In a sometimes rambling speech, an aging Bill Clinton praised Israel's high tech accomplishments, suggested ways to improve the world's economies, described the work he has been doing since he retired from politics, and lectured Israel on the need to give in to PA demands that it withdraw from the lands liberated in the Six Day War.
Clinton was in Israel to celebrate Shimon Peres' 90th birthday. Peres' “birthday week” features visits by world leaders who were invited to the Presidential Conference taking place in Jerusalem this week. One of the highlights of the week will be two concerts given by singer Barbra Streisand, who met with Peres earlier Monday.
Clinton said that it was a great honor for him to celebrate Peres' birthday. “He is one of the great men of vision in the world,” Clinton said. “Peres lives in the future, and is always thinking about tomorrow.”
Clinton dedicated a significant portion of his 45 minute speech to describing his impressions at Israel's technological accomplishments. Israeli was one of the top locations in the world for technology development, second only to Silicon Valley in the U.S. With that, he said, Israel must make sure not to allow technology to create two societies – one made up of educated haves, and the others of non-tech have-nots. The way to avoid that, he said, was by ensuring that all children had access to learning the skills needed to succeed in a high-tech society.
Clinton reminisced about his days as President, and especially about his experiences in persuading Israel and Fatah terror group chief Yasser Arafat to sign the Oslo Accords, which led to the creation of the Palestinian Authority. Clinton recalled how he had to convince Yitzchak Rabin to shake Arafat's hand. The latter, whom Clinton termed in his speech “chaver,” the Hebrew word for “friend,” agreed to the handshake, but drew the line at giving Arafat's cheek a kiss.
Clinton reiterated his long-standing view that Israel must capitulate to PA demands if there is to be peace. “It doesn't matter how many settlers you put in the West Bank, the Palestinians are having more babies,” and will eventually outnumber the Jews in all of the Land of Israel west of the Jordan River. Israel's only hope, he said, was the “two state solution,” with Israel withdrawing from all of Judea and Samaria, and from much of Jerusalem, and the setting up of a PA state. “I think you have a fndamental question to answer,” he said – whether Israel wanted to be a democratic, secular state of all its citizens, Jewish and Arab, or a Jewish state. The latter, he said, would require land surrenders.
Clinton was supposed to have been paid $500,000 for the speech, with the money coming from the Jewish National Fund. After an outcry last week the JNF decided to withdraw its support from the event. However, Clinton did not cancel his speech, leading some to speculate whether Clinton received his “honorarium” anyway, and where it was coming from.
The same question, said some observers, could be applied to the Presidential Conference. “There are dozens of world leaders, celebrities, bloggers, and all sorts of invited guests,” said one observer. “Who is paying their airfare? Who is paying for their hotel rooms? How much is it costing? How much state money is going to pay for this 'birthday party'?”