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(photo credit: Associated Press)
The announcement by New York Sen. Hillary Clinton that she has officially entered the race to be the US Democratic Party's presidential candidate drew a wide range of reactions from Israelis Sunday.
"There are approximately 100,000-150,000 American eligible voters in Israel. Among them, roughly 80 percent are Democrats. If you look at the numbers, that is about in line with the ratio of Jewish Democrats in the US," said Sheldon Schorer, counsel to Democrats Abroad in Israel.
Both Democrats Abroad and Republicans Abroad are extremely active in getting American expatriates to vote. Voters can go on-line to receive absentee ballots. If the ballot fails to arrives on time, the voter can submit a federal write-in absentee ballot.
"It is not merely [out of] interest, we have voters here. We emphasize the importance of voting to our members. In general, overseas ballots account for 2% of the vote. Elections are often won by less," Schorer said.
As for Clinton, he said, "We welcome the announcement and look forward to the candidacy. The organization has not yet decided whom they will be supporting but we see Hillary as a friend of Israel."
It has been suggested that if Sen. Clinton becomes president, she will name her husband, Bill, as special envoy to the Middle East.
"We also welcome the idea of Bill working in the Middle East. He certainly has the experience and is more qualified than many other potential candidates," Schorer said.
MK Silvan Shalom (Likud) had nothing but praise for Clinton. "Throughout her tenure as senator, Hillary has been a great friend to Israel. I refer to two specific incidents when Hillary showed her firm commitment to standing behind Israel. First, she criticized the verdict of the International Court of Justice regarding the security fence by saying that Israel 'was a victim and the fence was necessary to protect Israelis from terrorism.'"
In addition to that we will always remember and appreciate her strong support in adding Magen David Adom to the list of the International Committee of the Red Cross's recognized organizations. She has always been firm in fighting Iran and Hizbullah," Shalom said.
Nefesh B'Nefesh chairman Danny Ayalon, a former ambassador to Washington, praised Clinton's support for Israel, saying, "She's been very, very friendly, and always very involved."
Ayalon said Clinton was the most frequent guest at the Israeli embassy, at both formal and informal events, of any US senator.
"She is a friend, and very close to Jewish issues," Ayalon said. "Most of her financial and political supporters are Jews in New York."
Ayalon said he has had "extensive" discussions with Clinton "about the strategic situation in the Middle East and she sees eye-to-eye with us on the Palestinian issue and on Iran."
Ayalon said she would "have the leadership to make tough decisions," on the Iranian issue, adding that as a veteran of the Senate Armed Services Committee she has a comfortable relationship with the military.
Hadassah International president Marlene Post, who is visiting Israel, also emphasized Clinton's experience and abilities. "From my experience with Hillary I can tell you that she is the best person for the job. She is well-trained, experienced and a brilliant strategic, forward thinker," she said.
However, some believe that Clinton's Middle East policies might be too left wing for Israel's good.
MK Benny Elon (National Union-NRP) had mixed feelings regarding her candidacy.
"There was a time when she led the charge of international leaders coming to Israel. But her affiliation with Peace Now is a danger to Israel. My worry is that she will model much of her Middle East policy after her husband's... should she in fact appoint her husband as special liaison to the Middle East, given his past here with Oslo, it would worry me," Elon said.
Mark Zel, co-chairman of Republicans Abroad in Israel, was less than enthused with Clinton's announcement.
"Her announcement is no great surprise, and our view is that her candidacy will not be well-received by the American electorate as a whole, as well as by American voters in Israel. We think her Middle East policies will be similar to those of her husband, and even further in the direction of the peace camp rather than a more realistic direction," Zel said.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.
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