Knesset to discuss Bill Clinton’s FSU immigrants comments

Clinton reportedly said immigrants from former Soviet Union constituted an obstacle to peace, Knesset Immigration and Absorption Committee Chairman MK Lia Shemtov announces.

September 24, 2010 06:30
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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The Knesset will hold a hearing on comments made earlier this week by former US president Bill Clinton in which he reportedly said immigrants from the former Soviet Union constituted an obstacle to peace, Knesset Immigration and Absorption Committee Chairman MK Lia Shemtov announced Wednesday.

According to Foreign Policy magazine, Clinton said during a roundtable session with reporters in New York on Monday that “an increasing number of the young people in the IDF are the children of Russians and settlers, the hardestcore people against a division of the land. This presents a staggering problem.”

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A statement released by Shemtov’s party, Israel Beiteinu, called the comments “crude generalizations,” continuing, “It seems Clinton has forgotten that it was the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, who refused Clinton’s peace offer, which included unbearable concessions on the part of Israel.

“The people of Israel are one, and the Russian immigrants, like the other citizens of Israel, yearn for true peace based on recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu expressed regret over Clinton’s comments.

“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,” the prime minister said on Wednesday.

Shemtov said she would convene her committee immediately after Succot for a hearing on the comments, which infuriated immigrants and their political representatives.

“Israel is currently in the midst of peace talks with the Palestinians, and the premier has received full support from all the coalition parties,” said Shemtov. “The immigrants from the former Soviet Union are Zionists who love their country, and want, like every other citizen, to live their lives with security and peace. There is no basis to the claim that the immigrants oppose peace – a claim that stems from a complete lack of understanding of that public.”

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

“The immigrants of Russia have 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 20th anniversary of the Russian aliya. This shows that the Israeli people are united,” said Landver.

“[Clinton] wants to close the gates of immigration, after appointing himself the sociologist of Israeli society,” said MK Yulia Shamolov Berkovich (Kadima). “He intended to curse, but ended up blessing.”

Foreign Policy claimed Clinton talked about a conversation he had with Natan Sharansky, who he said was the only Israeli cabinet minister to reject the comprehensive peace agreement he 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.’” Jewish Agency chairman Sharansky denied Wednesday that the conversation ever took place.

“A report of President Clinton’s comments has been brought to my attention. I hope it is inaccurate. 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.

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