The New York Sun
By Seth Gitell – Special to the Sun
As she fights for the Democratic presidential nomination against Senator Obama, among other opponents, Senator Clinton is reminding voters of her strongest pro-Israel commitments, including her 1999 vow that Jerusalem be considered the indivisible eternal capital of Israel.
Last Tuesday, prior to the start of the Jewish High Holiday season, Mrs. Clintons campaign circulated a paper articulating her support for Israel. Headlined Hillary Clinton: A Long History of Strong and Steadfast Leadership for the U.S.-Israel Relationship, the statement addressed Mrs. Clintons positions on Israels fight against terrorism, the threat of Irans development of nuclear weapons, and Jerusalems status as Israels capital. Hillary Clinton believes that Israels right to exist in safety as a Jewish state, with defensible borders and an undivided Jerusalem as its capital, secure from violence and terrorism, must never be questioned, the paper states.
The release of the policy paper on the eve of a contentious season harkens back to a high-profile statement Mrs. Clinton made on Jerusalem as she made her early strides to the Senate seat held by Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1999. Back then, she penned a letter to Mandell Ganchrow, the president of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, highlighting the importance of Jerusalem: I personally consider Jerusalem the eternal and indivisible capital of Israel.
When Mrs. Clinton sought her Senate seat, shoring up Jewish support was essential. Several months after her July 1999 missive on Jerusalem, she kissed Suha Arafat after the wife of the Palestinian Authoritys leader had accused Israel of using poison gas against its people. Over time, Mrs. Clintons advocacy for Israel on the campaign trail and in the Senate helped solidify her backing among this voting bloc.
Im comfortable with Hillarys positions. Im proud of Hillarys positions. I believe shes been successful over the years building a broad base of supporters. I think shes appealing to progressive voters, centrist voters, and those for whom Israel and Israels national security is their single most important issue, said Steve Grossman, a former president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and a Clinton adviser on Middle East issues.
Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic strategist, said Mrs. Clintons stance on Israel and Jerusalem made policy and political sense — despite potentially angering many in the liberal base of her party. It is consistent with her positioning of the last several years. She is not a liberal on foreign policy matters, Mr. Sheinkopf said.
Mr. Sheinkopf said he saw her pro-Israel rhetoric as being aimed at older voters who tend to be less flashy than those on the Web but more consistent and loyal on Election Day. The good news is that people over 40 tend to vote, Mr. Sheinkopf said. The people Barack Obama is talking to are under 40. His language is directed at people under 40 who dont understand that freedom is expensive. While Mr. Obamas campaign, which last week opted to retain Zbigniew Brzezinski as a foreign policy adviser, didnt address Mrs. Clintons statement about Jerusalem, it did supply a statement of support for Israel to The New York Sun. Our job is to renew the United States efforts to help Israel achieve peace with its neighbors while remaining vigilant against those who do not share this vision. … That effort begins with a clear and strong commitment to the security of Israel: our strongest ally in the region and its only established democracy, Mr. Obama said in a statement sent via his spokeswoman, Jen Psaki.
Morrie Amitay — who is a former director of Aipac, a Washington lawyer, and a pro-Israel activist — cautioned against reading too much into Mrs. Clintons statement. What a candidate says before theyre elected is fairly meaningless. Shes become a friend of Israel only recently. You do not know what she really believes, Mr. Amitay said. Pre-election statements on Jerusalem have bedeviled political candidates on both sides of the aisle. Asked about moving the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv by Morton Klein at a private fundraiser in 1999, President Bush, then the governor of Texas, replied, Im afraid that might screw up the peace process. I dont want to screw up the peace process. An aide later stated Mr. Bushs intention was to move the embassy to Jerusalem and that he would set the process in motion as soon as he becomes president. Neither President Bush nor President Clinton followed the Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Act of 1995, which declared the city Israels capital and ordered the moving of the embassy to the city.