Hillary Advised to Acknowledge J Street at AIPAC
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was advised to assail Netanyahu for abandoning his commitments to the peace process and publicly acknowledge J Street during a 2010 speech at AIPAC’s Policy Conference in Washington, DC, newly published emails show.
In an email sent on March 21, 2010 – on the eve of her appearance at AIPAC, Sid Blumenthal advised Hillary, “Hold Bibi’s feet to the fire, remind everyone he was at Wye, his key participant event in the peace process, and that it was successful. Reassure all players of our commitment to the process and the solution.”
“Perhaps most controversial,” Blumenthal continued, “I would argue something you should do is that, while praising AIPAC, remind it in as subtle but also direct a way as you can that it does not have a monopoly over American Jewish opinion. Bibi is stage managing US Jewish organizations (and neocons, and the religious right, and whomever else he can muster) against the administration. AIPAC itself has become an organ of the Israeli right, specifically Likud. By acknowledging J Street, you give them legitimacy, credibility and create room within the American Jewish community for debate supportive of the administration’s pursuit of the peace process. Just by mentioning J Street in passing, AIPAC becomes a point on the spectrum, not the controller of the spectrum.”
Blumenthal sketched out a rough plan how the then Secretary of State should address the controversial issue during her remarks. “Some critics say that citizens presenting their views to their government is somehow wrong, that it is a lobby, as though the word “lobby” is not kosher,” he wrote. “However, I welcome a healthy debate. Only through the marketplace of ideas will sound policies to help resolve complicated and seemingly intransigent problems be developed. This administration values everybody’s views. They are important. You are important. We welcome views across the spectrum, from AIPAC to J Street. All these views are legitimate and must be heard and considered.”
Needless to say, Hillary did not heed to Sid’s advice. Instead, she commended Netanyahu “for embracing the vision of the two-state solution,” and “for acting to lift roadblocks and ease movement throughout the West Bank.” Adding, “Last June at Bar-Ilan University, Prime Minister Netanyahu put his country on the path to peace.”
Nevertheless, Hillary did adopt one line Blumenthal suggested as she addressed the peace process. “We are not condemned to perpetual conflict by history. There is an alternative history—the history of how we have overcome and resolved seemingly unbridgeable differences to make peace and create progress,” he advised her to say.
Here is what Hillary told the pro-Israel lobby: “Israel’s history is the story of brave men and women who took risks. They did the hard thing because they believed and knew it was right. We know that this dream was championed by Herzl and others that many said was impossible… Israel and the generations that have come have understood that the strongest among us is often the one who turns an enemy into a friend. Israel has shed more than its share of bitter tears. But for that dream to survive, for the state to flourish, this generation of Israelis must also take up the tradition and do what seems too dangerous, too hard, and too risky.”
But Hillary refrained from touching on sensitive issues, deciding not to mention even the word “J Street” during her speech.
Another email, dated March 20, 2010, reveals there were significant disagreements between Hillary’s aides over the content of the speech. “Having just sent in comments on the AIPAC draft (which were marked classified), I see a clear and relatively easy way for you to make a major difference here,” Anne-Marie Slaughter wrote. “I’m not naïve about the politics here, but we have a major opportunity and I hate to see us waste it.” But Jake Sullivan expressed his objection. In a reply email to Hillary, Sullivan wrote, “I’m going to call AMS now. I’m not sure I agree with her.” A half hour later, Sullivan sent another email: “Haven’t reached her yet, but now re-reading her suggestion, I think it might work. I’d want Mitchell’s take on what the response would be.”