Bill Clinton claims Russian immigrants obstacle to peace

Netanyahu expresses regret over comments made in 'Foreign Policy' report; Yisrael Beitenu, Natan Sharansky heavily criticize claims.

September 22, 2010 19:51
3 minute read.
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton kind of smiling 311. (photo credit: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)


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Russian immigrants in Israel could be one of the main obstacles to achieving peace with the Palestinians, Bill Clinton told reporters in New York on Tuesday, according to Foreign Policy magazine.

The former US president reportedly said that children of immigrants who serve in the IDF have difficulties imagining any division of land that may in the future be part of a peace agreement.

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Clinton highlighted that the large numbers of Russian immigrants and settlers serving in the IDF could make it difficult for the army to confront settlers if this was required and feared this could cause problems in the future, according to the report.

The people who are most opposed to dividing the land are the settlers and the Russians, the former president noted, and an increasing number of people serving in the army are children of these groups.

According to the report Clinton said this poses a serious problem. He also pointed out that Israel has changed and some 16% of Israelis now speak Russian.

Clinton said that Russian immigrants are among the people in Israel that are least interested in reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu expressed regret on Wednesday over comments made by Clinton.

"As an old friend of Israel, Clinton must know that immigrants from the former Soviet Union have made a huge contribution to the strengthening and development of Israel and the IDF," said Netanyahu.

Clinton criticizes Sharansky, Sharansky refutes claims

The magazine claimed that Clinton talked about a conversation that he had with Natan Sharansky, who, according to Clinton, was the only Israeli minister to reject the comprehensive peace agreement Clinton proposed at the Camp David Summit in 2000.

"I said, ‘Natan, what is the deal [about not supporting the peace deal],'" Clinton was quoted as saying. "He said, ‘I can't vote for this, I'm Russian... I come from one of the biggest countries in the world to one of the smallest. You want me to cut it in half. No, thank you.'"

Sharansky, The Jewish Agency chairman denied Wednesday that the alleged coversation ever took place. “A report of President Clinton's comments has been brought to my attention which I hope is inaccurate."

“However, as to the basic facts, I was never at Camp David and never had the opportunity to discuss the negotiations there with President Clinton," said Sharansky.

Yisrael Beitenu say Clinton made "crude generalizations"

Yisrael Beitenu, a party comprised mainly of Russian immigrants, condemned Clinton's comments claiming that Clinton made "crude generalizations."

"It seems that Clinton has forgotten that it was the [former] chairman of the Palestinian Authority Yasser Arafat who refused to Clinton's peace offer, which included unbearable concessions on the part of Israel," said a statement released by the party.

The statement also said that "the people of Israel are one, and the Russian immigrants, as the other citizens of Israel, yearn for true peace based on recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people."

Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver from Yisrael Beiteinu, said that any attempts from outside to create divides among the Israeli society is wrong.

"The immigrants of Russia contributed to the development of the state of Israel in every field, including science, culture, sports, economy and defense. This year, the entire country is celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the Russian aliyah. This shows that the Israeli people are united," said Landver.

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