Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin warmly congratulated Gov. Bill Clinton on his victory in the U.S. presidential elections, but Likud leader Yitzhak Shamir was far more effusive about President Bush’s defeat.
“Thank God we won’t be dealing with him anymore,” the former prime minister told Israel Radio.
The reactions of the two leaders highlighted the deep differences between the two sides of Israel’s political divide in attitudes toward the outgoing American administration.
Shamir acknowledged there had been ups as well as downs in U.S.-Israeli relations during the Bush years. But the made it clear the negative sides were predominant.
Other Likud figures echoed Shamir’s implied sentiment that Bush had helped topple the Likud and bring Labor to power in elections last June. Bush accomplished this chiefly by denying loan guarantees to the Shamir government and awarding them to Rabin in return for a partial freeze on settlements in the administered territories.
In congratulatory messages to Clinton, Israeli leaders voiced the hope that U.S. ties will be, in Rabin’s words, “close as always.”
President Chaim Herzog, in wishing Clinton success, hoped the “very special relationship” between the two countries would “broaden and expand” in an advance toward peace in the Middle East.
In their messages to Bush, Israeli leaders warmly lauded his help in initiating the peace process, supporting Israel’s security and ensuring free emigration for Jews from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia.
Meanwhile, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Zalman Shoval, told army radio that he would be staying on in Washington “until the spring” to oversee Israel’s entry into a relationship with the Clinton team.
It had earlier been reported that his successor, Itamar Rabinovich, would replace Shoval as early as the end of this month.
Hundreds in Jerusalem, mostly American olim, attended a post-election gathering early Wednesday morning co-sponsored by local chapters of the Democratic and Republican parties.
Judging from the upbeat mood at the American Cultural Center, most of those present were Democrats.
Due to the time difference between Israel and the United States, Israelis did not learn of the final outcome until 6 a.m., when final election returns were broadcast live on cable television.
Champagne corks popped as Clinton was officially declared the winner.
“I’m very excited,” said Peggy Brill, a New Yorker who has lived in Israel for seven years. “Something had to change. The U.S. economy has deteriorated a lot over the past several years, and hopefully Clinton can turn it around,” she said.
Although a registered Republican, David Weinzweig, a Hebrew University student from Arizona, said he had supported the Democratic ticket.
“Being a Jew and a firm supporter of Israel, my only option was to vote for Bill Clinton,” he said. “Bush’s views on foreign policy are very firmly entrenched while Clinton has an open mind. Hopefully, groups like AIPAC will be able to get their point across to him.”
“I feel very sad today,” admitted Sharon Myers, a Republican from Pennsylvania. “I really believe that Clinton will create a financial earthquake. And he is very liberal. He backs everyone from the AFL-CIO to homosexuals.
“Of course,” she added, “only time will tell.”