Assemblyman Dov Hikind, an orthodox Likudnik from Brooklyn who in 1999 called Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy “disastrous,” now considers her Israel’s woman in the Obama administration.
He recalled that following the controversy in the West Bank—Mrs. Clinton had exchanged kisses with Mrs, Arafat after the Palestinian leader’s wife made a speech, in Arabic, accusing Israeli soldiers of gassing Palestinian children—and a vocally negative reception at a pro-Israel rally in Manhattan, Mrs. Clinton asked for a meeting, and they discussed Israel for two hours.
“I said to her, ‘Let me tell you why people were booing you,’” said Mr. Hikind.
He said he then argued for a “broader view” of Israel’s security situation than the “extreme left” one she had been advocating.
“She definitely picked up on that,” he said.
Mr. Hikind said that his constituents now felt more at ease with Mrs. Clinton than they did with Mr. Obama, reflected in the more than 70 percent of the vote that John McCain won in his largely Jewish district.
“There was a lot of concern that Barack Obama didn’t get that,” Mr. Hikind said. “Having Hillary there is definitely a big plus.”
Mr. Engel went so far as to pronounce himself heartened by the negative reaction he said Mrs. Clinton had received among Israel’s enemies.
“There was a simultaneous grumbling in the Arab capitals because they were afraid that she is too pro-Israel,” he said.
Asked if he was confident Mrs. Clinton would maintain that stance when no longer accountable to Jewish constituents in New York, he said, “There are things you say among people or when people say to you when you are among mishpocheh and you just know it. It’s just something you know.”
Or as Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, put it: “Look, if you are a senator from an agricultural state and then you go into a federal position, that doesn’t mean that you change your views on agriculture.”
Certainly, if the names of the Middle East advisers Mrs. Clinton has surrounded herself with are any indication, she will continue to position herself solidly in the pro-Israel mainstream of the Democratic foreign policy establishment.
The people she listens to on the topic include Clinton administration veterans like Richard Holbrooke, Martin Indyk and Lee Feinstein who was her national security coordinator during the presidential campaign. All of them blame the Palestinians for the breakdown of the peace talks and argue that the Palestinians need to provide a stronger interlocutor in order for the peace process to go forward. They view Israel as America’s best ally in the region and vigorously defend its right to use force to defend itself.
“Clinton’s appointment tells the pro-Israel community that they are at least going to have access. It’s a good sign,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic consultant, who refuted the idea, popular among some foreign policy experts, that the time for a two-state solution was drawing to a close. “What do they expect us to do: walk into the sea? She understands that it’s ridiculous. That’s mostly the Jews being nervous. Tell them to calm down and eat a bagel.”