Ron Radosh

What Israel Policy Does Hillary Clinton Actually Favor?

Sidney Blumenthal’s influence on Hillary Clinton is once again revealed in the latest batch of Clinton emails, released yesterday. As The Times of Israel reports, the emails from Blumenthal include correspondence about Israel, in which he advises the secretary of State to consider the writings on the subject by Max Blumenthal.

By now it is well known that Max Blumenthal is no fan of Israel. His book Goliath is a one-sided screed in which the Jews of Israel are regarded essentially as the new Nazis. “Never before,” Nation columnist Eric Alterman wrote, “has anyone defended the analogizing of the behavior of Israeli Jews to that of the war criminals who led Nazi Germany.” Alterman went on to write that “nothing this fellow writes can be taken at face value” and referred to the book as “The ‘I-Hate Israel’ Handbook.”

In these latest e-mails, we learn that in March of 2010, Sidney Blumenthal sent Secrertary Clinton “an article by Max, telling her that his son is spending his time on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and plans to move to Israel for about 6-8 months to write a book.” He added that Max “tracks a lot of things that do not appear in the mainstream press.” He also enclosed an article by the leftist Israeli Uri Avnery, who had written his own attack on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  Evidently Sidney Blumenthal shares his son’s animus towards Bibi and Israel and, in passing on these materials, thought he was gaining some traction.  Perhaps he was.  Responding to this email, Secretary Clinton asked him how she should use the material in a speech she was scheduled to give to AIPAC.

In 2012, a released email reveals, Sidney Blumenthal sent Max’s January 2012 article in the Arab newspaper al-Akhbar (“The Bibi Connection”) to Clinton. In the article, Max chastises Netanyahu for his ties to U.S. Republicans, and in particular, Sheldon Addison. “Bibi’s war against Obama,” he wrote, “is unprecedented.” He had not one criticism, of course, of Obama’s policies towards Israel. Max also wrote that “Netanyahu’s campaign excites right-wing Jews and evangelical Christians, who overwhelmingly accept the biblical claims of the Jewish state’s historical right to Greater Israel, Judea and Samaria. Bibi’s deepest attack line against Obama merges theology with ideology.” No longer, Max argued, was the U.S.-Israeli alliance depicted as “a marriage of two vibrant democracies united by shared liberal values,” but rather as a “united front of besieged bastions of Western civilization against an incipient Islamic onslaught.” “Rapture ready evangelicals,” he wrote, “right-wing ultra-nationalists, and Republican Jews are far more likely to be attracted to this sort of alliance than cosmopolitan liberals.”  Clinton passed on these comments to others.

The emails do show that Clinton did not always accept Sidney Blumenthal’s analysis.  In April 2010, she took him to task for suggesting that there should be “a note of skepticism” about intelligence reports that Syria had Scud missiles and could give them to Hezbollah. He asked:

Does Israel need reassurance on its own claims here? Unless this is part of a larger diplomatic movement that involves serious pressure to come soon on Israel. Otherwise, back to square one, making statements without evidence and disclosing that the Obama administration is spooked by the Israeli inspired propaganda campaign against it involving everything from ads signed by Eli Weisel [sic] to statements signed by Harry Reid, et al, encouraging more of same. Unless of course you actually have the intel nailed down.

To this, Clinton replied: “Skepticism not in order.” Blumenthal immediately took back his previous email, since he most likely did not want Clinton to stop listening to him. Moreover, at the time, he was employed at a high salary by the Clinton Foundation. He indicated that the skepticism came from and was “endemic in sectors of Intel and military because of Bush hangover. I’d have Panetta or Blair inform Congress and have it reported. Let them stand on the intel. Understand public discussion of scuds from diplomatic standpoint. Provocative of Iran, foolish of Syria, yet changes nothing strategically.”

He also could not help but add a sentence about Netanyahu, chastising him for missing the chance to make peace with Syria. “Of course,” he wrote, “if Bibi were to have engaged Syria in negotiations taking its previous gestures seriously….” He did not finish the sentence.

Another email to Clinton came from Jeffrey Feltman, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, passing along an article from a left-wing Israeli publication called +972 Magazine. The magazine reported that a former Netanyahu adviser was on the outs with the prime minister, that Bibi was changing staff and firing people because of disagreement with him on fundamental issues, and that the new appointees “don’t offer opinions that diverge from Bibi’s predispositions.” In a further email, he alerted Clinton that “you should be aware that the 972 blog …is highly partisan, anti-BB, opposed to military action against Iran.” Then he added: “Far left wing in Israeli political terminology.”

Why, we might ask, was such a clearly biased and extreme analysis by a far-left publication sent to the secretary?

The above is important particularly if Hillary Clinton becomes our next president. Recently, she gave a speech to the Saban Forum at the Brookings Institution which was called pro-Israel by many observers. In that speech, she tried to triangulate in order to not alienate different sides. Yet she played all the right notes, and portions of it were clearly intended to alert the Jewish community to her hope they would support her and not doubt her commitment to Israel.

But once in office, which Hillary would we get?  We know that originally she wanted Blumenthal to work for her at State, but the Obama administration vetoed it. Rahm Emanuel in particular did not like tactics Blumenthal used during the 2008 campaign. He was most likely thinking of the old-style red-baiting Blumenthal used against Obama to bring to light the future president’s communist ties, which led Obama’s campaign to send out their own red-baiting missives against Hillary for her post university work at a pro-communist law firm in California. (I wrote about it here.)

As president, would Hillary continue the Obama administration’s hostile relationship with Israel, in which Israel is pressured while the Palestinian Authority is let off the hook? Or would the relationship be a more balanced one which held the Palestinian leadership to account?  Would a President Hillary Clinton give a position in her administration to Sidney Blumenthal, a loyal friend from whom she solicits advice? Would he then continue to send her the anti-Israel screeds of his son, urging her to seriously consider his arguments?

Hillary Clinton should be asked these questions by the press during the campaign.