- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 19, 2000

NEW YORK Still ailing in her effort to court one of this state's major voting blocs, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton is counting on the appeal of vice-presidential candidate Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman to secure her share of the state's Jewish vote.
The state's 1.7 million Jews are a traditionally Democratic bloc. And despite increases in the polls and a dogged courting of the Jewish community, Mrs. Clinton is lagging despite being ahead of opponent Rep. Rick Lazio.
"Sixty-one percent is not where she needs to be," said Gerald Benjamin, dean of the college of arts and sciences at the State University of New York at New Paltz. He referred to last week's Zogby poll, which found the first lady leading Mr. Lazio among Jewish voters, 61 to 30 percent.
A Marist College survey released last week showed Jewish voters favoring Mrs. Clinton by 55 percent to Mr. Lazio's 37 percent, up from a 51 percent favorable rating in June.
Ordinarily, a candidate would be able to breathe easy with such a margin, but in a race that is virtually tied in the polls, which show around 9 percent of voters undecided, the first lady's numbers are lagging.
The support of Mr. Lieberman could prompt a surge in Jewish supporters.
"Conventionally, a Democrat can get at least two-thirds of the Jewish vote in New York," Mr. Benjamin said. "But her unfortunate interaction, her perceived pro-Palestinian disposition, has been muted, which is necessary."
That gives state Democrats a chance to crow: "She's doing all the right things," said Peter Kaufmann, a spokesman for the New York State Democratic Party. "The polls I see have her above 70 percent. The fact is, Hillary is a strong supporter of Israel."
Mr. Lazio has not been able to take advantage of Mrs. Clinton's standing among Jews, although he continues to visit Jewish communities in and around New York City. Republicans can usually count on around one-third of the Jewish vote.
"What differentiates us from the first lady is that we have a very strong record on Israel," said Lazio aide Mollie Fullington. "She has flip-flopped a number of times on some of the most important issues in the Jewish community."
Mr. Lieberman last week promised voters that Mrs. Clinton will be a friend to the Jewish people if she is elected to the Senate.
Mr. Lazio was stung himself last week, when the White House released a photo of him shaking hands with Yasser Arafat. While the Clinton camp disparaged Mr. Lazio, his defenders accused the administration of meddling with the New York Senate race.
It was a comparatively minor demerit for Mr. Lazio, while the first lady's past lingers.
Mr. Lieberman, in his exultant praise of Mrs. Clinton, didn't address the strong stance Mrs. Clinton has taken on Jonathan Pollard, a man convicted of spying in the United States for Israel: She proposes another look at the case of the imprisoned Pollard, while Mr. Lieberman has declined to support such a move.
Nor did he mention that in 1987 and 1988, Mrs. Clinton was director and chairman of the board of directors of the New World Foundation, a New York City philanthropy that donated $15,000 to a group called Grassroots International, which at the time was giving money to two Palestinian groups with ties to the Palestine Liberation Organization the Union of Palestinian Working Women's Committees and the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees.
Also, a recent book by reporter Jerry Oppenheimer charges Mrs. Clinton called Paul Fray, one of her husband's campaign aides, a "Jew bastard" on the night Mr. Clinton lost a race for Congress in 1974. She denies the charge.
Mrs. Clinton has learned in the last several months; in April, she pulled out of a charity dinner organized by a group of Arab diplomat wives.
"I think she is enjoying greater support," said Rabbi Joseph Potasnik of Brooklyn. "It's the Lieberman factor. But there are still parts of the community who feel there is a pandering, who feel she will say what she has to say to attract voters.
"There are voters in our community who are very troubled by this."

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