Al Gore Supports Israeli Withdrawals and No Building (or US Embassy) in Jerusalem, and Don't Even Ask about Jonathan Pollard
S.L. Rosenbluth, Editor
Jewish Voice and Opinion, New Jersey - May 1998 Edition
April should have been a good month for relations between Vice
President Al Gore and supporters of Israel. But instead of being able
to coast on hill of good feelings and vague, overall support for the
state of Israel (capped off by a visit to the Jewish state to celebrate
it's 50th anniversary), the vice president found himself in the middle
of tough policy questions, and, for many supporters of Israel, his
responses were not good enough, especially for a soon-to-be candidate
At the end of March, Mr. Gore found himself addressing 3,500
delegates to the UJA's Young Leadership Conference in Washington. In
that setting, Israeli Minister of Communications Limor Livnat directly
challenged the vice president to support actively the American law
passed almost unanimously by Congress requiring the US to move its
embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Seemingly emboldened, Ms. Livnat then asked the vice president
if the US intended to stand by its commitment, recorded in the Note for
the Record of the Hebron Accord, that only Israel will decide about her
Her statements were clear challenges to the Clinton
administration that has vowed to prevent the embassy from moving to
Jerusalem and is actively seeking to compel Israel to withdraw from more
territory than its leaders believe is prudent.
While some observers said the statements showed an Israel that
was preparing to confront the American administration, others said Ms.
Livnat spoke out of a sense of frustration.
There was no intent to hurt, said Ayala Bar, a spokeswoman for
A US Interest
If Mr. Gore was insulted, he did not show it to the
participants of the conference. But he also did not answer Ms. Livnats
No one should ever doubt that the US has any more vital
interest than the survival of a free, democratic, state of Israel, said
He then delineated the administrations four-point plan for Israel
and the Palestinians, which calls for, among other things, further
redeployments, and a time out on unilateral steps that are unproductive.
Unilateral steps has become a code-word for Israel's allowing the
settlements in Judea and Samaria to expand and for continuing to build
Writers for The Forward asked Mr. Gores foreign policy
spokesman, Jonathan Spalter, about the vice president's response to Ms.
Livnat's demand that the American Embassy be moved to Jerusalem. His
response made it clear that a Gore Administration would be no better on
this issue than is Mr. Clinton's. "We've been rather clear about
American policy with regard to recognizing Jerusalem as the capital.
We've said this is an issue under negotiation by the parties. It is for
the parties to negotiate", said Mr.
Rudy's Not a Stooge
A day after Mr. Gore's appearance, the Young Leadership group
was addressed by New York's Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who
unabashedly referred to Yasir Arafat, whom he banned from a 50th
anniversary concert for the UN three years ago, as a terrorist.
You cannot romanticize a terrorist, said Mr. Giuliani, who some
observers say may find himself on the ticket opposite Mr. Gore in the
Mr. Gore's adherence to a policy which many see as tilting away
from support for Israel, prompted Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) to compare
Messrs. Clinton and Gore and UN Secretary General Kofi Anan to the
comedy team known as The Three Stooges.
"The Three Stooges are at in again, offering Arafat a free ride
while squeezing the Middle Easts only democracy, "said Mr. Salmon in a
press release." I expect as much from the UN, but not from the White
House. I often say that Bill Clinton and Al Gore come from the
blame-Israel-first school. It now appears they believe in blaming Israel
first, last, and everywhere in between."
The vice president's trip to Israel should have presented the
opportunity to make amends for any bad feelings. Instead, it almost
became a diplomatic disaster not dissimilar from the one caused by
British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook in March.
Mr. Gore had planned to spend two days in Israel participating
in Jubilee celebrations. Afterwards, he was scheduled to visit Saudi
Arabia for talks with a representative of the royal family and to review
US troops stationed there. From Saudi Arabia, he was scheduled to
continue on to Egypt for talks with President Hosni Mubarak and to
convene a US-Egyptian economic conference.
