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Knesset's Aliyah Committee Demands Apology from Bill Clinton

A Knesset committee is riled by US embassy's refusal to cooperate with a session on Clinton's remarks against Russian Jewish immigrants.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 10/6/2010, 2:34 PM / Last Update: 10/6/2010, 2:39 PM

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The Knesset's Aliyah, Absorption and Diaspora Committee demanded Wednesday that former U.S. president Bill Clinton issue an apology to Russian immigrants in Israel and to the State of Israel for saying that the immigrant population tends to vote for the Right and is an obstacle to peace.

Committee chairwoman Knesset Member Lia Shemtov (Israel Our Home) said, “Clinton should apologize, especially after the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv refused even to send a written reaction to the committee's session.” The committee had invited U.S. Ambassador in Israel James Cunningham to participate in the hearing, but he stayed away and did not send anyone to represent him.

The U.S. Embassy stated in response, “The administration is not responsible for comments made by a private citizen who has a right to speak his mind, as is customary in Israel as well.”

Sources in the Knesset noted that the American claim that Clinton is a private citizen is belied by the fact that the American government still pays him a pension and supplies him with an entourage of assistants, and noted that Clinton still represents the United States in various world forums.

"The Olim {immigrants] from the former Soviet Union are Zionists who love their country and want to live their lives in security and peace, like any other citizen,” MK Shemtov said. “Some of them have been killed by bullets fired from guns that Clinton gave the terrorists.”

MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima) stressed that the immigrants must not apologize to Clinton but rather attack him for what he said. She said that only thing that will speed up the diplomatic process is the addition of a “centrist” party like Kadima to the coalition.

Dr. Ze'ev Khenin, Chief Scientist of the Absorption Ministry, told the committee that surveys carried out by the ministry show that Russian immigrants are not so different from the rest of the Israeli voter body. Five to seven percent describe themselves as leftists, about one third say they are rightists and the rest say they are center-right.