WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump on Monday presented sharply different views on how the United States should deal with the Middle East and its relationship with Israel, previewing for an influential pro-Israel audience a debate on foreign policy that could play out this fall if they face each other in the general election.
Mrs. Clinton promised she would stand unwaveringly with Israel while accusing her potential Republican rival, Mr. Trump, of being an unreliable partner for one of America’s closest allies. “We need steady hands,” she said, “not a president who says he’s neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday, and who-knows-what on Wednesday.”
Speaking to the same audience hours later, Mr. Trump swore his fealty to Israel and condemned President Obama’s policies. But Mr. Trump, who describes himself as a “master counterpuncher,” declined to answer Mrs. Clinton’s criticisms, offering a standard appeal to a pro-Israel audience. “When I become president,” he said, “the days of treating Israel like a second-class citizen will end on Day 1.”
Mr. Trump’s remarks, which came after he had sent a series of conflicting signals about Israel on the campaign trail in recent weeks, drew less sustained applause than Mrs. Clinton’s from the crowd of 18,000 people assembled by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the nation’s most influential pro-Israel lobbying group.