US Jewry Slams Clinton for Blaming Rich Pardon on Jews
Elli Wohlgelernter - Jerusalem Post - February 19, 2001
JERUSALEM - American Jewish leaders vigorously condemned former US president Bill Clinton for
shifting the blame for his pardon of financier Marc Rich
onto Jews and Israelis.
In an opinion column in The New York Times, Clinton listed
eight reasons for pardoning Rich, the first seven dealing
only with the legal and technical merits of the case.
No. 8 read: "Finally, and importantly, many present and
former high-ranking Israeli officials of both major
parties, and leaders of Jewish communities in America and
Europe, urged the pardon of Mr. Rich."
"I think he should not use the Jews as scapegoats," said
Ronald Lauder, chairman of the Conference of Presidents
of Major American Jewish Organizations, whose members
arrived here yesterday for their annual leadership mission.
"This was done for reasons that should be just based on the
merits of the case; and by bringing Israel into this, it's
unfair to Israel."
A senior official in the Prime Minister's Office, however,
said Prime Minister Ehud Barak's inner circle does not feel
that Clinton is trying blame Israel or the Jews for the Rich
"He spelled out eight reasons for the pardon, and the last
one had to do with Israel," the official said. "So what?"
But Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the
conference, said Clinton's comments were "very unfortunate
Hoenlein said that while one can raise the issue over the
appropriateness of Israeli intervention, "clearly the
president's motivations listed in the first seven reasons -
which were based on legal considerations and other
considerations - were really dominant."
"I think it would be very unfortunate for the onus to be
placed on Israel and Israeli officials, in a matter that is purely
American domestic legal issue."
Harvey Blitz, president of the Union of Orthodox Jewish
Congregations of America, said it was "inappropriate for
the president to hide behind the Jewish community in trying
to justify this action that he took. It was his job to
evaluate the context in which these pardons were granted, and in the
context of a fugitive from justice, whatever the foreign
policy considerations were. It was for him to judge, and not to
later comment that he was doing it in support of the Jews."
A couple of organizational leaders pointed out that while
Clinton blames Jewish pressure for the Rich pardon, it was
not a factor in the issue of pardoning Jonathan Pollard.
"It is deplorable that Bill Clinton would state that that
was the principle reason for his pardoning Marc Rich, when of
course he had the same pressures from the same
community in both Israel and America demanding Pollard's
release, and that meant nothing to him," said Mort Klein,
national president of the Zionist Organization of America.
Seymour Reich, a former chairman of the Presidents
Conference, said, "If he wanted to please the Jewish
community and the State of Israel, he could just as easily
have pardoned Pollard, and he would have found that he
would have had support from a broad segment of the
Clinton Pardon Statement Questioned
Mr. Clinton's Explanation