Washington (CNN) – Hillary Clinton's speech on Wednesday to the American Jewish Committee was a tightrope act where the former first lady offered a vocal defense of her dealings with Iran as secretary of state while also expressing skepticism about current negotiations on the country's nuclear program.
One the one hand, Clinton used her remarks to defend her overall record as secretary of state. She called the process of "making policies at the highest levels" a "balancing act with an endless set of tough calls" where "there are always choices we later regret, consequences we do not see, alternative paths we wish we had taken."
Speaking to an audience of prominent Jewish leaders, Clinton especially focused on her efforts to end Iran's nuclear program and strengthen relations between Israel and the Palestinians.
"When I left as secretary and passed the baton on to Secretary (of State John) Kerry, we were positioned to really explore whether we had set the table well enough to see changes that were sufficient to meet our legitimate objections to Iran's behavior and its future plans," Clinton said.
But at the same time, Clinton told the audience she remained skeptical that Iran would follow through on international negotiations aimed at halting its nuclear program and are currently spearheaded by Kerry.
Clinton said that while it "is the time to give diplomacy space to work," she remains "skeptical the Iranians will follow through and deliver."
"I have seen many false hopes dashed through the year, but nonetheless this is a promising development and we need to test it to see what can be achieved," Clinton added. "From my perspective, we cannot and should not accept any agreement that endangers Israel or our own national security."
Earlier this year, six world powers and Iran reached a deal on the framework for comprehensive negotiations over Tehran's nuclear program. In addition to political discussions, the two sides have started technical work, according to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, and have set a timetable for meetings over the next four months, with a framework for further deliberations.
But the negotiations have not turned into a permanent deal and some in the America Jewish community – as well as leaders in Israel – have expressed skepticism about the negotiations.
Clinton echoed the skepticism in her remarks to rounds of applause. To get an agreement, Clinton said, "we will have to be tough, clear eyed, and be ready to walk away and increase the pressure if need be. No deal is better than a bad deal."
Clinton – who is widely seen as the prohibitive favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 – has long been a vocal and outspoken defender of Israel and American Jews. When she ran for president in 2008, her standing within the Jewish community was at an all-time high and Jewish voters favored her over then-Sen. Barack Obama in the nomination fight.
But after losing to Obama, Clinton signed on to be the new President's secretary of state and the face of his foreign policy. Over the next four years, some Jewish leaders said Clinton's once-consistent, outspoken leadership on Israel was hamstrung by her role as Obama's top diplomat.
"We now have this deal with Iran brewing," Jack Rosen, the head of American Jewish Congress, told CNN earlier this year. "The community would like to know where she would come out on these Iranian discussion taking place. How does she see the future outcome out if?"
During her remarks, Clinton also touched on negotiations between Israel and Palestine, noting that Clinton held three face-to-face talks with leaders from each country as secretary of state. Clinton said there wasn't "any great mystery about what a final peace deal might look like" and backed a two-state solution.
She also spoke passionately about the relationship between Israel and the United States, something, she said, that would "remain fixed" despite unanswered questions and choices on the international state.
"America will always have Israel's back through every up and down. That is what we do, that is who we are," she said, adding "In Israel's story, we see our own."
Clinton has cast doubt on the negotiations with Iran in the past, telling an audience in March that she was "personally skeptical" of the talks.
CNN's Laura Smith-Spark contributed to this report.