Hillary Clinton drew battle lines against the Republican frontrunner, Donald Trump, during a major speech to a pro-Israel lobby group on Monday, attacking his central boast that he is a great deal-maker.

Without mentioning him by name, the Democratic presidential hopeful left little doubt that she was challenging Trump’s qualifications to be commander-in-chief, portraying him as dangerously malleable and lacking firm convictions.

“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’s negotiable’,” Clinton told the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), which draws top Jewish leaders from across the world. “Well, my friends, Israel’s security is non-negotiable.”

Trump has previously earned criticism for suggesting he would be “sort of a neutral guy” on Israel and seek to negotiate peace with the Palestinians, describing himself as best placed to make “probably the toughest deal in the world right now”.

The New York billionaire has a commanding lead in the Republican primary race and is expected to win in Arizona on Tuesday, while rival Ted Cruz appears strong in Utah. Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, bidding to become the first Jewish candidate to win a major party’s presidential nomination, skipped the Aipac meeting to campaign ahead of primaries in Arizona and Utah and a caucus in Idaho.

In a sign that Clinton already believes she has one hand on the Democratic nomination, she used Monday’s speech in Washington to concentrate her fire on Trump, contending that he falls short on a crucial principle. “I’ve sat in Israeli hospital rooms, holding the hands of men and women whose bodies and lives were torn apart by terrorist bombs,” she said. “I’ve listened to doctors describe the shrapnel left in a leg, an arm or even a head.

“That’s why I feel so strongly that America can’t ever be neutral when it comes to Israel’s security or survival. We can’t be neutral when rockets rain down on residential neighborhoods, when civilians are stabbed in the street, when suicide bombers target the innocent. Some things aren’t negotiable – and anyone who doesn’t understand that has no business being our president.”

The former first lady also zeroed in on some of Trump’s most controversial proposals: encouraging violence at campaign rallies; “playing coy” with white supremacists; calling for 12 million immigrants to be rounded up and deported; demanding that the US turn away refugees because of their religion; and proposing a ban on all Muslims entering the country.

“Now, we’ve had dark chapters in our history before. We remember the nearly 1,000 Jews aboard the St Louis who were denied entry in 1939 and sent back to Europe. But America should be better than this. And I believe it’s our responsibility as citizens to say so.”

Clinton said: “If you see bigotry, oppose it. If you see violence, condemn it. If you see a bully, stand up to him.”

The former secretary of state has a long history in the Middle East, including overseeing Barack Obama’s first attempt to broker Israeli-Palestinian peace. Her stance against Jewish settlements on land claimed by the Palestinians has been criticised by some in the pro-Israel community, but she has been received warmly by pro-Israel groups in the past.

During the gruelling election contest with Sanders, however, she has aligned herself closely with the president. Obama has had a difficult relationship with the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, particularly over issues such as the Iran nuclear deal which has seen some sanctions lifted.

“We will never allow Israel’s adversaries to think a wedge can be driven between us,” she said, renewing promises to provide sophisticated defence technology to Israel and to quickly invite the country’s prime minister to the White House. “We must take our alliance to the next level.”

Clinton also defended the nuclear accord, telling the 18,000-strong gathering in a sports area: “Today, Iran’s enriched uranium is all but gone, thousands of centrifuges have stopped spinning, Iran’s potential break-out time has increased, and new verification measures are in place to help us deter and detect any cheating. The United States, Israel and the world are safer as a result.”

Advocating an approach of “distrust and verify”, she added: “Tonight you will hear a lot of overheated rhetoric from the other candidates about Iran, but there’s a big difference between talking about holding Tehran accountable and actually doing it.”

Trump, Cruz and former Ohio governor John Kasich, the three remaining Republican candidates, were due to address the conference – a traditional stop for politicians keen to demonstrate their foreign policy credentials – on Monday afternoon. Trump in particular was under pressure to provide substance instead of his usual practice of speaking off-the-cuff without notes.

The reality TV host was using a rare day in the US capital to meet nearly two dozen top Republican officials, consultants and members of Congress before a press conference at Washington’s Old Post Office Pavilion, the site of a future Trump hotel, almost within sight of the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue.

His rise has dismayed establishment Republicans whose best hope of derailing his insurgent candidacy is to stretch the contest out and deny him the 1,237 delegates needed to formally win the party’s presidential nomination, leaving its convention in Cleveland to decide.

Meanwhile Sanders has scored a big win in the Democrats Abroad global primary. Among 34,570 US citizens living abroad in 38 countries, Sanders received 69% of the vote to earn nine of the 13 delegates at stake. Clinton won 31%, picking up four delegates.

Courtesy: The Guardian