Al'n Hillary Learn How to Duck

Excerpted from LA Jewish Times - January 14-20, 2000
M. Langsam

Despite their fluency at political "doublespeak," candidates all have moments when they are pressed to go beyond cliches and take a definitive stand. Those moments occurred separately for Vice President Al Gore and Mrs. Clinton recently, as the two made their first serious campaign trips to solicit funding and voter support from Orthodox Jewish groups in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

On several issues of serious concern to Jews from a wide spectrum of the Orthodox community the Pollard case, the status of Jerusalem, and government school vouchers - both Gore and Clinton gave disappointing responses.

When Gore was questioned about his position on clemency for convicted spy Jonathan Pollard at a private fund-raiser at the Boro Park home of Abraham Biderman, Gore said Pollard should be granted clemency by the president only if the Justice Department recommends it. Because the Justice Department has several times rejected recommending clemency since Pollard was sentenced to a life term for spying for Israel in 1986, observers understood Gore to be clearly signaling his unwillingness, as president, to commute Pollard's sentence.

Seymour Reich, who heads a committee on Pollard for the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, accused Gore of "ducking the issue."

Gore's tendency to duck the issue was also evident in his sidestepping of the issue of moving the American embassy to Jerusalem as stipulated by congressional legislation

Regarding the future status of Jerusalem, Gore said it must be resolved only by the negotiating parties, Israel and the Palestinian Authority

On the issue of private school vouchers, Gore once more found himself at odds with the interests of the Orthodox community, citing the principle of church-state separation.

Mrs. Clinton, fielding questions from OU leaders at a closed meeting recently, remained noncommittal on the Pollard case, saying she had not "read the classified data" and could therefore not render an opinion. She offered the same rationale for not taking a clear-cut position on keeping Jerusalem the undivided capital of Israel.

Although Mrs. Clinton apparently was trying to mend fences with the Jewish community after the public relations disaster of her Mideast trip, critics remarked that her meeting with OU leaders fell short of regaining support because of the first lady's noncommittal stance on important issues

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