Clinton Admin. Enters Fray for N.Y. Jewish Votes
Sharon Samber - JTA - September 12, 2000
WASHINGTON In the latest fighting for
the crucial Jewish vote in the U.S. Senate race in New
York, a new player the Clinton administration has entered
The White House recently released a 1998 photo of the Republican
candidate, Rep. Rick Lazio (R-N.Y.), shaking hands with Palestinian
Authority President Yasser Arafat during the congressman's trip to
the Middle East.
At the same time, the fate of Jonathan Pollard became a campaign
issue amid questions about the role of his opponent in the
November election, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, in preventing the
convicted spy's transfer to a new prison.
White House officials said they released the Arafat photo because
Lazio had criticized President Clinton for shaking Cuban leader
Fidel Castro's hand last week at the U.N. Millennium Summit in New
York and had criticized Hillary Clinton for kissing Arafat's wife,
Suha, during a visit to the West Bank last year.
But Lazio criticized the Clinton administration for spending
"taxpayer dollars" on the first lady's campaign. He has complained
from the beginning that Hillary Clinton enjoys an unfair advantage
because she has the resources of the administration.
The incident shows how each side sorely wants to score points with
The race is a statistical dead heat. But according to two
Zogby International polls in the past few weeks, Clinton is
the favorite among Jewish voters. In one poll, Clinton led
Lazio by a margin of 52-34 percent; the second poll had her
ahead by 70-23 percent.
Lazio spokesman Michael Marr claimed the smaller margin was a
more accurate barometer of the electorate, but admitted that the
campaign needed to "hold its own" with the Jewish vote.
Another politically sensitive issue for the Jewish community that
showed up on the campaign trail recently was the case of Pollard, the
former U.S. Navy analyst serving a life sentence in a U.S. jail
for spying for Israel.
While a senator's influence on the case is dubious, the issue is
still tossed about like a political football.
Clinton spokeswoman Cathy Levine said the first lady is considering
meeting with Pollard's wife, Esther.
Pollard supporters say his sentence was too harsh, noting
that Americans convicted of spying for enemies of the U.S.
have received lighter sentences than Pollard's.
In 1998 at the Wye Plantation peace summit, then-Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pressured Clinton to take the case
under review. Netanyahu claimed Clinton had promised to let
Pollard go free.
Soon after, the president said he would make the decision in
"a prompt way." The administration is still reviewing the
Pollard case and is expected to make a recommendation to the
president, according to administration officials.
P.J. Crowley, a spokesman for the National Security Council, told
JTA that the review of the Pollard case is "ongoing" and that there
is no timetable for its resolution.
Crowley said Hillary Clinton is not involved in the review process.
On CNN's "Evans Novak Hunt & Shields" over the weekend, White
House Chief of Staff John Podesta said the president would not
make a decision on Pollard until he gets a recommendation.
Asked if a presidential pardon of Pollard before the Nov. 7 election
would appear like pandering for the Jewish vote in New York
to help Hillary Clinton's campaign, Podesta refused to
answer, saying he did not want to speculate.
Meanwhile, neither Hillary Clinton nor Lazio has announced
a position on Pollard.
Lazio has said that he would ask the next president to review
the Pollard case "on humanitarian grounds" and make a decision
on whether he should remain in jail.
Jewish leaders in New York told the first lady last month
they feared for Pollard's safety because officials
planned to transfer Pollard to a maximum security facility
Clinton campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson said Sunday that
Clinton was concerned "on humanitarian grounds" and conveyed
those concerns to the "appropriate authorities." He did not
say whom she contacted.
Esther Pollard confirmed that Democratic New York Assemblyman Dov
Hikind, a New York state assemblyman from Brooklyn, raised the
issue with Clinton, but could not say whether Clinton
had anything to do with the fact that her husband was
not transferred from his North Carolina.
Meanwhile, Esther Pollard told JTA she was "tired of having"
her husband "be exploited by politicians."
Netanyahu Reveals Clinton Double-Cross On Pollard Release
Is Jonathan Pollard a Camp David Bargaining Chip?
NY Senate Race Page