Clinton: Alternative to Abbas ‘could be black flag of Islamic State’
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Clinton: Alternative to Abbas ‘could be black flag of Islamic State’

WATCH: Democratic front-runner vows to improve US-Israel relationship if elected, offers tough talk on Iran enforcement

Rebecca Shimoni Stoil is the Times of Israel's Washington correspondent.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks on December 6, 2015 in Washington, DC, at the Brookings 2015 Forum. Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks on December 6, 2015 in Washington, DC, at the Brookings 2015 Forum. Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP)

WASHINGTON — On her first day in office as president, Hillary Clinton would reach out to the Israeli prime minister and invite him to the White House in an effort to strengthen US-Israel ties, she said Sunday afternoon.

Speaking before the Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum, the former secretary of state offered up tough talk on Iran and emphasized her support for the peace process while chiding Israeli leaders who have rejected Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as a potential partner for peace. The alternative to Abbas, she warned, might be the Islamic State terror group.

US and Israeli leaders, the Democratic front-runner said, “must remind our peoples how much they have in common and keep our relationship always above partisan politics.”

Calling Israel an “ally and true friend… now and forever,” Clinton vowed to “take the already strong relationship to the next level.

“It is in our national interest to have an Israel that remains a bastion of stability and a core ally in a region in chaos,” she said.

While Clinton stressed that “it is time to stop pretending that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will solve all of the region’s problems,” she emphasized her commitment to working toward a peace agreement. “I remain convinced… that peace is possible. So I refuse to give up on the goal of two states for two peoples.

“Only a two-state solution can provide Palestinians independence, sovereignty and dignity and provide Israelis the secure and recognized borders of a democratic Jewish state,” she said.

Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the Brookings Institution's annual Saban Forum on December 5, 2015 (YouTube screen capture)
Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the Brookings Institution’s annual Saban Forum on December 5, 2015 (YouTube screen capture)

“Inaction is not an option and a one-state solution is no solution, it is a prescription for endless conflict,” she said, echoing Secretary of State John Kerry’s comments a day earlier.

“Everyone has to do their part to create the conditions for progress by taking positive actions that can rebuild trust and by avoiding damaging actions including with respect to settlements,” she said. “At the same time, we should oppose any unilateral action at the United Nations.”

Clinton criticized Israeli leaders who have suggested that current Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is not a viable partner for a peace deal.

“It is unfortunate [Abbas] has been marginalized when there is in effect no better alternative… especially when the alternative could be the black flag of ISIS,” she admonished.

Speaking earlier in the day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called out Abbas for denying the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state, describing his comments as emblematic of Palestinian denialism that has undermined attempts to negotiate a peace agreement.

Clinton also called on “Palestinian leaders” to “condemn all forms of incitement.”

Hours after Clinton explained on American television why she did not use the term “radical Islam,” the Democratic front-runner repeatedly referred to “radical jihadists” and emphasized that the United States needed to step up its fight against “violent jihad” and to move from “fear to resolve.

“The threat is real, the need for action is urgent,” said Clinton, stressing the influence of self-radicalization via Internet forums.

“It’s time for an urgent dialogue between the government and the hi-tech community, to confront this problem together.” Clinton cited reports that one of the two attackers in last week’s shooting in San Bernardino, California, declared her allegiance to the Islamic State via the Internet shortly before, or during, the attack.

“The nexus of terrorism and technology has made today’s terror threat more complex and more real at home,” Clinton emphasized.

In addition, Clinton said, “Congress must act so that no one who is a suspected terrorist can buy guns anywhere in America.”

At the same time, Clinton decried those who drive away Muslims “with reckless rhetoric.” “Declaring war on Islam or demonizing the American Muslim community is not only counter to our values, it plays right into the hands of terrorists,” she warned.

“Islam, itself, is not our adversary,” she emphasized. “It is not a clash of civilizations. The vast majority of Muslims are on our side, unless we drive them away.”

Clinton also addressed the Iran nuclear deal — which she supported — but qualified her support by calling enforcement to back up the pact.

“No agreement like that ever is [perfect],” Clinton acknowledged. “But it is not enough to say yes to this deal — we have to say yes, and we will vigorously enforce it.

“How we handle enforcement in these early months will set the tone for years to come,” she warned. “Our approach must be, distrust and verify.

“The United States will act decisively if necessary, including taking military action,” she proclaimed. “Iran will test our resolve — they’ve already begun to do so,” Clinton added, calling on the US to respond to provocations such as the recent ballistic missile test.

The US, she said, should also hold Iran responsible for its human rights violations, cyber-crime and support of terror.

Clinton also denounced the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, saying that while “no nation is above criticism,” the BDS movement is “wrong, and it should stop immediately.

“No outside force is going to resolve the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians,” she said, “only the two-state solution will do that.”

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