Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Monday told close to 18,000 Israel supporters at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., that if elected, she would “never allow Israel’s adversaries to think a wedge can be driven between us.”
Speaking at the Verizon Center, the former senator and secretary of state eliminated any daylight between a Clinton administration and Israel.
The turmoil in the Middle East presents “enormous challenge and complexity,” but “walking away is not an option,” she said. “America needs an Israel strong enough to deter and defend against its enemies, strong enough to work with us to tackle shared challenges and strong enough to take bold steps in the pursuit of peace.”
She outlined three evolving threats the United States and Israel must combat: “Iran’s continued aggression, a rising tide of extremism and the growing effort to delegitimize Israel on the world stage.”
As Clinton spoke about Iran, she echoed AIPAC executive director Howard Kohr, who on Sunday night called the Islamic state the lobby’s top priority.
“This remains an extremist regime that threatens to annihilate Israel,” she said. Regarding the Iran nuclear agreement, Clinton said, “It’s not good enough to trust and verify. Our approach has to be distrust and verify. … We cannot forget that Tehran’s fingerprints are on every conflict across the Middle East.”
She noted that Iran continues to fund terrorists, including Hezbollah. The next president, she said, must impose consequences for “even the smallest violation” of the agreement.
The United States will act to stop Iranian violations of the agreement “with force if necessary,” she said.
She called for more sanctions on Iran in response to its recent missile tests. And she said the United States should continue to demand the safe return of Robert Levinson and other imprisoned Americans, an appeal that drew light applause.
Turning to U.S.-Israel relations, Clinton said she hopes the two allies will conclude negotiations over a 10-year defense memorandum of understanding as soon as possible. An agreement will “send a clear message to Israel’s enemies” that the two countries are united.
She added, the United States should provide Israel with the most “sophisticated defense technologies.”
Clinton condemned the wave of Palestinian violence in Israel and the territories. “Parents worry about letting their children walk down the street. Families live in fear.”
She received loud applause when she spoke about Taylor Force, an American who was fatally stabbed in Jaffa on March 8. “These attacks must end immediately, and Palestinian leaders need to stop inciting violence,” Clinton said.
She took aim at the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, calling it anti-Semitic. “At the time when anti-Semitism is on the rise in the world … we must repudiate efforts to malign and undermine the Jewish people.”
Clinton said BDS has even extended to demonizing Israeli scientists and college students. At the mention of students, the audience stood.
All these efforts depend on electing a president committed to preserving Israel as a Jewish state and America as a world leader. “The alternative is unthinkable,” she said.
Also unthinkable — and unmentionable by name — was Donald Trump, the leading Republican contender for president.
He is “neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday and who knows what on Wednesday,” she said, and dismissed Trump’s statement that he would be neutral on Israel-Palestinian negotiations.
“My friends. Israel’s security is non-negotiable!” she said to loud applause.
“We can’t be neutral when rockets rain down on residential neighborhoods … when bombers target the innocent. Some things are not negotiable. And anybody who doesn’t understand that has no business being our president.”
Later, she again knocked Trump without mentioning his name, for his call for a ban on Muslim immigration to the United States. Clinton likened it to America’s sending Jews back to Europe during the Holocaust.
She urged the Israel activists, “If you see a bully, stand up to him!”
David Holzel contributed to this article.