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Stat$: Hillary and Bernie on Israel

Allan Lichtenstein
April 8, 2016

Comparing Their AIPAC Remarks

by Allan Lichtenstein

la-na-hillary-clinton-aipac-20160321WITH THE DEMOCRATIC presidential candidate still not established, I thought it could be revealing to compare the speech Hillary gave at the recent AIPAC conference with the one Bernie Sanders said he would have given. What follows is commentary referencing verbatim text that pairs Hillary’s and Bernie’s remarks around a number of themes.

The State of Israel and the Jewish People

Hillary conflates the State of Israel with its Jewish residents. She references Israel as the “democratic homeland for the Jewish people,” ignoring the Palestinians who live within the Green Line, as well as various other minority groups, including the Bedouin and the Druze. Hillary also suggests that Israel can be both Jewish and democratic. Bernie adopts a more inclusive term when he uses the word “people.” He does not use the word Jewish, distinguishing between nationality and religious or ethnic background in defining the inhabitants of the area.

Hillary: “We’ve always shared an unwavering, unshakable commitment to our alliance and to Israel’s future as a secure and democratic homeland for the Jewish people... to guarantee Israel’s long-term survival as a strong Jewish and democratic state...”

Bernie: “We are committed not just to guaranteeing Israel’s survival, but also to make sure that its people have a right to live in peace and security... The United States will continue its unwavering commitment to the safety of Israeli citizens and the country of Israel...”

Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Hillary does not use the term “Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” She stresses the joint interests of the United States and Israel and the commitment of the United States to Israel’s security. Her only reference to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to state that the Palestinians should govern themselves in their own state. Bernie acknowledges the daunting challenge of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. More importantly, he recognizes that the United States needs to be a partner and a friend to both parties to advance the cause of peace.

Hillary: “The United States and Israel must be closer than ever, stronger than ever and more determined than ever to prevail against our common adversaries and to advance our shared values... The United States will reaffirm we have a strong and enduring national interest in Israel’s security... Palestinians should be able to govern themselves in their own state, in peace and dignity...”

Bernie: “We have supported each other, and we will continue to do just that as we face a very daunting challenge and that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict... I will work tirelessly to advance the cause of peace as a partner and as a friend of Israel... But to be successful, we have got to be a friend not only to Israel, but to the Palestinian people, where in Gaza unemployment today is 44 percent and we have there a poverty rate which is almost as high...”

Peace with the Palestinians

Both Hillary and Bernie accept the principle of two states, although neither references the geographical dimension of a final peace settlement. Hillary emphasizes that Israel’s long-term survival as a strong Jewish and democratic state must be guaranteed, while she is less emphatic about the Palestinians’ right to a sovereign state. Bernie recognizes Israel’s right to exist but also calls for direct negotiations and acceptance of the Palestinians right to self-determination.

Hillary: “Keep working toward a negotiated peace or lose forever the goal of two states for two peoples... Peace with security is possible and that it is the only way to guarantee Israel’s long-term survival as a strong Jewish and democratic state... Israelis deserve a secure homeland for the Jewish people. Palestinians should be able to govern themselves in their own state, in peace and dignity... And only a negotiated two-state agreement can survive those outcomes...”

Bernie: “[The] only prospect for peace is the successful negotiation of a two-state solution... Resuming the peace process through direct negotiations... Peace will require the unconditional recognition by all people of Israel’s right to exist. It will require an end to attacks of all kinds against Israel... Peace will require that organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah renounce their efforts to undermine the security of Israel... Peace has to mean security for every Israeli from violence and terrorism... But peace also means security for every Palestinian. It means achieving self-determination, civil rights, and economic well-being for the Palestinian people...”

Recognition of the Plight of the Palestinians

Hillary ignores the plight of the Palestinians entirely, referencing only the attacks of Palestinians on Israelis and the role of the Palestinian leadership in inciting violence. Bernie recognizes the “suffering” of the Palestinians and the need to acknowledge this suffering when pursuing a peace settlement.

Hillary: “Especially true at a time when Israel faces brutal terrorist stabbings, shootings and vehicle attacks at home... And Palestinian leaders need to stop inciting violence, stop celebrating terrorists as martyrs and stop paying rewards to their families...”

Bernie: “So when we talk about Israel and Palestinian areas, it is important to understand that today there is a whole lot of suffering among Palestinians and that cannot be ignored. You can’t have good policy that results in peace if you ignore one side...”


