Bill Clinton: I’d die for Israel

August 04, 2002


1. Bill Clinton claims he would take up arms and "fight and die" for Israel
2. "Bubba: I'd fight and die for Israel" (New York Post, August 2, 2002)
3. "Clinton enlists in Israel's aid" (Washington Times, August 3, 2002)

[Note by Tom Gross]


Bill Clinton has said that he would take up arms and "fight and die" for Israel if Iraq attacks the Jewish state. The remarks, made last week at a Jewish children's fund-raiser in Canada, were first reported in the Toronto Star, and then given prominence on Friday as the cover story in the New York Post.

I attach the New York Post article below, followed by a story from the Washington Times which notes that many U.S. veterans are "outraged" and "mystified" by Clinton's new "gung-ho attitude," especially considering the lengths to which he went to avoid serving in Vietnam.

While some commentators in the U.S. media have welcomed Clinton's apparent show of support for Israel, others have accused him of "a shameless bid to be invited to address other Jewish fund-raisers" for which he is paid $100,000 a pop, and said "he should sign up today – to fight for the U.S. in Afghanistan."

Clinton also confirmed that contrary to what continues to be reported by anti-Israel elements in the western media, Yasser Arafat was offered control of 97 percent of the West Bank while he was president.



Bubba: I'd fight and die for Israel
By Andy Geller and Richard Johnson
The New York Post
August 2, 2002

Bill Clinton – who avoided serving in Vietnam – says he would take up arms and "fight and die" for Israel if Iraq attacks the Jewish state.

"If Iraq came across the Jordan River, I would grab a rifle and get in the trench and fight and die," the ex-president said to wild applause at a Jewish fund-raiser in Toronto.

Clinton made his bombshell remarks to 350 people who paid $1,000 to break bread with him on Monday night at a dinner for the Toronto Hadassah-WIZO children's charity.

Clinton, who tried but failed to make peace in the Middle East the legacy of his presidency, decried the current cycle of violence in Israel.

"I don't think there is a military solution to this," he said. "But I know there's not a terrorist solution to it."

Clinton also said he disagreed with President Bush that peace can be achieved only when Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is gone from power.

Nevertheless, he said it is important for the United States to remain involved because "Israelis believe that America is the only big country that cares if they live or die."

The ex-president said the best solution to the Middle East conflict is an interim settlement that would "establish a Palestinian state now."

But he stressed that the creation of such a state must be preceded by security assurances for Israel and a timetable to resolve other issues.

Clinton said Arafat made a "disastrous mistake" by turning down past peace proposals that would have given the Palestinian leader control of 97 percent of the West Bank.

Yet, Clinton said, "There is reason for hope.

"I think this will be resolved on the terms the Palestinians walked away from."

Clinton couldn't be reached for comment yesterday because he was on a plane to Aspen, Colo., his spokeswoman said.

Clinton, who opposed the Vietnam War, signed up for the ROTC to avoid immediate induction when he received a draft call in 1969.

He later changed his mind about the ROTC and decided to take his chances with the new draft lottery.



"Clinton enlists in Israel's aid"
By Stephen Dinan
The Washington Times
August 3, 2002

Former President Bill Clinton says that during his presidency, he would have been ready to "grab a rifle" and fight in the trenches if Iraq or Iran had invaded Israel.

"The Israelis know that if the Iraqi or the Iranian army came across the Jordan River, I would personally grab a rifle, get in a ditch, and fight and die," Mr. Clinton told the crowd at a fund-raising event for a Toronto Jewish charity Monday.

The fighting words surprised veterans groups and prompted chuckles among Republicans, who saw a stark contrast with his behavior during the Vietnam War, when he avoided military service on behalf of the United States.

"Many veterans are going to react with outrage, and they're going to be mystified as to where this gung-ho attitude emerged," said Steve Thomas, spokesman for the American Legion.

During Mr. Clinton's successful presidential campaigns in 1992 and 1996, he was dogged by charges that he dodged the draft for Vietnam. In September 1992, the head of the ROTC unit at the University of Arkansas said Mr. Clinton lied in 1969 and used political pressure to dodge the Vietnam War draft by saying he intended to enroll in the ROTC unit.

Lt. Col. Eugene Holmes said he was pressured by draft board officials in Mr. Clinton's hometown, Hot Springs, Ark., to ensure Mr. Clinton was enrolled in the program, thus avoiding induction into the Army. Mr. Clinton never joined the unit, and he has never explained how he avoided two induction notices to report to active duty.

A spokeswoman in Mr. Clinton's New York City office could not be reached for comment yesterday about his remarks, and a spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee didn't return phone calls on the matter.

The 350 attendees at the reception for the Canadian Hadassah-WIZO charity, held in a private home in Toronto, paid $1,000 each to hear the ex-president, who according to Canadian press reports signed autographs and played saxophone with the band before he spoke.

The Toronto Star reported that an unnamed benefactor paid Mr. Clinton's speaking fee, which is said to run as much as $125,000 an appearance.

His remarks have been circulating on the Internet and garnered a front-page display in yesterday's New York Post, but his speech went beyond that. He said the United States must remain engaged in the Middle East because "Israelis believe that America is the only big country that cares if they live or die."

And he criticized Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for not accepting peace plans Mr. Clinton tried to broker during his presidency, but he disagreed with President Bush's insistence that Palestinians install a new leader before peace can proceed.

Mr. Clinton tried to broker a Middle East peace accord in the waning days of his presidency. His wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, courted Jewish voters aggressively during her successful Senate bid in New York.

Jim Dyke, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said Mr. Clinton's appearance was out of step with the tradition of former presidents.

"President Clinton has always been someone who enjoys the spotlight. He seems reluctant to play the more constructive role that other former presidents have played," Mr. Dyke said.

As for the president's remarks about joining the soldiers in the trenches, Mr. Dyke refused to comment directly, saying, "We've always known he had lots of fight in him."

The story drew laughs elsewhere on Capitol Hill, though. "He just wants to be loved, is that so wrong?" quipped one Republican aide, who said it sounded as if the former president was going to say what it took to get applause from the group. "It's almost a Gore-ish thing to say – to go so far in an effort to ingratiate yourself."

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.