Hillary Clinton: Taking the U.S.-Israel relationship to the next level

In this time of terrorism and turmoil, the alliance between the United States and Israel is more important than ever. To meet the many challenges we face, we have to take our relationship to the next level.
January 6, 2016

In this time of terrorism and turmoil, the alliance between the United States and Israel is more important than ever.  To meet the many challenges we face, we have to take our relationship to the next level.

Israel needs a strong America by its side, and America needs a strong and secure Israel by our side.  It’s in our national interest to have an Israel that remains a bastion of stability and a core ally in a region in chaos, and an Israel strong enough to deter its enemies and strong enough to take steps in the pursuit of peace.

I’m especially concerned about the new wave of violence inside Israel itself – brutal stabbings, shootings, and vehicle attacks that seek to sow fear among the innocent.  Recently, terrorists murdered an American Yeshiva student named Ezra Schwartz in a drive-by shooting.  These attacks must stop immediately, and Palestinian leaders should condemn and combat incitement in all of its forms. 

More broadly, the United States and Israel need to work together to address three converging trends: the rise of ISIS and the struggle against radical jihadism, Iran’s increasingly aggressive regional ambitions, and the growing effort around the world to isolate and delegitimize Israel.

First, we must work with our friends and partners to deny ISIS territory in the Middle East, dismantle the global infrastructure of terror, and toughen our defenses at home.  We can’t just contain ISIS – we must defeat ISIS. 

Second, we have to send Iran an unequivocal message.  There can be no doubt in Tehran that if Iran’s leaders violate their commitments not to seek, develop, or acquire any nuclear weapons, the United States will stop them.  They will test our resolve with actions like their provocative ballistic missile test, for which we should impose new sanctions designations.  They need to understand that America will act decisively if Iran violates the nuclear agreement, including taking military action if necessary.  

Third, we must continue to fight against global efforts to delegitimize Israel.   The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, known as BDS, is the latest front in this battle.  BDS demonizes Israeli scientists and intellectuals—even young students—and compares Israel to South African apartheid.  That’s wrong and this campaign should end. 

Some of the BDS movement’s proponents may hope pressuring Israel will lead to peace, but no outside force is going to resolve the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.  Only a two-state solution negotiated between the parties can provide Palestinians independence, sovereignty, and dignity, and provide Israelis the secure and recognized borders of a democratic Jewish state.  As difficult as it is, everyone has to do their part to rebuild trust and create the conditions for progress.  Israelis and Palestinians should demand their leaders seek every opportunity to demonstrate commitment to peace.

With radical jihadism on the rise, Iran seeking to extend its reach, and growing efforts to delegitimize Israel, the United States and Israel need to stand together more than ever.  Israel’s search for security, stability and peace goes hand in hand with the broader effort of the United States to secure and stabilize the Middle East.  It’s time to take our alliance to the next level. 

As part of this effort, we need to ensure that Israel continues to maintain its qualitative military edge.  The United States should further bolster Israeli air defenses and help develop better tunnel detection technology to prevent arms smuggling and kidnapping.  We should also expand high level U.S.-Israel strategic consultations.  If we present a united front to the region and the world, I’m confident we can meet the threats and challenges we face today.

For me, this is more than policy – it’s personal.  I was born just a few months before Israel declared independence.  My generation came of age admiring the talent and tenacity of the Israeli people, who coaxed a dream into reality out of the harsh desert soil.  We watched a small nation fight fearlessly for its right to exist and build a thriving, raucous democracy.  And, through it all, Israel’s pursuit of peace was as inspiring as its prowess in war.  That’s why, like many Americans, I feel a deep emotional connection with Israel.  We are two nations woven together, lands built by immigrants and exiles seeking to live and worship in freedom, given life by democratic principles and sustained by the service and sacrifice of generations of patriots.

Yet even with all this history, with all our common interests and shared values, we can’t take this relationship for granted.  With every passing year, we must tie the bonds tighter and do the hard, necessary work of friendship.  Because there is a new generation in both countries today that does not remember our shared past; young Americans who didn’t see Israel in a fight for survival again and again, and young Israelis who didn’t see the United States broker peace at Camp David or kindle hope at Oslo or stand behind Israel when it was attacked.  They are growing up in a different world.  The future of our relationship depends on building new ties for a new time.

Hillary Clinton is a Democratic candidate for president. This essay was prepared for the Jewish Journal. The Journal will present views from candidates of all sides during the course of the 2016 election campaign.

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