Hillary acknowledges that aspects of the settlement process can be damaging to the peace process but does not condemn the settlement process itself, avoiding the use of the word “occupation” or calling for its ending. Bernie uses the term “occupation” and recognizes the need to end the occupation as a condition for moving the peace process forward. He also makes it clear that he believes the settlement process is counter-productive, undermining Israel’s security.

Hillary: “Everyone has to do their part by avoiding damaging actions, including with respect to settlements... I would vigorously oppose any attempt by outside parties to impose a solution, including the U.N. Security Council...”

Bernie: “Peace will mean ending what amounts to the occupation of Palestinian territory, establishing mutually agreed upon borders, and pulling back settlements in the West Bank... My concern that Israel’s recent expropriation of an additional 579 acres of land in the West Bank undermines the peace process and, ultimately, Israeli security as well... It is absurd for elements within the Netanyahu government to suggest that building more settlements in the West Bank is the appropriate response to the most recent violence...”


Hillary does not refer to Gaza in her speech. Bernie recognizes the collective destruction caused by the Israeli attacks on Gaza, while calling for Hamas to recognize Israel’s right to exist. He calls for lifting the economic blockade as a condition of furthering the peace process.

Bernie: “But to be successful, we have got to be a friend not only to Israel, but to the Palestinian people, where in Gaza unemployment today is 44 percent and we have there a poverty rate which is almost as high... Peace will also mean ending the economic blockade of Gaza... I strongly object to Hamas’ long held position that Israel does not have a right to exist... I spoke out strongly against the Israeli counter attacks that killed nearly 1,500 civilians and wounded thousands more. I condemned the bombings of hospitals, schools and refugee camps... Today, Gaza is still largely in ruins


Hillary does not refer to the need to resolve the “water problem,” a crucial component in a final peace agreement. Bernie is clear that the distribution of water needs to be equitable for both sides to thrive.

Bernie: (Peace) “will mean a sustainable and equitable distribution of precious water resources so that Israel and Palestine can both thrive as neighbors... A lasting peace will have to recognize Palestinians are entitled to control their own lives and there is nothing human life needs more than water...”

BDS and Criticism of Israel as Anti-Semitism

Hillary equates the BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanctions) movement with anti-Semitism. Bernie did not raise the BDS issue.

Hillary: We must repudiate all efforts to malign, isolate, and undermine Israel and the Jewish people... We have to be united in fighting back against BDS... Anti-Semitism has no place in any civilized society, not in America, not in Europe, not anywhere


Both Hillary and Bernie approve of the deal reached with Iran and that the world will be safer with the successful implementation of the agreement. Both support retaliation if violations occur, even if small. Bernie, however, stresses diplomatic options and makes it clear that he thinks the “pro-Israel” position, in fact, was to support the deal.

Hillary: “Israel’s security in non-negotiable... American can’t ever be neutral when it comes to Israel’s security or survival... Some things aren’t negotiable... Whether we have the strength and commitment to confront the adversaries that threaten us, especially Iran... I really believe the United States, Israel and the world are safer as a result... Our approach must be distrust and verify... The deal must come with vigorous enforcement, strong monitoring, clear consequences for any violations and a broader strategy to confront Iran’s aggression across the region... Impose real consequences for even the smallest violations of this agreement... The United States will act to stop it, and that we will do so with force if necessary.”

Bernie: “Iran must not be able to acquire a nuclear weapon... I personally strongly supported the nuclear deal... I think the Obama administration is doing a very good job... We have an obligation to pursue diplomatic solutions before resorting to military intervention... We pursue every diplomatic option before resorting to military intervention... Diplomacy can achieve goals that military intervention cannot achieve... If successfully implemented — and I think it can be — the nuclear deal will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And preventing Iran from getting the bomb makes the world a safer place... I do not accept that the “pro-Israel” position was to oppose the deal. Preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon will strengthen not only the United States’ security but Israel’s security as well... If Iran does not live up to the agreement, we should re-impose sanctions and all options are back on the table...”

Allan Lichtenstein, a contributing writer to our website and magazine, has a Ph.D in urban planning from Rutgers University and has been working in the field of poverty research for nine years. He grew up in South Africa, lived in Israel for sixteen years, and has lived in the U.S. since 1986.