Clinton assails Trump on Israel

Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonEx-pharma CEO Martin Shkreli: I didn’t endorse Trump Five things Clinton needs to do to win the California primary Geopolitics moves to center stage of Obama trade deal push MORE on Monday assailed Republican presidential front-runner Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump slams 'totally biased' judge in Trump U case Ex-pharma CEO Martin Shkreli: I didn’t endorse Trump Five things Clinton needs to do to win the California primary MORE for being "neutral" in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

In a speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's (AIPAC) annual policy conference, the Democratic presidential front-runner repeatedly hammered Trump as naive about the security challenges facing the U.S. ally.

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“We need steady hands, not a president who says he’s neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday and who knows what on Wednesday because everything’s negotiable,” Clinton said to extended applause without mentioning Trump by name. 

“Well, my friends, Israel’s security is non-negotiable.” 

She took Trump to task for his pledge to achieve American foreign policy objectives through better negotiations.  

“We can’t be neutral when rockets rain down on residential neighborhoods, when civilians are stabbed in the street, when suicide bombers target the innocent,” Clinton said. “Some things aren’t negotiable, and someone who doesn’t understand that has no business being our president.

“Together, let’s defend the shared values that already make America and Israel great,” she added, riffing on Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America great again.” 

Trump is scheduled to appear at the annual pro-Israel lobbying conference later on Monday, in what is expected to offer a glimpse into the details of his plans for the Middle East. Despite his position firmly atop the GOP nominating race, the businessman has yet to offer a clear foreign policy vision, which has worried fellow Republicans. 

Clinton’s attacks on Trump extended beyond his comments on Israel and appeared to link some of the more controversial aspects of his candidacy — such as his plan to ban most Muslims from entering the U.S. — to American inaction during the Holocaust. 

“We’ve had dark chapters in our history before,” Clinton said. “We remember the nearly 1,000 Jews about St. Louis who were refused entry in 1939 and sent back to Europe, but America should be better than this. And I believe it’s our responsibility as citizens to say so. 

“If you see bigotry, oppose it,” Clinton said. “If you see a bully, stand up to him.” 

In her speech, Clinton called for the U.S. to “take our alliance to the next level” by bolstering U.S. security assistance to Israel.

A 10-year agreement on new defense cooperation should be “concluded as soon as possible,” she said, “to meet Israel’s security needs far into the future.

“That will also send a clear message to Israel’s enemies that the United States and Israel stand together, united.” 

In subtle ways, Clinton also drew a distinction between herself and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFive things Clinton needs to do to win the California primary Clinton adds Calif. stops heading into final week Striking Verizon workers reach tentative deal MORE (I-Vt.), her rival in the Democratic race, who has downplayed foreign policy issues. Sanders is the lone presidential candidate not appearing at AIPAC. 

Securing Israel’s prosperity and confronting its multiple challenges, Clinton said, “depends on electing a president with a deep, personal commitment to Israel’s future as a secure, democratic Jewish state, and to America’s responsibilities as a global leader.”

Clinton harkened back to her tenure as secretary of State, referring more than once to her role in crafting sanctions on Iran that were eventually lifted under last year’s landmark nuclear deal and her efforts to secure a peace deal with Palestinian leaders.

“I know how hard all of this is,” she said.

Yet critics accuse her of working with President Obama to weaken Israel’s position within the Middle East.

“One speech cannot mask her fervent criticism of Israeli policy which has eroded diplomatic relations and left our ally further isolated and under threat,” Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee chairman, said in a statement after Clinton concluded her speech. “Only a Republican president will reverse this administration’s break with Israel and renew a steadfast commitment which has characterized American foreign policy for decades.”

At one point, Clinton appeared to draw some contrast with Obama, who has been accused of giving Israeli political leaders a cold shoulder by reaching out to its traditional rivals.

At one point, Clinton appeared to draw some contrast with President Obama, who has been accused of giving Israeli political leaders a cold shoulder by reaching out to its traditional rivals. 

“One of the first things I’ll do in office is invite the Israeli prime minister to visit the White House,” Clinton said, to wide applause.

The line appeared to be a veiled reference to a planned White House visit by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this month, which was scuttled due to scheduling problems.

Repeatedly, Clinton spoke of the “indispensable” bond between the U.S. and Israel, which she said is deeper than ideology and extended to the two nation’s cultures and political systems.

But on at least one point, Clinton said wryly, the U.S. has yet to catch up.

“Some of us remember a woman, Golda Meir, leading Israel’s government decades ago, and wonder, ‘What’s taking us so long here in America?’”

—Updated at 12:03 a.m.