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Hillary Clinton Attacks Donald Trump at Major Pro-Israel Conference

Clinton went after Trump for repeatedly saying he would be "neutral" on Israel and for his campaign's rhetorical attacks on immigrants, Mexicans, and Muslims, saying "America should be better than this."

by Sarah Mimms
Mar 21 2016, 3:20pm

(Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

In another sign that the general election has already begun, Hillary Clinton criticized Donald Trump's controversial views on Israel at a speech before the largest annual gathering of members of the pro-Israel movement on Monday morning.

Clinton, who was greeted warmly at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), went after Trump for repeatedly saying that he would be "neutral" on Israel.

Clinton warned attendees that they would hear from presidential candidates on Monday night offering "very different" leadership for Israel and the world at large, who would "insult our allies, not engage them, and embolden our enemies, not defeat them."

Without mentioning Trump by name, Clinton took several shots at the Republican frontrunner.

The US needs a president with "steady hands," she said. "Not a president who says he's neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday and who knows what on Wednesday because everything is negotiable."

"Well, my friends," Clinton said pausing for big applause from the crowd, "Israeli security is non-negotiable."

Related: Why Bernie Sanders' Campaign Thinks He Still Has a Decent Shot of Beating Clinton

Trump has used the neutrality line over and over again on the campaign trail in 2016, including at the most recent Republican debate in Miami, Florida, where Senator Ted Cruz challenged him to defend his position.

While arguing that "there's nobody on this stage that's more pro-Israel" than he is, Trump stood by his comments.

"I'm a negotiator," Trump said at the debate. "If I go in, I'll say I'm pro-Israel and I've told that to everybody and anybody that would listen. But I would like to at least have the other side think I'm somewhat neutral as to them, so that we can maybe get a deal done."

Trump is scheduled to deliver his own remarks at AIPAC Monday night, an invitation that has been criticized by several key members in the pro-Israel community, including a coalition of more than 40 rabbis who are organizing a boycott of his appearance at AIPAC. The boycott is not only related to Trump's comments on Israel, organizers have said, but also his rhetoric on the campaign trail.

Clinton also referenced Trump's controversial statements during her Monday speech. Clinton went after her likely general election opponent for "encouraging violence" and "playing coy" with white supremacists, while comparing his plan for a temporary ban on Muslims to the nearly 1,000 Jews who came to America on the German ocean liner, the St. Louis, fleeing the Nazis, but were turned away.

"America should be better than this," Clinton said. "And I believe it is our responsibility as citizens to say so... If you see bigotry, oppose it. If you see violence, condemn it. If you see a bully, stand up to him."

Related: Watch VICE News' "Trump's Guide To Dealing With Protesters."

Clinton's appearance at AIPAC is complicated by her role in the Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran, which the group and many of its adherents oppose. Clinton has said she is proud of the role she played as secretary of state in the early talks that led to the deal. Clinton defended the deal during her speech Monday morning, repeating her oft-used line that her approach as president would be "distrust and verify."

Trump's speech tonight, and Clinton's remarks this morning, come just a day after the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish organization devoted to opposing anti-Semitism, announced that it would redirect about $56,000 in donations received from Trump over the years. Specifically, the ADL said it would use the money to fund "anti-bias education programs that address exactly the kind of stereotyping and scapegoating he has injected into this political season."

Trump's Republican rivals, Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich, will also speak at AIPAC this evening. Senator Bernie Sanders is the only presidential candidate skipping the conference. Sanders cited the need to campaign ahead of three Democratic primaries on Tuesday, but his decision also follows an effort by activists to get him to boycott the event.

Follow Sarah Mimms on Twitter: @SarahMMimms

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