Hillary Clinton, the leading U.S. Democratic presidential candidate, told American advocates for Israel Monday that if she is elected she would be a staunch advocate for the Jewish state.
The former U.S. secretary of state drew long cheers from thousands of people at a Washington conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee as she denounced the statement by the front-running Republican presidential contender, real estate mogul Donald Trump, that he would be "neutral" in trying to negotiate a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians.
She said the U.S. does not need "a president who says he’s neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday and who knows what on Wednesday because everything is negotiable. Well my friends, Israel’s security is non-negotiable. America can't ever be neutral when it comes to Israel's security."
"Some things are not negotiable. Someone who doesn't understand that has no business being America's president," Clinton said.
The Democratic front-runner was the first of four U.S. presidential candidates set to speak to the group, with Trump and two other Republican contenders, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich, appearing later. The lone Jewish candidate among the five remaining presidential candidates, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, turned down an invitation to speak.
Clinton, the top U.S. diplomat from 2009 to 2013, said the U.S. has "a strong and enduring national interest in Israel's security and we will never allow Israel's adversaries to think a wedge can be driven between us."
She called for prompt adoption of a new 10-year U.S. military assistance package for Tel Aviv and said, "I will make sure Israel maintains its qualitative military edge" in the Middle East. Clinton said that if she is elected president in the national U.S. election in November, one of the first things she would do upon taking office in January 2017 would be to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House.
She condemned the rise in anti-Semitism around the world, especially in Europe, and said the U.S. "must repudiate all efforts to... undermine the Jewish people."
Clinton vowed strict enforcement of the internationally brokered nuclear pact with Iran that curbs its development of nuclear weaponry in exchange for lifting of sanctions that hobbled its economy.
“It’s not good enough to trust and verify. Our approach must be distrust and verify," she said.
Clinton said that as president if the U.S. determines that Tehran is violating terms of the agreement, which was implemented in January, she would "act to stop it and we will do so with force if necessary."
Vice President Joe Biden addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington, Sunday, March 20, 2016.
Iran's nuclear ambitions
On Sunday, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden assured the pro-Israel lobbying group that Iran is not close to developing a nuclear weapon.
"Iran is much, much further away from obtaining a nuclear weapon than they were a year ago," Biden said, telling the activists that the U.S. is "watching Iran like a hawk."
Biden, as did Clinton, urged Israel to negotiate a two-state solution with the Palestinians. "The only way in my view to guarantee Israel's future and security of its identity as a Jewish and democratic state is with a two-state solution," he said.
Palestinians have grown frustrated with the growth of Jewish settlements on land Palestinians want for a future state; but, negotiations have long been stymied in the region and now there have been frequent Palestinian attacks on Israeli police, security forces and civilians on the streets of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and elsewhere.
"These attacks must end immediately," Clinton said, adding that Palestinians "must stop celebrating terrorists and stop paying rewards to their families."