‘I think it is important for Hillary not to alienate or criticize liberal Democrats and liberal Jews,’ one political strategist wrote in an email, acknowledging the left’s growing discomfort with Israel’s treatment of Palestine.
AUSTIN, Texas — Contained within some of WikiLeaks’ latest dumps of John Podesta’s emails are details on Hillary Clinton’s efforts to oppose the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement amid mounting U.S. opposition to Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
Clinton is well known for her opposition to the BDS movement, which seeks to put financial pressure on Israel to end its apartheid policies toward the indigenous Palestinian population. WikiLeaks’ growing archive of emails taken from the Gmail account of Clinton’s campaign chairman show the candidate carrying out a difficult balancing act in order to placate both her pro-Israeli backers and liberal Americans.
“I was talking to HRC today about the idea of having her meet with some Jewish leaders later this week about BDS/delegitimization efforts,” wrote Jake Sullivan, the top foreign policy advisor to the Clinton campaign, in a June 21, 2015 email sent to Stuart Eizenstat, a former U.S. diplomat and a lawyer at the powerful Washington-based law firm Covington & Burling.
The email from Sullivan and a reply sent by Eizenstat hours later were both released on Wednesday as part of WikiLeaks’ ongoing release of Podesta’s emails.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) October 13, 2016
Eizenstat replied to caution Sullivan about the potential fallout from his plan. Eizenstat wrote:
“Good idea and good time. But it is a very tricky issue, if you want to do anything more than have Hillary weigh-in against BDS.”
He acknowledged that Israel’s tarnished image, especially given the ongoing expansion of illegal settlements in Gaza, makes it increasingly hard for Clinton to defend Israel in the eyes of Democrats. Expansion of Israel’s illegal settlements increased dramatically during the Obama administration, and the issue was a major point of contention in the formation of the Democratic Party platform this year.
“[The BDS movement’s] ability to get supporters on US campuses and in European public opinion and EU foreign ministers (e.g. labeling West Bank products) comes not from anti-Israel or anti-Semitic views, but because of sincere concerns with Israeli settlement policy (this is also why the Pew poll shows less than 50 percent of self-identified Democrats support Israeli policies, compared to 80 percent of Republicans).”
In May, Pew Research reported that 53 percent self-identified conservative or moderate Democrats sympathize more with Israel than Palestine in the ongoing conflict. That number falls to just 40 percent among self-identified liberal Democrats.
Eizenstat goes on to suggest that Clinton’s close ties to Haim Saban, a key donor and ally, could actually be a liability for the Democratic Party nominee. Saban and Sheldon Adelson, and hyper-conservative Republican mega-donor, have spent millions opposing the BDS movement. A January 2016 exchange of emails between Saban and Sarah Bard, Clinton’s Jewish outreach director, suggest that the media mogul and the Clinton campaign maintain close lines of communication.
In his email to Sullivan, Eizenstat stressed “the critical importance of AVOIDING MAKING ISRAEL A PARTISAN ISSUE.” He continued:
“I think it is important for Hillary not to alienate or criticize liberal Democrats and liberal Jews, but to make the point that joining the BDS campaign is NOT the appropriate way to respond to concerns about Israeli settlement policy, and it also creates a DOUBLE-STANDARD, since it fails to recognize Palestinian obduracy to the Kerry initiative and to make the tough compromises on their “right of return” necessary for a deal.”
Currently, Palestinians have no “right of return.” Neither the hundreds of thousands exiled from the region during the establishment of Israel, nor their descendents, can return to Palestine. At the same time, almost any Jew may apply for citizenship in Israel.
An April poll by Google Consumer Surveys found that 62 percent of Americans feel Washington sends too much aid to Israel and, after Israel agreed to a record-breaking $38 billion foreign aid package, a September poll showed most Americans would rather see that money redirected to veterans or education.
Ultimately, the exchange between Sullivan and Eizenstat reflects the increasing difficulty of defending Washington’s support of Israel, especially to young Americans, who Clinton is struggling to attract to her campaign.