Hillary Clinton went on offense against Republican front-runner Donald Trump on Monday, saying he would abdicate U.S. leadership in the Middle East, his world view is “dangerously wrong” and he is a “bully” — all without speaking his name.
The former secretary of State began her speech before the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee by slamming candidates who think they can “outsource” Middle Eastern leadership to “dictators” and followed up with a more frontal attack on Trump, who has said wants to be a “neutral” broker between Israelis and Palestinians.
“America can’t ever be neutral when it comes to Israel security or survival,” Clinton told the AIPAC meeting in Washington. Candidates who think “America no longer has vital national interests at stake in this region are dangerously wrong,” she said. “Some things aren’t negotiable, and anyone who doesn’t understand that has no business being our president,” said Clinton.
Trump’s stance on foreign policy in the Middle East, including his opposition to the Iraq war, is more isolationist than most leading Republican candidates in recent elections, and he may face a skeptical audience when he speaks to the same audience later Monday. On ABC’s This Week Sunday program, Trump said “there is nobody more pro-Israel than I am.”
Clinton is seeking to amplify the billionaire real estate mogul’s potential weaknesses on foreign policy before a hard-line Jewish audience. Yet she didn’t limit her attacks to Israel policy, also calling on attendees to oppose “bigotry” after citing Trump’s proposed temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S.
“Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented,” she said. “Let us never be neutral or silent in the face of bigotry.”
The dueling speeches offer an early preview of the foreign policy debate likely to unfold if Clinton and Trump win their party nominations. And Clinton’s aggressive attack on Trump indicates she is making a hard pivot to a general election campaign in which she is the likely Democratic nominee after a string of primary victories over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders last week.
Yet Clinton is at odds with AIPAC on President Barack Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran, which the group tried to stop and which Trump has sharply criticized. Clinton has tried to caveat her support for the deal by emphasizing her commitment to enforcing its provisions.
Clinton said her approach is to “distrust and verify” that Iran is in fact winding down its nuclear program. “This deal must come with vigorous enforcement,” she said, and “clear consequences for any violations.”
Trump is getting a mixed reception from American Jews. While a group of liberal Rabbis planned to protest at the conference, some high-profile Republicans may be warming to him. Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino magnate, has indicated he may be willing to back Trump.
Yet he is also facing serious skepticism after saying in a recent debate that he views himself as impartial when it comes to Israel and Palestine. “As a negotiator, I cannot do that as well if I’m taking sides,” he said. “That being said, I am totally pro-Israel,” said Trump.
In her speech, Clinton emphasized the need for an “unshakeable commitment” to Israel and said the U.S. needs a president with “a deep personal commitment” to Israel.
She sought to frame Trump’s speech as reflecting an alternate world view. “You’ll get a glimpse of a potential U.S. foreign policy that would insult our allies, not engage them and embolden our adversaries, not defeat them,” said Clinton.
“We have to get this right,” said Clinton.