By Rania Khalek, Electronic Intifada
Oct. 13, 2016
A batch of internal Clinton campaign emails published by Wikileaks in recent days reveals the extent to which campaign donors drive Hillary Clinton’s rhetoric and policy positions on Israel and the broader Middle East.
Last year, Hillary Clinton wrote a letter to billionaire media mogul Haim Saban on her campaign stationery vowing “to make countering BDS a priority” if she wins the presidency.
Saban has donated at least $7 million to getting Clinton elected president and openly confesses that his number one priority is influencing US policy in Israel’s favor.
According to the emails between Clinton’s senior campaign aides, the letter to Saban was deliberately leaked to friendly media to attract pro-Israel donors concerned about the rise of the BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions – movement.
The way the campaign aides discuss the issue is completely devoid of emotion or ideology. It’s all about the donors.
Opposing BDS to please donors
In a 3 July 2015 email to campaign staffers, Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook wrote, “I was just thinking: has she made a clear statement on Israel yet? I get this question from donors all the time. Does she need to state her principles on Israel before Iran? Or do both at the same time?”
“That’s basically the goal of the BDS letter,” responded Clinton speechwriter Dan Schwerin.
“We could either get a donor to leak it or just give it to a reporter if we want to get it out there. I’m semi-surprised it’s not out yet,” replied deputy communications director Christina Reynolds.
Clinton’s voice is nowhere to be seen in the correspondence. “We have a two pager I’m getting clearance from her on. That is what we have to ship around,” Jake Sullivan, a senior foreign policy adviser to Clinton, wrote.
“Let’s def give it to someone. I see zero downside to a story. Then we can circulate around right away (hopefully) in advance of Iran,” reasoned Mook.
“If Haim’s going to give it to the Jewish media, I think that solves our problem. Once they write, we can make sure it gets picked up by some of our beat guys,” Christina Reynolds responded.
Three days later, Politico reported on and published the letter.
The emails show Saban coordinating directly with the Clinton campaign, offering positive reinforcement for Clinton’s pro-Israel messaging and strategizing with Clinton aides against BDS.
The emails show that Stuart Eizenstat, a former US ambassador to the EU under President Bill Clinton, acted as a liaison between the Israeli government and the Hillary Clinton campaign, counseling senior staffers on how to adjust their messaging to the liking of the Israeli leadership.
Eizenstat wrote lengthy and detailed emails to campaign aides summarizing his meetings with Israeli government officials and recommending talking points for Clinton to adopt.
The Clinton campaign frequently thanked Eizenstat for his counsel, regularly implemented his suggestions and often sought his approval on speeches related to Israel.
“I took some of your concepts but left out the specifics,” foreign policy adviser Sullivan wrote in a July 2015 email to Eizenstat.
Sullivan was seeking pointers for Clinton’s statement in response to the passage of the Iran nuclear deal.
A month earlier, Sullivan messaged Eizenstat for advice on BDS: “I was talking to HRC [Hillary Clinton] today about the idea of having her meet with some Jewish leaders later this week about BDS/delegitimization efforts. She and the leaders could go out and make a statement following the meeting.”
Sullivan sought Eizenstat’s opinion on who Clinton should include in such an initiative.
Netanyahu is ready for Hillary
In December 2015, Eizenstat reported on his “meeting with a senior [Israeli] official who is very close to the Prime Minister [Benjamin Netanyahu], and knows his thinking.”
“The prime minister always had a ‘surprising good relationship’ with Hillary; she is ‘easy to work with,’ and that she is more instinctively sympathetic to Israel than the White House,” Eizenstatwrote.
The official also told Eizenstat that “Israel [sic] Arabs are a ‘real problem.’ The government had to dismantle the northern branch of the Islamic Association because they were radicalizing the Israeli Arabs, who are 20 percent of the population.”
Eizenstat was referring to Israel’s ban on the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, a political party with a large following among Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Eizenstat’s emails also reflect the Israeli leadership’s intense hostility toward President Barack Obama.
