Shame On Clinton

Jewish Week (NY) - March 4, 2001

As we have noted in the past, former President Bill Clinton has been a strong supporter of Israel, and his dedication to peace in the Middle East was admirable over his eight-year tenure.

That makes it even more surprising and troubling that he now seems to be trying to shift some of the blame for his latest self-inflicted wounds on the Jewish state and on Jewish leaders here. Reacting to harsh bipartisan criticism of his last-minute pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich, Clinton offered a tortured legal defense of his actions in a New York Times op-ed article on Sunday and one political reason for his action: Israel.

After laying out his legal points, Clinton wrote that "finally, and importantly, many present and former high-ranking Israeli officials of both major political parties and leaders of Jewish communities in America and Europe urged the pardon of Mr. Rich because of his contributions and services to Israeli charitable causes, to the Mossad's efforts to rescue and evacuate Jews from hostile countries, and to the peace process..."

Clinton did not directly blame Israel or the Jews for his plight, but the fact that he singled out these groups as the only political factors in his decision will be read that way by many. He neglected to mention other critical elements in the decision, including the fact that he apparently discussed the pardon in advance with his political fund-raisers but not with his own Justice Department.

Marc Rich has contributed significantly to Israel and to Jewish causes here. Whether those contributions are tainted by his fugitive status and his motives in giving them is a question best left to theologians and ethicists. What is easier to argue is that the Jews who were the most energetic in calling for the pardon, starting with Prime Minister Ehud Barak, took a political risk that is now blowing up in their faces.

That being said, there is something deeply troubling about the way Clinton a drowning man casting about for a lifesaver is trying to drag Jewish leaders here and in Israel down with him as he once again tries to evade the consequences of a reckless action.

See Also:
  • Did Clinton Scapegoat' Jews?
  • Pollard And Rich Pardon Linked
  • The Clemency Page