Hillary Clinton takes a swipe at Donald Trump during aggressive AIPAC speech: "We can't be neutral when it comes to Israel"

Trump has previously promised to remain "neutral" on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published March 21, 2016 3:39PM (EDT)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the 2016 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference, March 21, 2016, at the Verizon Center in Washington (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the 2016 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference, March 21, 2016, at the Verizon Center in Washington (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

On Monday, the Democratic presidential frontrunner and Republican presidential frontrunner are addressing the same audience on the same day for the first time this campaign cycle, and as the first one up to the microphone this morning, Hillary Clinton took the opportunity to take a swipe at Donald Trump during the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference.

"Candidates for president who think the United States can outsource Middle East security to dictators or that America no longer has vital national security interests in the region are dangerously wrong," Clinton told the 18,000 pro-Israel activists gathered in Washington D.C. today. Clinton's remaining Democratic competitor, Bernie Sanders, is the only presidential candidate who is not addressing the powerful pro-Israel lobby but he isn't the only candidate who has suggested a willingness to reassess the longstanding alliance between Israel and the U.S. Last month, Trump indicated he would remain "neutral" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"America can't ever be neutral when it comes to Israel's security or survival," Clinton said, citing terror attacks against Israeli citizens and slamming Trump's consideration of U.S. neutrality in the region without ever referring to him by name.

When Trump was pressed on his comments ahead of his AIPAC address during an interview with ABC's "This Week" on Sunday, the billionare real estate developer insisted that “there is nobody more pro-Israel than I am.”

“I'll tell you what, I don't know one Jewish person that doesn't want to have a deal, a good deal, a proper deal, but a really good deal,” Trump told host George Stephanopoulos, arguing that peace and stability between Israelis and Palestinians is "probably one of the toughest deals” that only he could negotiate.

"Some things aren't negotiable," Clinton pushed-back, slamming Trump's comments on Monday. "We need steady hands, not a president who says he's neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday, and who knows what on Wednesday, because everything's negotiable," Clinton said.

Clinton went on to cite Nobel peace prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel to argue that "Israel's security is nonnegotiable" and that neutrality is not an option: "Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."

"Let us never be neutral or silent in the face of bigotry," Clinton said. "Together let's defend the shared values that already make America and Israel great."

Clinton promised to "reaffirm" the U.S.'s commitment to Israel if elected president, insisting that "we must take our alliance to the next level."

"Walking away is not an option," she said, clearly pivoting to the general election to stake out a firmly pro-Israel stance -- seeking to rehabilitate a fractured relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Clinton went on to call the BDS movement an "alarming" effort to "delegitimize Israel on the world stage" that must be aggressively combated, to raucous applause from the crowd.

"We have to be united in fighting back against BDS," Clinton told the crowd, before returning her focus to Trump.

"If you see bigotry, oppose it. If you see violence, condemn it. If you see a bully, stand up to him!" Clinton said, alluding to her likely general election competitor. Clinton reminded the group of a "dark chapter in our history before" when Jewish immigrants were turned away from the U.S., slamming Trump's calls for a temporary ban on all Muslims.

"America should be better than this. And I believe it is our responsibility as citizens to say so."

Trump is scheduled to address the AIPAC conference later today.

Watch Clinton's address to AIPAC below:

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

MORE FROM Sophia Tesfaye

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Aipac Donald Trump Election 2016 Elections 2016 Hillary Clinton Israel Israel-palestine Video