June 19, 2019

On her big night, Hillary Clinton stresses Israel’s security, not the quest for peace

It was Hillary Clinton’s night, but the Rev. William Barber II was the sleeper star.

The self-described “theologically conservative, liberal, evangelical biblicist” drew repeated, enthusiastic applause –including when he described Jesus as a brown-skinned Palestinian Jew and declared that “when we love the Jewish child and the Palestinian child … we are reviving the heart of our democracy.”

With his focus on commonality instead of grievances (terrorism, occupation), Barber seemed to hit the sweet spot that could excite everyone in the arena, from Bernie supporters to old-school pro-Israel Democrats. The Clinton and Sanders camps took a similar approach to the Israel section of the party platform — focusing primarily on the mutual benefits of a two-state solution.

So it was striking later in the night when Clinton got to her Israel line: “I’m proud that we put a lid on Iran’s nuclear program without firing a single shot – now we have to enforce it, and keep supporting Israel’s security.”

No talk of a two-state solution or kick-starting Israeli-Palestinian issues. Nothing about Israeli settlements. Just Israeli security.

The applause was mild (at least in the part of the arena where I was standing, on the floor, in front of the California delegation).

This isn’t the first time during the campaign that Clinton has stuck to the Israel security message. There was her fairly red meat speech to the annual AIPAC conference in March. And then her debate exchange with Sanders a few weeks later over said speech. “You barely mentioned the Palestinians,” Sanders complained, before suggesting she was unwilling to confront Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Clinton reiterated her support for a two-state solution and said she worked to make progress as secretary of state. But, with the New York primary just days away, she seemed quite comfortable putting Israel’s security first. “I can tell you right now, I have been there with Israeli officials going back more than 25 years that they do not seek this kind of attacks,” she said. “They do not invite the rockets raining down on their towns and villages.”

Since then, on certain issues (trade, college tuition), Clinton has displayed a willingness to embrace Sanders’ positions as part of her effort to win over those feeling the Bern. In her convention speech, she told Bernie backers that when it comes to economic and social justice issues, “I want you to know, I’ve heard you. Your cause is our cause.”

In talking about Israel, not so much.