Consensus: Hillary Won’t Change Obama’s Policy on Israel
In the spirit of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the US and his call to keep Israel as a bipartisan issue, there was a rare moment of bipartisanship in presenting the view of the next presumptive Democratic nominee for president. Hillary Clinton will be a third term of President Barack Obama when it comes to Israel and the administration’s approach to Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a prominent Jewish Democrat said on Tuesday.
“I do not expect that Hillary Clinton is going to represent a major policy change. After all, she was Secretary of State for a large portion of President Obama’s term, ” Greg Rosenbaum, Chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) said during a panel on the 2016 race moderated by Jewish Insider at the Jewish Federations of North American’s General Assembly in DC. “I think that she’s been supportive of the Iran deal, she’s supportive of the two-state solution, and she’s fundamentally in the same place the president is regarding dealing with ISIS and the other issues facing the Middle East.”
“So, when you really get down to measuring the issues, I don’t think there’s much room for her to move back – if you use that term ‘back’ – to pro-Israel or pro-Jewish positions,” Rosenbaum asserted. “Nonetheless, we are dealing with personalities. People understand where Secretary Clinton stands, and people in the Jewish community, and in Israel, have a great deal of respect for former President Bill Clinton. So, they may just be a little closer familiarity on a personality front that will cause those [who are disappointed with Obama] to come back to the Democratic Party in 2016.”
Rosenbaum’s comments caused his counterpart on stage, Matt Brooks, Executive Director of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), to jump for joy. “I may as well write the headline for you: If you like Barack Obama, you’ll love Hillary Clinton,” Brooks remarked. “Hillary Clinton is going to be a third term of Barack Obama. I think that’s an important message for the Jewish community.”
“I agree wholeheartedly with Greg that Hillary Clinton was an architect and a partner with Barack Obama on most, if not all, of his major Foreign Policy things,” he continued. “She supported him on the Iran deal and, ultimately, referred to herself in her relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu as the ‘yeller in chief.’ So, I am not sure there’s going to be a change in the tone or tenure on the bilateral relationship.”
Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio recently made similar comments. “Hillary Clinton would write the sequel to President Obama’s disastrous foreign policy, sticking to the same theme of weakness and the same plot of retreat,” Rubio said in a speech last Thursday.
Last week, Clinton penned an Op-Ed for the Forward in which she promised to “enhance our strategic partnership and strengthen America’s security commitment to Israel, ensuring that it always has the qualitative military edge to defend itself.” She also promised to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a meeting in the Oval Office in her first month in office. “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,” Hillary wrote.
During the 50-minute debate, Brooks predicted that the Iran nuclear deal will help the Republican Party increase its share of the Jewish vote in the next presidential election. “The fact of the matter is the support within the Jewish community for the Democratic Party is eroding. Republicans are making inroads,” he said.
Rosenbaum, on the other hand, argued that “if you look at the issues on which American Jews vote, Israel is not in the top five.” But on the top issues, “the Democratic Party is much closer to their position than is the Republican Party.”
“Matt has to make the case that the Democratic Party is not in support of Israel because that’s the only issue he’s got,” he stated. To which Brooks responded, “We are not going to make Israel a wedge issue in this election. That doesn’t mean that we cannot talk about the records of the candidates as it relates to their positions on Israel and Iran. It’s important to have a vigorous debate on these issues.”
The Republican Jewish Coalition head also pointed to recent polls that showed 83 percent of Republicans support Israel in the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians, compared to only 44 percent of Democratic Party voters supporting Israel’s side. But Rosenbaum dismissed the stats, saying one has to take into account what their motives are.
“Are their motives to support a Jewish Israel? Are they supporting Israel as a natural homeland for the Jews? Or are they in support of Israel because it represents the avenue for people who are evangelicals to get to heaven?” he asked. Adding, “I’ve always said, you’ve got Evangelical Republicans supporting Israel because they are building a stairway to heaven on the backs of the Jews in Israel. We don’t get to go with the, unless – as Michele Bachmann said over the weekend – all of the Israeli Jews convert to Christianity, as soon as possible.”
UPDATED 11-12-15: The following is a statement by NJDC’s Greg Rosenbaum clarifying his comments about the motives of Evangelical Republicans in their support of Israel:
“To be clear, my remarks were meant to refer specifically to those Evangelical Christians who agree with former Rep. Michelle Bachmann’s offensive statements surrounding Israel and the ‘biblical prophecy,’ specifically her call to convert as many Jews as possible in the context of ‘seeing the fulfillment of scripture right in front of our eyes, even while we’re on the ground’ — not the many Christians, both Republicans and Democrats, who disagree with her.”