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Clinton vows to take U.S.-Israeli relations to the 'next level'

Speaking to the pre-eminent pro-Israel lobby group in Washington, Hillary Clinton pledged unwavering support for Israel.

Hillary Clinton pledged unwavering support for Israel if elected president in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference Monday morning in Washington. 

“The United States and Israel must be closer than ever, stronger than ever and more determined than ever to prevail against our common enemies,” she said at the conference organized by the pre-eminent American pro-Israel lobby group.

Organizers invited every presidential candidate to address the group. Without mentioning any by name, Clinton said rivals who would diminish the U.S.-Israeli relationship or pull back U.S. leadership in the Middle East are “dangerously wrong.” 

Her Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders, declined to speak at the conference. He sent a letter expressing his regret and will give a foreign policy speech Monday afternoon while campaigning in Utah that will cover similar ground to the speech he would have given at AIPAC. 

But Clinton clearly had Donald Trump on her mind during much of her speech, as she repeatedly made veiled references to the Republican front-runner and even implicitly compared him to Haman, the biblical villain at center of the upcoming Jewish holiday Purim, who tried to exterminate the Jews in ancient Persia. 

"We need steady hands, not a president who says he's neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday and who knows what on Wednesday because everything is negotiable,” she said. Anyone who does not understand that, she said, has “no business being our president.” 

Clinton also seemed to have in mind President Obama, who has had icy relations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The former secretary of state pledged that one of her first acts in the Oval Office would be invite the prime minister to the White House and to send top U.S. military officials to Israel.

"We will never allow Israel’s adversaries to think a wedge can be driven between us,” Clinton said, adding that the alliance is “stronger and deeper than headlines might lead you to believe.”

And she called for taking the U.S.-Israeli relationship to the “next level,” with a new 10-year memorandum of alliance and continued guarantees of security aid.

Clinton also took aim at the “alarming” BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), which has taken root on college campuses and elsewhere and aims to economically punish Israel for its treatment of Palestinian people. 

Warning the BDS movement was tied to anti-Semitism, Clinton spoke directly to the pro-Israel college students in the audience: "Don't let anyone silence you or bully you or try to shut down debate.” 

Finally, she also addressed the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and recommitted to a two-state solution, despite the lack of progress on the issue. “Israelis and Palestinians cannot give up on the hope for peace,” she said.