The Next President Needs to Project US Strength

Ambassador Yoram Ettinger says Hillary Clinton might have more admiration for Israel, but she agrees too much with Barack Obama.

Gedalyah Reback ,

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama

Is Hillary Clinton the next big thing? Before we know it here in Israel, the United States will be fully on the road to the White House. Hillary Clinton’s announcement that she would formally enter the race has raised numerous questions in Jerusalem about her positions and attitudes: will she continue Barack Obama’s legacy?

Ambassador Yoram Ettinger thinks that to some extent, a lot of people are getting ahead of themselves just considering her a shoe-in candidate.

“First of all, I don’t see her yet as the Democratic candidate. She definitely has higher numbers than any other candidate, but we don’t know what will be the results of polls when we have the final slates of candidates. Every week since she has announced her candidacy, there has been another announcement about her past political baggage.”

“Beyond that, she is not a very likeable person. The closer people are to her, the less they like her. When she left the Senate, staffers were not sorry to see her depart and neither were her colleagues. That element of her personality could surface as the primaries get hotter and hotter.”

A number of scandals – small like the use of a personal email address, large like her responsibility for the American embassy disaster in Libya – might haunt her attempt to become the first female president in US history.

“If she is the Democratic candidate then again she has a high level of ‘very hard negative’ which could be insurmountable negatives for her.

“Why did she lose a massive edge to Obama in 2008? His being a charismatic speaker made a difference, but I claim she lost it mostly because of her personality, which was revealed more and more by the day.”

Personality is one issue, but her success as a politician is still indisputable. Assuming her public image and campaign are fine, she will have to contend with the prevailing trends of American politics. Namely, she will be from the party in power, following an increasingly unpopular president.

“If she is the candidate then she'll have another steep hurdle - she'll campaign in the aftermath of a two-term, Democratic president.”

“People will say, ‘Maybe it's time to choose another worldview?’ Obama proved himself to be an unpopular president when the Democrats suffered the most severe midterm defeat since 1946. It was a defeat in the Senate, the House, the Governors’ mansions and state legislatures.”

But if she does indeed become President of the United States, the question remains if the public relationship between the Prime Minister’s residence and the White House has irreparably changed? Has Obama opened the door to more open critique of Israel?

“He definitely represents a small minority in the United States as so far as it concerns opinion toward Israel. You see it in poll after poll. The annual Gallup poll conducted this February once again showed strong public support for Israel upwards of 70% - one of the highest in the world; conversely, the Palestinians are down at 17%. So Obama's attitude toward Israel and the Palestinians clashes loudly with the general population and Congress.”

“However, from my perspective, Hillary Clinton represents a worldview which doesn’t depart much from the worldview of Obama in a wider context.”

Ettinger has a mixed view of Clinton. When asked if he felt that Barack Obama had proverbially left the door open for further, strong public criticism of Israeli policy in the United States, he thought that Clinton would not go the route of the Obama Administration.

“She's not going to be negative on Israel when it comes to her speeches, pronouncements, interviews, etc. But the policy of Obama, in my mind, would be shared to a large extent by Hillary Clinton because Hillary, just like Obama subordinates, US unilateral action to multilateralism. Just like Obama, she prefers the UN to be the quarterback of international relations. Like Obama, she wants to mend fences with the Muslim world. Just like Obama, she prefers to negotiate with rogue regimes.”

“And just like President Obama she considers the Palestinian issue to be the main cause of problems and the crown jewel of Arab politics - all false but like Obama and Kerry she sees that in her worldview.”

Ettinger accuses her approach as being out of sync with reality, saying she viewed the Arab Spring as a democratic movement led by youth in Arab countries and not for the security dangers that these revolutions have produced. Conversely to the thinking that an America that is too assertive might be overbearing on Israel, Ettinger suggests it is the lack of power projection that as a result creates perceived vulnerabilities for Israel.

“For Israel, the best thing is an American president who upgrades American power, puts the UN on the spot, recognizes rogue regimes for what they are and who does emphasize the military option as leverage against rogue regimes. All of these things have been rejected by Barack Obama as well as Hillary Clinton.”

“Rather than precondition such agreements on the nature of those regimes, they aren’t. It is bad for America, bad for Israel and bad for the world.”

American Exceptionalism, Israeli Security

“Last but not least for Israel and the United States, I think the American president has to highlight American exceptionalism, both morally and militarily.”

“Obama and Clinton don't believe in such exceptionalism but even believe that the concept caused some damage to the state of the world.”

When asked about the views of Clinton associates like Aaron David Miller, who asserts that she comes from a different generation that identifies more strongly with Israel, Ettinger actually agrees for the most part with Miller. However, he says this is not the critical issue.

“The key issue is not how a president sees Israel but how a president advances his policy. His overall world view is more important than if he feels we are or are not an embattled country.”

“Whether or not she admires the kibbutz system  - and i know she does; whether or not she appreciates the way Israel helps the third world - and I know she appreciates that; according to my observation and I hope I'm wrong, her overall worldview .... is minimally, if at all, different from Obama's.”