WASHINGTON (Jul. 8)
First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton began her all- but-certain campaign for Senate this week with an attempt to assuage Jewish concerns about her views on U.S. policy in the Middle East.
Following the tradition of most congressional candidates, Clinton expressed support for Israeli control of Jerusalem. But unlike most candidates, her policy marks a split with her husband, the president of the United States.
“I personally consider Jerusalem the eternal and indivisible capital of Israel,” she said in a letter to the Orthodox Union released on Wednesday, the same day that the first lady began what she calls “a listening tour of New York.”
President Clinton, who made a similar pledge in the 1992 campaign, changed his policy after the Palestinians and Israelis signed the 1993 Oslo peace accords. Clinton now believes that Jerusalem’s status should be determined in final- status talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Israel considers the city its united capital while the Palestinians claim the eastern half as the capital of a future state.
The first lady’s remarks came in a two-page response July 2 to Orthodox Union President Dr. Mandell Ganchrow, who sent Clinton a letter last month asking her position on Jerusalem and a 1994 law that requires the United States to move its embassy in Israel.
Clinton’s comments marked a sharp departure from her controversial statement last year endorsing Palestinian statehood. Earlier this year, she tried to distance herself from the statement, saying that the issue should be left to final status negotiations between the two parties.
In her letter, Clinton also endorsed moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Last month, President Clinton angered many pro-Israel activists when he used a waiver in the law to postpone relocating the embassy, citing America’s “national security” interests. Clinton argued that the relocation would anger the Palestinians and disrupt the peace process.
While the first lady endorsed a Jerusalem embassy, she sided with the president in arguing that the timing of such a move “must be sensitive to Israel’s interest in achieving a secure peace with its neighbors.”
Responding in a letter to the first lady, Ganchrow wrote, “We are gratified by your stated view that Jerusalem is the eternal and indivisible capital of the state of Israel” and called her position on moving the embassy a “meaningful public statement.”
As for the disagreement over the timing of moving the embassy, which the O.U. believes should have already taken place, Ganchrow stopped short of criticizing Clinton. Instead he wrote that the group looks forward to discussing the issue with Clinton, who proposed meeting with representatives of the group.
“The law does not link the move to the completion of the peace process,” he wrote.
“How you would vote as a senator regarding removing the president’s waiver powers on the move to Jerusalem is certainly an issue for discussion.”