In a May 2015 email to the Clinton campaign, Eizenstat noted that in his meeting with the Israelis, “The level of vitriol against the president was striking, to such a degree that one participant urged that he was being unfairly demonized.”
In June 2015, Eizenstat wrote, “I was struck in my week in Israel, not only among Israeli officials, but among my friends across the political spectrum (most are former officials) and apolitical relatives, at the depth of antipathy and distrust of President Obama, as ‘weak,’ ‘pro-Muslim’ and ‘anti-Israel.’”
“Attack, attack, attack”
In another June 2015 email, Eizenstat provides details of a meeting with Netanyahu and his cabinet in which Netanyahu urges attacking BDS and recruiting Latinos, Evangelical Christians and Asian Americans to assist in the effort.
Summarizing Netanyahu’s views, Eizenstat wrote: “On BDS, Israel should move from the defense to the offense. It should be attacked on moral grounds. It is ‘unjust’ and ‘cruel.’ Israel must attack its attackers. The best defense is a good offense: ‘attack, attack, attack.’”
In an August 2015 email labeled “NOT FOR CIRCULATION,” Eizenstat passed along advice to Hillary Clinton from Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador in Washington.
A US-born right-winger who has been called “Bibi’s brain,” Dermer told Eizenstat that the Israeli government was plotting to smear Palestine solidarity activism on college campuses as terrorism.
“They will shortly expose the funding base for the main BDS group on campus, Students for Justice in Palestine, which tie it with terrorist funding,” Eizenstat wrote. “The key is to expose BDS as anti-Semitic and anti-Israel.”
No-fly zone would “kill a lot of Syrians”
During the Democratic Party primary race, Bernie Sanders repeatedly called on Clinton to release the transcripts of her paid speeches to Wall Street banks, but she refused.
One of the most damning aspects of the latest Wikileaks dump is the excerpts of Clinton’s paid speeches.
In a speech to Goldman Sachs in 2013, Clinton confessed that a no-fly zone in Syria would “kill a lot of Syrians.” This is because it would require bombing Syria’s air defenses, “many of which are located in populated areas,” according to Clinton.
While making this assessment in private, Clinton has continued to publicly advocate for a no-fly zone, ostensibly to protect Syrian civilians.
Saudi support for ISIS
Clinton told the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago at a luncheon in 2013 that Israel and Jordan were working in close partnership for the purpose of “shoring up King Abdullah.”
That same year she told congregants at a synagogue, “One of the developments of the Arab Spring is that you now have Israel and Saudi Arabia more closely aligned in their foreign policy” in the region.
Publicly, Clinton frequently casts Iran as the single greatest funder of terrorism in the world. But privately she has repeatedly acknowledged Saudi Arabia’s contribution to violent extremism.
At a Jewish United Fund dinner in 2013, Clinton said she preferred “a more robust, covert action” to arm Syrian rebels against the government of Bashar al-Assad.
But she added that this was complicated because, “the Saudis and others are shipping large amounts of weapons – and pretty indiscriminately – not at all targeted toward the people that we think would be the more moderate.”
She also described Saudi Arabia’s fierce opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood as “kind of ironic since the Saudis have exported more extreme ideology than any other place on earth over the course of the last 30 years.”
In one of the leaked emails Clinton accuses Saudi Arabia and Qatar of funding the Islamic State, sometimes referred to as ISIS or ISIL.
Citing “Western intelligence, US intelligence and sources in the region,” Clinton wrote, “We need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.”
It’s all about the donors
The Clinton Foundation has accepted millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
And while serving as secretary of state, Clinton greenlighted enormous weapons deals to those countries.
From Israel to Saudi Arabia, it is clear that Clinton’s donors are in charge. They exert more influence over her public positions and policy prescriptions than she does.
If Clinton were running against Senators Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, these emails would be scandalous.
Instead, the leaks have been completely overshadowed by the even more sensational and lurid October surprise that befell Republican nominee Donald Trump.
Clinton is lucky her opponent is more disliked and disingenuous than she is.