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How I Would Reaffirm Unbreakable Bond With Israel -- and Benjamin Netanyahu

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Author 10516

Reprinted from The Forward


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We have recently marked the 20th anniversary of the assassination of then Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, a good friend, a courageous warrior and a great statesman. This somber anniversary, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Washington on November 9, is an opportunity to reaffirm the unbreakable bonds of friendship and unity between the people and governments of the United States and Israel.

The alliance between our two nations transcends politics. It is and should always be a commitment that unites us, not a wedge that divides us.

Ever since President Truman waited only 11 minutes to recognize the new nation of Israel in 1948, Americans have believed that Israel is more than a country -- it's a dream nurtured for generations and made real by men and women who refused to bow to the toughest odds.

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My first visit to Israel, in December 1981, sparked an enduring emotional connection for me -- to the land and its people -- and admiration for how Israelis have built a thriving democracy in a region full of adversaries and autocrats. I was so impressed with the Israeli approach to early childhood education and to helping parents become their children's first teachers that I worked to bring the Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (commonly known by its acronym, HIPPY) to Arkansas. Over the past 30 years, I've worked with Israelis of all stripes and made dear friends like the Rabins and many others inside and outside of government.

On that first trip, Bill and I fell in love with Jerusalem as we walked the ancient streets of the Old City. Even amid all the history and traditions, it was a city pulsing with life and energy. I am appalled that those same streets are now filled with terrorism and fear. We now hear of daily stabbings and shootings of innocent civilians -- teenagers, parents and senior citizens. Israelis have to look over their shoulders during everyday tasks, like carrying groceries and waiting for the bus. Some American citizens are among the victims, including Richard Lakin, a teacher and advocate who spent years working for tolerance and understanding.

This violence must not be allowed to continue. It needs to stop immediately, and Israelis and Palestinians must move back toward the path of peaceful reconciliation. All parties and the international community should condemn any political and religious leader who stokes tensions with irresponsible rhetoric. Many of us have seen the video of a cleric encouraging worshippers to stab Jews as he waves a knife in the air. This incitement needs to end, period.

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I have stood with Israel my entire career. As a senator, I fought to get Magen David Adom accepted to the International Red Cross when other nations tried to exclude the organization. I wrote and co-sponsored bills that isolated terror groups, and pushed to crack down on incitement in Palestinian textbooks and schools. As secretary of state, I requested more assistance for Israel every year, and supported the lifesaving Iron Dome rocket defense system. I defended Israel from isolation and attacks at the United Nations and other international settings, including opposing the biased Goldstone report.

On behalf of President Obama, I convened Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for three sessions of face-to-face peace talks, the last time that's ever happened. And in 2012 I led negotiations for a cease-fire in Gaza to stop Hamas rockets from raining down on Israeli homes and communities.

As president, I will continue this fight.

I am deeply committed to Israel's future as a secure and democratic Jewish state, and just as convinced that the only way to guarantee that outcome is through diplomacy. And while no solution can be imposed from outside, I believe the United States has a responsibility to help bring Israelis and Palestinians to the table and to encourage the difficult but necessary decisions that will lead to peace. As president I will never stop working to advance the goal of two states for two peoples living in peace, security and dignity.

I will do everything I can 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. That includes immediately dispatching a delegation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to meet with senior Israeli commanders. I would also invite the Israeli prime minister to the White House in my first month in office.

The dangers facing both our nations in the Middle East require bold and united responses. We must remain committed to preventing Iran from ever acquiring a nuclear weapon, and to vigorously enforcing the new nuclear agreement. I would move to step up our partnership to confront Iran and its proxies across the region, and make sure dangerous Russian and Iranian weapons don't end up in Hezbollah's hands or threaten Israel. I also will combat growing efforts to isolate Israel internationally and to undermine its future as a Jewish state, including the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. I've spoken out against BDS in the United States and at the U.N., and will continue to do so.

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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.

 

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Senator from NY, 2008 Democratic presidential primary candidate, wife of former President Bill Clinton

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