Hillary Clinton has published an op-ed in The Forward entitled, “How I Would Reaffirm Unbreakable Bond With Israel – and Benjamin Netanyahu.” The problems with it are so profound and numerous that I have no choice but to present some of her words and annotate them, which I’ll proceed to do shortly.
However, before beginning, it must be noted from the outset that Clinton, in this piece, not only “reaffirms” her commitment to Israel, but to a man whose transgressions are at the root of nearly every problem Clinton enumerates in her op-ed. This piece does not bode well for her leadership on matters of foreign affairs in the Middle East, as it points to a continuing or broadening of support for the most hawkish elements standing against reconciliation.
In her opening paragraph, Clinton writes:
We have recently marked the 20th anniversary of the assassination of then Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, a good friend, a courageous warrior and a great statesman. This somber anniversary, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington on November 9, is an opportunity to reaffirm the unbreakable bonds of friendship and unity between the people and governments of the United States and Israel.
Missing is that Netanyahu bears responsibility for this somber anniversary―the assassination of Rabin. For what Clinton fails to remind us, and which American Jews invested in Israel remember all too well, is that Netanyahu’s incitements against Rabin stoked the very hatred which killed her “good friend.” Indeed, such dangerous incitements leading to bloodshed have become a signature of Netanyahu’s leadership.
But no matter, this is just Clinton using Rabin’s memorial as the occasion to write an op-ed. On its own, it would be more than forgivable, until one reads on.
Remember, this is an op-ed endorsing Netanyahu. And so, Clinton’s second paragraph:
The alliance between our two nations transcends politics. It is and should always be a commitment that unites us, not a wedge that divides us.
Given the context of her op-ed, this line is truly remarkable, for Netanyahu is principally responsible for making Israel a partisan wedge. It wasn’t that long ago he made a secret deal with John Boehner, behind President Obama’s back, to speak before Congress against the Iran deal. That entire episode pitted Republicans against Democrats, with Netanyahu placing Israel between them for his own political gain back home. (Did we already forget nearly a quarter of Democrats in Congress boycotted his speech for this very reason, refusing to watch as a foreign leader trashed our President’s signature diplomatic achievement in the halls of Congress?)
Clinton moves on to one of her principle concerns facing Israelis and Palestinians: incitement. Notice the example she uses.
This violence must not be allowed to continue. It needs to stop immediately, and Israelis and Palestinians must move back toward the path of peaceful reconciliation. All parties and the international community should condemn any political and religious leader who stokes tensions with irresponsible rhetoric. Many of us have seen the video of a cleric encouraging worshippers to stab Jews as he waves a knife in the air. This incitement needs to end, period.
This paragraph, intended to sway Jewish voters, employs the very same bigotry Netanyahu has been using for years: casting Palestinians as the hateful inciters. Allow me to expand on this. Two points:
1) Netanyahu has been guilty of the very incitements Clinton tells us must end. In just the last two weeks, Netanyahu has engaged in Holocaust revisionism to blame Palestinians for Hitler’s genocide, threatened to revoke the residency status of East Jerusalem Palestinians, and fast-tracked the illegal home demolitions of Palestinians.
2) Israel’s military establishment is pointing to Israel’s occupation and settler terrorism as principle incitements causing Palestinian violence. These are the policies and people Netanyahu champions.
Surely Clinton knows all this. Which makes her casting of Palestinians as the inciting force while embracing Netanyahu appear as though she endorses not just Israel’s Prime Minister, but the very bigotry he uses to maintain this forever, asymmetrical conflict.
Clinton then goes on to write:
As president I will never stop working to advance the goal of two states for two peoples living in peace, security and dignity.
That’s nice. It would have been nicer, though, if rather than endorse Netanyahu, Clinton would have admitted that Israel’s Prime Minister has explicitly rejected “two states for two peoples” numerous times over the last two years, most recently ten days ago. It will be hard to work for two states with a man who, along with his Cabinet, endorses indefinite occupation.
Clinton ends her op-ed by concluding:
For me, fighting for Israel isn’t just about policy – it’s a personal commitment to the friendship between our peoples and our vision for peace and security.
Unfortunately, Netanyahu’s government doesn’t have a vision for peace and security which is compatible with American interests. Netanyahu wants to control Palestinian lands for the “foreseeable future,” with the Israeli public supporting Netanyahu’s most hawkish policies.
This op-ed is a classic stump speech to the American Jewish community, but it’s neither honest nor helpful. Instead, it reflects a politician who will work to maintain the very power structures which continue to imperil both Palestinian and Jewish lives in the region.
This is not the leadership we need. It’s the leadership we already have.
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, published recently by Oneworld Publications.
Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.