- The Washington Times - Friday, August 18, 2000

Ironically, although initially and superficially Vice President Al Gore's stunning designation of Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman to be the Democratic Party's vice presidential nominee seemed to be a blow to the Clintons and a boon to Israel and Orthodox Jews, the very opposite may be the case.It is true that Mr. Lieberman's most famous speech was his ostensible condemnation of Mr. Clinton's behavior with Monica Lewinsky as immoral, but the fact is that even though Mr. Lieberman suddenly gained fame at that point as "the conscience of the Senate," he then joined every single Democratic Party senator in the Senate in voting against upholding any of the articles of impeachment. Mr. Lieberman thus actually stands for the principle that the perjurer in chief deserves nothing more than a verbal "slap on the wrist," and Mr. Gore's selection of Mr. Lieberman further validates the vote of confidence given to Mr. Clinton by his many apologists.Much more significantly, New York senatorial candidate and likely future presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton benefits by the Lieberman selection both in the short-term and in the long-term. Until the Lieberman nomination, she was struggling with the lowest approval rating among Jews in New York State for a leading statewide Democratic nominee in recent memory.In New York, the Jewish vote is far more significant than in most other states, and virtually no Democratic candidate for a statewide position has ever won with less than 50 percent of the Jewish vote. Jews are often such knee-jerk voters for Democratic candidates and especially Jewish ones.When Hillary Clinton kissed Yasser Arafat's wife in front of the cameras immediately after Mrs. Arafat had delivered a most anti-Semitic and factually inaccurate speech, even New York's knee-jerk Jewish voters had had enough. She was politically dead in the eyes of most. Only a political miracle could have saved her. Mr. Gore, who had reacted to Mr. Clinton's impeachment by calling him "a great president," came through for the Clintons once again.In the words of Mr. Lieberman just after he was designated to be Mr. Gore's running mate, "Miracles happen." Had Mrs. Clinton been destined to lose her bid for the Senate in New York, or had Mr. Gore been destined to win his bid for the White House, and to occupy the office for eight years, Mrs. Clinton might have forgone further political aspirations. Now, however, although many editorial writers throughout the country are praising Mr. Gore's decision, the bigots, pro-Arafat-Hamas Muslims (to the exclusion of the democracy-loving Muslims), pro-Sharpton African-Americans (to the exclusion of the Martin Luther King admiring African-Americans), and general anti-Semites of all colors and persuasions might have another reaction. This bombshell of a designation could put the final nails into Mr. Gore's political coffin, leaving the path clear for Mrs. Clinton to run for the presidency four years down the road. As Mr. Lieberman said, "Miracles happen."

Unfortunately, this "miracle" is unlikely to help Israel or the Jews, Orthodox or Reform, and may likely hurt them. Mr. Arafat has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt many times that his goal in the "peace process" is to capture all of modern-day Israel piece by piece, God forbid. He refused to accept the most recent slices of Israel offered by Ehud Barak even though they violated Mr. Barak's commitments to his people and cut to the core of the country, only because Israel had whetted his appetite for the whole pie by the way it evacuated the sliver of Lebanon that Israel needed to maintain its security in northern Israel.

Yet, Mr. Lieberman supports Mr. Clinton's pressuring of Israel in most cases despite how apparent it is that the president is willing to push Israel to the wall (keeping little more than the Western or Wailing Wall) or into the sea, to use Mr. Arafat's imagery as long as Mr. Clinton's legacy will be as a Middle East peacemaker rather than a middle-waist womanizer.

It turns out, however, that although Mr. Lieberman may be an Orthodox Jew by synagogue affiliation and by many of his personal practices, his views and practices in the political arena are not shared by most Orthodox Jews. He states that notwithstanding Orthodox Jewish law against working on the Sabbath, he will nevertheless work on the Sabbath to promote "the respect and protection of human life and well-being." This is an interesting sign of sensitivity considering his pro-abortion stance, for starters.

Orthodox Jews, who have always refused to work on the Sabbath, will now be confronted with people pointing to Mr. Lieberman's self-proclaimed exceptions to the rule.

Even worse, Mr. Lieberman has been quoted as having stated recently, on "Larry King Live," that abortion is "a matter of personal judgment," and "like everything else in Judaism, ultimately, it's up to each of us to decide what we think is right." This is not Orthodoxy, and it is not even Judaism. It is downright Clintonism.

Yes, Mr. Lieberman, miracles do happen; but who would have ever imagined that the designation of an Orthodox Jew to such a high position would favor Israel's most devious enemies and would so compromise some of Orthodox Jewry's most important principles.

Aaron I. Reichel is a rabbi, lawyer and author living in New York.

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