Hillary Rodham Clinton speaking at the American Jewish Committee’s Global Forum, May 14, 2014. (Ronald Sachs)
NEW YORK (JTA) – Hillary Rodham Clinton defended Israel’s handling of the Gaza conflict and said anti-Semitism was possibly behind some of the criticism of Israel.
Clinton also appeared to back Israel’s insistence on maintaining a security presence in the West Bank and stopping Iranian uranium enrichment.
The former U.S. secretary of state made her remarks in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg for The Atlantic.
“I think Israel did what it had to do to respond to the rockets,” Clinton said. Israel, she added, may have made some mistakes that led to civilian casualties, but that is what happens in the “fog of war.”
“I don’t know a nation … that hasn’t made errors, but ultimately the responsibility rests with Hamas,” Clinton said, pointing to the terrorist group’s rocket attacks against Israel and the way its fighters base their operations in civilian areas.
Clinton criticized the “enormous international reaction” against Israel, calling it “uncalled for and unfair,” especially in comparison to the relatively more tepid responses to the far greater death toll in Syria and Russian aggression against Ukraine.
“You can’t ever discount anti-Semitism,” she added, “especially with what’s going on in Europe today.”
Clinton, who butted heads as secretary of state with Netanyahu over settlements, said that “dealing with Bibi is not easy.” But she noted that he endorsed a two-state solution and in 2009 accepted a 10-month settlement freeze in the West Bank.
She also voiced support for his position on several fronts.
Citing the instability and fighting in Iraq and Syria, Clinton said Netanyahu was right to insist that Israel maintain a military presence in the West Bank along the Jordan River.
“If I were the prime minister of Israel,” she said, “you’re damn right I would expect to have control over security.”
Clinton also praised Israel and the Gulf states for insisting that Iran not be allowed to enrich uranium – a position that appears to be at odds with the direction that the Obama administration is heading in the international negotiations aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program.
“I am well aware that I am not at the negotiating table anymore, but I think it’s important to send a signal to everybody who is there that there cannot be a deal unless there is a clear set of restrictions on Iran,” Clinton said. “The preference would be no enrichment. The potential fallback position would be such little enrichment that they could not break out. So, little or no enrichment has always been my position.”