘put a lid’ on Tehran’s atomic weapons program

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton answers reporters questions at Dairy Twirl, July 3, 2015 in Lebanon, New Hampshire. (Darren McCollester/Getty Images/AFP)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton answers reporters questions at Dairy Twirl, July 3, 2015 in Lebanon, New Hampshire. (Darren McCollester/Getty Images/AFP)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Friday said that Iran poses an “existential threat” to Israel, and that she hoped the US and world powers would strike a deal which curbs Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

Clinton addressed 850 people at an outdoor amphitheater at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. The former secretary of state touched on foreign policy and the upcoming deadline for negotiations with Iran over the country’s nuclear program. She said she hoped the US would “get a deal that puts a lid on Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” but cautioned that it was “too soon” to know if that was possible.

Nonetheless, the presidential hopeful said Iran would still pose problems because of its sponsorship of terrorism and the “existential threat” it poses to Israel.

The US and world powers are locked in negotiations with Iranian diplomats to reach a final agreement to curb Tehran’s nuclear program, with a new overtime deadline set for July 7.

Earlier in the day, Clinton suggested to potential Jewish donors in closed-door meetings that she would be a better president for Israel than incumbent Barack Obama, Politico reported.

The report claimed that at a New York fundraiser last week, Clinton told a group of mostly Jewish donors that she would be able to mend the fractured relationship between Washington and Jerusalem.

While she defended President Obama against accusations that he was responsible for a deterioration in ties between Israel and the US, she noted that “diplomacy is all about personal relationships, and I’ve got my own relationships.”

She hinted at her 20-year ties to Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose rapport with Obama has been famously unsmooth.

Obama’s rocky relationship with Israel and its leadership has been in the headlines again in the past few weeks due to accusations by former Israeli Ambassador to Washington Michael Oren that the president is to blame for the poor state of bilateral ties.

Ahead of last week’s release of his book “Ally,” on the Israel-US relationship, Oren penned several opinion pieces that received mixed reactions from US political figures and the Jewish community, including “How Obama abandoned Israel” in the Wall Street Journal.

He also gave a lengthy interview to the Times of Israel in which he echoed charges in “Ally” to the effect that aspects of US-Israel ties are “in tatters” because of the president. In that interview, Oren highlighted Clinton’s “empathy” for Israel and her “rapport” with Netanyahu.

Asked by donors about Oren’s claims regarding Obama, Clinton would only say: “I know Michael well, but I haven’t read the book.”

Democratic donor Jay Jacobs, describing a gathering in Long Island, said Clinton had stressed “in no uncertain terms her full and fervent support of the state of Israel and the defense of the state of Israel.”

Politico noted that Clinton was deeply interested in securing the donations of certain wealthy American Jews, which would provide a significant boost to her campaign.

It also said that the presidential contender’s solid track record on Israel has given the Jewish community good reason to trust her.

“Hillary has a lot of credibility and support in the Jewish community,” Jacobs said. “It’s broad and deep. People understand that she has fought and has been there as an advocate.”

The article examined Clinton’s attitude towards the emerging nuclear deal with Iran, which has largely been a “wait and see” approach: she supports the talks, but says no deal is better than a bad one.

But it also noted that when it comes to voting in 2016, Iran will not be high on the list of American’s concerns.

“Do people in my community talk about the Iran deal? Sure. But is it affecting their support for Hillary Clinton? No,” said Democratic consultant Steve Rabinowitz. “Iran certainly will — and already has — become a Republican talking point, but it will not move three votes or $3.”

Hillary Clinton and Benjamin Netanyahu, July. (photo credit: Ohad Zwigenberg/Pool/Flash90)
Hillary Clinton and Benjamin Netanyahu, July 2012. (Ohad Zwigenberg/Pool/Flash90)

In his Times of Israel interview, ex-envoy Oren, now a Kulanu MK, said Clinton “gets it” where Israel is concerned.

“I had a lot of hours working with Hillary. She’s an incredibly formidable intellect, physically robust. She’s of that generation that still has that warm place in her heart (for Israel). Her formational experience with Israel was the Six Day War and not, say, the First Intifada. But we’d still have to move toward her. We’d have to meet her halfway. If she were president — and this is all highly hypothetical — and we retained the status quo (on the Palestinians), we would still be in a very difficult situation,” Oren said.

Knesset member Michael Oren of the Kulanu party, March 29, 2015 (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Knesset member Michael Oren of the Kulanu party, March 29, 2015 (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Clinton “comes from a place of empathy,” Oren added, and has “a rapport” with Netanyahu. “They go back. She understands certain things about Israel. She writes about it in her book. She gets it.”

On Thursday it was reported that New York hedge fund billionaire George Soros and Hollywood director Steven Spielberg are among the biggest donors to a group backing Clinton’s presidential run.

Priorities USA Action will report having raised $15.6 million in the past three months when it discloses its fundraising information this month, according to an official at the group who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss fundraising.

The group is called a super PAC, an organization that can campaign on behalf of a candidate, but cannot coordinate efforts with them.

Super PACs can take donations of unlimited size. The biggest gift to the pro-Clinton group was worth $2 million and came from media mogul Haim Saban, owner of the Spanish-language Univision network in the US

Clinton’s campaign reported Wednesday it has raised $45 million since she declared her candidacy in mid-April.

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