U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump on Monday speaking at American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) – the U.S. most influential pro-Israel lobbying group – annual policy conference, presented two different views on how the United States should deal with the Middle East, specially with Israel.
Mrs. Clinton condemned Palestinian acts of violence as “terrorism” and the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement as “anti-Semitic,” while making almost no mention of Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory.
She promised she would stand unwaveringly with Israel while accusing Mr. Trump of being an unreliable partner for one of America’s closest allies.
“We need steady hands,” she said, “not a president who says he’s neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday, and who-knows-what on Wednesday. America can’t ever be neutral when it comes to Israel’s security and survival. My friends, Israel’s security is nonnegotiable.”
The former US Secretary of State also said she would only support peace brought about through “direct negotiations,” and would “vigorously oppose any attempt by outside parties to impose a solution, including by the UN Security Council.
Furthermore, Mrs. Clinton stated that inviting Netanyahu to the White House would be “one of the first things I’ll do in office” — recalling a recent snub by Netanyahu when he declined such an invitation from Obama during a visit to the US just two weeks ago.
But with the exception of one passing mention of Israel’s settlements, the presidential candidate made no mention of the key Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory the Obama administration has repeatedly condemned in recent months.
In the other side of the Presidential campaign, Trump avoided areas of disagreement with the pro-Israel crowd, after suggesting earlier Monday that Israel should repay the U.S. for the foreign aid it has received—aid that AIPAC lobbies to maintain.
“I didn’t come here tonight to pander to you about Israel. That’s what politicians do: all talk, no action. I came here to speak to you about where I stand on the future of American relations with our strategic ally, our unbreakable friendship, and our cultural brother, the only democracy in the Middle East, the State of Israel.”
He focused heavily on Iran, promising to dismantle the nuclear deal negotiated by Mr. Obama, thwart what he described as Iran’s efforts to destabilize the Middle East and punish Iran for testing ballistic missiles: “Nobody has done anything about it,” he said to cheers. “We will. We will.”
According to the New York Times, Mr. Trump’s appearance at Aipac upset some Jewish groups. When he was asked on CNN about reports that some rabbis intended to boycott his speech because of comments seen as bigoted, Mr. Trump replied: “We have to be careful. We have to be careful who we allow into the country.”
When mentioning the Palestinian people, as stated by the Times, Mr. Trump repeatedly lambasted their support for terrorism, particularly material support for the families of assailants.
“In Palestinian textbooks and mosques, you’ve got a culture of hatred that has been fermenting there for years, and if we want to achieve peace, they’ve got to end this indoctrination of hatred,” Trump said. “There is no moral equivalency. Israel does not name public squares after terrorists. Israel does not pay its children to stab random Palestinians.”
Democrat candidate Senator Bernie Sanders was the only presidential candidate who did not address the conference. A senior official at Aipac said Mr. Sanders had been invited to speak but could not come to Washington because of his campaign schedule.
Before the event, Republican candidate Senator Ted Cruz fundraised with former foe Sen. Lindsey Graham and more than 200 top Jewish donors and activists, as well as many AIPAC board members, at an adjacent pub at an event that raised more than $200,000 for his campaign.