Hillary Clinton Plays Moses to Trump's Pharaoh

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party almost-nominee for president, having attended Passover seders in her long political career, is using Exodus imagery to school two of her opponents on what's supposedly best for Israel. It goes without saying that she's beating the bulrushes for New York's Jewish votes in the primary today.

In an open Passover greeting letter, published by the Times of Israel, Clinton decided that in order to harvest these votes she needs to take the hardest possible line on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the letter, she negatively alluded to Republican nomination frontrunner Donald Trump, who once said he would be neutral in the conflict. According to Clinton, that meant he was abandoning Israel to its enemies.

"Others in this race suggest we must remain 'neutral' in order to negotiate. But Israel's safety is simply non-negotiable," she said, as if talks and making Israel safe are effectively incompatible.

Curiously, during her husband Bill's administration, expressions of neutrality on the Israel and Palestine issue were no sin. In those days, the term of diplomatic art was "honest broker," meaning someone who could mediate even-handedly between the warring sides. It was a constant refrain of US officials. Bill Clinton himself used the phrase in a press conference with then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak back in 1999.

It appears now that Hillary finds even-handedness to be toxic. That's not unlike George W. Bush, who dumped honest brokerage for all out support of Israeli settlements, or "existing major Israeli population centers," as he called them early in his administration.

The neutrality critique also seemed aimed at Bernie Sanders, her Democratic Party gadfly opponent. Bernie has flushed the Democratic campaign out of the safe space of Middle East platitudes by openly breaking with garden-variety rhetoric.

Sanders has emphasized what he called Israel's "absurd" settlement construction policy and criticized Israeli military tactics in its recurrent wars with Gaza as "disproportionate." Hillary, on the other hand, has taken to waffling wherever possible. Settlements, she says, are simply "unhelpful" and she didn't mention them at all in her exposition of the Exodus story.

Her position even seems blurry on the two-state solution that has anchored American policy since the late 1980s, when George H.W. Bush was President. In her recent Brooklyn debate with Sanders, Hillary conflated statehood, autonomy and self-government as the options on offer for the Palestinians. Well, those things are not the same -- statehood means sovereignty, while autonomy and self-government are codes for solutions short of that. Which is Clinton for?

In any event, Hillary is having no truck with Bernie-style neutrality. She happily picks up talking points that could have been written by Israel's no-compromise Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel's right to defend itself gets top billing, though actually none of her opponents, neither in the GOP nor Sanders, has contested that right.

Her Passover lecture condemned the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that is currently popular among pro-Palestinian students on U.S. college campuses. BDS is kryptonite to Netanyahu and Clinton echoed his charge that BDS was effectively anti-Semitic. BDS tries to "malign and isolate the Jewish people," Hillary said. She equated the movement with -- who else? -- good old Pharaoh. BDS promotes economic and cultural boycotts of Israel, though some activists prefer to focus on banning international trade of products made in the West Bank.

All in all, Clinton is wandering the desert of political expedience, typically the safest thing for a frontrunner to do (unless your name is Trump). We'll see today whether safety will lead to numbers in New York's primary election.