Since the days when she was first a candidate for Senate, and continuing through her current campaign for President, Hillary Clinton has been unwaveringly, unapologetically hawkish on the issue of Israeli security. And for that entire time, she has enjoyed the enthusiastic and financially valuable support of Hani Masri.
Mr. Masri, 65, is a Palestinian-American businessman who is one of the most influential supporters of the Palestinian cause in Washington. The Clinton campaign recently gave Mr. Masri the title of “HillRaiser” for bundling more than $100,000 for her in the race’s first fund-raising quarter.
The obvious question is what to make of the relationship between one of Washington’s leading advocates for Palestinian issues and Mrs. Clinton, who comes in for regular praise from the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC.
Part of the explanation, according to some of Mr. Masri’s colleagues, is simply that Mr. Masri is a pragmatist.
“Whether a person agrees with a point of view or not, if they are a person who is going to potentially be in power, then you are obligated to deal with them, because who else are you going to deal with?” said Rafi Dajani, the executive director of the American Task Force on Palestine, a nonprofit organization that counts Mr. Masri as a member and advocates American backing of a peaceful, independent Palestinian state.
Certainly, Mr. Masri is practiced at operating among people in high places.
With long silver hair, brown eyes under bushy eyebrows and a taste for good food and wine, he has the ear of some of the most powerful Democrats in the country, including Bill Clinton and of former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe.
Outside of American politics, he has been known to mix with the likes of former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, supermodel Naomi Campbell, former World Bank president James Wolfensohn and Quincy Jones.
In addition to being something of an all-star mingler, though, Mr. Masri is a facilitator. He can frequently be found anchoring get-togethers of Beltway personalities from a popular corner table at the Café Milano.
“To put it mildly, he is an extraordinarily generous and gracious host,” said Hassan Nemazee, another of Mrs. Clinton’s top bundlers, who knows Mr. Masri socially. “I have been at events where he has been nice enough to invite quite a number of people to come to the Café Milano as his guests. The food is great, the wine is delicious, and he is quite the raconteur. At the end, he always has an excellent cigar in his pocket to share with you.”
Mr. Masri’s involvement with Mrs. Clinton’s career has been popping up as a story ever since she was first a candidate for office.
Back in 2000, an article in the New York Post called attention, disapprovingly, to Hillary Clinton’s raising of “$50,000 at the Washington home of Hani Masri, a Yasser Arafat intimate.” That same year, The Forward asked what Mr. Masri’s support augured for “the stance she would take on Middle East issues if elected to the Senate.”