US Embassy: No apology for Bill Clinton's FSU criticism

MKs from the former Soviet Union vent anger as US Embassy in Israel doesn't send representative to Knesset Aliya Committee hearing.

October 7, 2010 04:43
2 minute read.
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton

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


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MKs from the former Soviet Union vented anger Wednesday after the American Embassy in Israel refused to send a representative to the Knesset Aliya Committee’s hearing on former US president Bill Clinton’s comments about Russian-speaking immigrants.

The committee decided to officially condemn Clinton’s comments, made last month in which he reportedly said during a roundtable session in New York that “an increasing number of the young people in the IDF are the children of Russians and settlers, the hardest-core people against a division of the land.

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“This presents a staggering problem,” Clinton said.

“The ex-president should apologize to both Russian immigrants and to the State of Israel, especially after the embassy refused to send even a written response to the committee hearing,” complained Committee chairwoman MK Lia Shemtov.

Shemtov said that she had invited US Ambassador James Cunningham to attend the committee hearing, but that the embassy responded that they do not respond to comments made by a former president, who is now a “private citizen.”

The embassy added it was his right [to speak] as an American just as it would be if he were Israeli, but that the comments did not necessarily reflect the opinions of the embassy or the government. The embassy emphasized, however, that it was not willing to comment on the Knesset hearing itself.

During the hearing, Dr. Ze’ev Hanin, the Immigration and Absorption Ministry’s chief researcher, told MKs that according to polls compiled by his office, immigrants from the former USSR are no different in their political leanings from the general Israeli population.

Between five to seven percent, he said, define themselves as “left wing,” a third define themselves as “right wing” and the remainder define themselves as center-right.

Shmuel Ben-Tzvi, manager of Radio Reka, which broadcasts in foreign languages including Russian, emphasized that during Clinton’s terms in office, the former president assisted immigration to Israel from Russia, and said that Clinton’s comments stemmed merely from a lack of understanding of the subject. The American media, he said, had largely ignored Clinton’s comments.

MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima), who also participated in Wednesday’s meeting, revealed that she had sent a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling attention to the Russian-speaking public’s distress at her husband’s comments.

“It seems to me that the former president was mislead and misinformed by local American and Israeli pundits and gurus in Israeli ethnic politology,” said Solodkin, emphasizing that around 25% of Russian-speaking voters had, in fact, voted for Kadima. “In comparison to political preferences of American immigrants in Israel, so-called Russian voters are more close to the political center because the American immigrants are usually more religious and more right wing.

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