Before even leaving Washington, Mr. Gore managed to infuriate
senior Israeli government officials with what they termed his blatant
insensitivity. The officials said the vice president disregarded their
requests and announced his plans to meet with Yasir Arafat in Ramallah
during his stay in Israel.
In so doing, the Israelis said, Mr. Gore turned what was to be a
diplomatic salute to Israel into an insult. A large anti-Israel
demonstration had been planned for Mr. Gores visit to Ramallah,
intensifying the sense of an American insult.
In response, many Israelis planned to attend the giant rally on
Har Homa, scheduled for April 28, when Mr. Gore would be in the country.
Those attending the rally intended to demand that the long-promised
construction on the site begin there at once. The Arabs maintain that,
by building in Jerusalem, the Israelis are Judaizing the city. Israelis
say they have the right to build in their nations capital. The Clinton
administration has sided with the Palestinians.
Because of Mr. Gores decision to visit Ramallah, the Har Homa
rally began to turn into an anti-Gore demonstration as well.
Gore is coming as the guest of the state of Israel, for its 50th
anniversary celebrations, and yet, at the recommendation of his
advisors, who wish to humiliate the state of Israel, he plans to meet
with Arafat in Ramallah. This is a slap in the face of Israel, said
Yaakov Katz, known ubiquitously as Ketzele. A Yesha leader, Mr. Katz
served as one of the events organizers.
The day before his departure for the Middle East, Mr. Gore, in
an apparent reaction to the widespread, growing anger among
American-Jewish leaders, changed his schedule. He announced he would no
longer be meeting with Mr. Arafat just hours after taking part in
Israel's Independence Day
festivities. A revised schedule had the vice president meet Mr. Arafat
in Ramallah on Saturday, April 30, on his way from Saudi Arabia to
It was unclear if Mr. Gore will be joining President Clinton in
May for the Arab-American National Leadership Conference. According to
materials sent out by the organizers, Mr. Clinton's appearance for them
will mark the first time the President has addressed an Arab-American
Could Have Been a Hero
Some observers say Mr. Gore could have made himself a hero in
Israel if he had only take the advice of Israel's Minister of Industry
and Trade, Natan Sharansky, who met with the vice president in
Washington in March. Mr. Sharansky pleaded with Mr. Gore to lend his
support to the efforts to have Jonathan Pollard released from prison.
While it is not known what Mr. Gore told the former Soviet
prisoner of conscience, there is no evidence that the vice president has
become more inclined to help the former Navy intelligence specialist who
is currently serving his 13th year of a life sentence for having spied
This past year, both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and
Infrastructure Minister Ariel Sharon raised the issue of Mr. Pollard's
release during meetings with Mr. Gore.
On Airforce Two
According to an article by Seth Gitell in the Forward, Israel's
Minister of Absorption, Yuli Edelstein, who spent 3 years in a Soviet
gulag, suggested that Mr. Gore bring Mr. Pollard to the Jewish state in
Air Force Two.
Mr. Pollard is regarded very favorably in Israel, and has
recently attracted the support of virtually the entire Israeli
government. Mr. Edelstein visited Mr. Pollard in prison in Butner, North
Carolina, last November. Since then, Mr. Pollard has been visited by
Israel's Finance Minister Yaakov Neeman and by Ms. Livnat. Israel's
former Sephardic chief rabbi, Ovadia Yosef, sent a letter of support to
Mr. Pollard and another to Mr. Clinton, asking for the prisoners release
on humanitarian grounds.
With this kind of consensus in Israel, with Gore, if he wanted
to make a big gesture with the 50th anniversary, this would have been
one of the best possibilities, Mr. Edelstein told Mr. Gitell.
Mr. Pollard's supporters who have written to Mr. Gore asking for
his help in gaining his release have been disappointed. The vice
president sends out a form letter, almost identical to the one sent by
the White House, saying, in effect, "no".