NEW YORK One of the first lady’s supporters in the Jewish community wonders if Hillary Rodham Clinton is communicating with her husband during her senatorial campaign.
Former Mayor Ed Koch, an advocate for the first lady in her U.S. Senate bid, said in an interview with The Washington Times yesterday that he wanted to know whether Mrs. Clinton had discussed the Middle East crisis with the president before the United States abstained from vetoing a U.N. resolution censuring Israel for the escalating violence.
“It’s probably the only time in her life with Bill that when they disagreed on a political matter, her view didn’t carry. Did she argue with him? Did she try to persuade him? When a person is running for office in New York, it doesn’t take courage to say they’re against the resolution. But it takes courage to take on Clinton,” said the former mayor. “What he did was a terrible betrayal to Israel. This is appeasement.”
Agreeing with Rep. Rick Lazio in a debate over the weekend, Mrs. Clinton strongly condemned the United States for failing to veto the U.N. Security Council resolution. It was one of the most marked departures from her husband’s policies Mrs. Clinton has taken during 15 months of campaigning.
Most political observers agree that if she is to win in November, Mrs. Clinton must draw at least 60 percent of the Jewish votes, most of which would come from the metropolitan area’s 2 million Jews. Mr. Koch, a widely popular and high-profile New York City institution, could be a key factor in attracting those voters, as he has proven in past elections.
Mrs. Clinton has heightened efforts to repair her tenuous relationship with the Jewish community, weakened largely because of her warm embrace of Suha Arafat during a Middle East visit minutes after the Palestinian leader’s wife said Israelis used deadly gas on women and children.
Yesterday, on Yom Kippur, one of the most sacred holidays in Judaism, Mrs. Clinton stepped up the damage control by calling on the Palestinian leader to return to the peace talks. “In order for the peace process to resume, there must be mutual trust. That mutual trust has been lacking on the side of Chairman Arafat and the Palestinians in the last days,” she said in a campaign statement.
Earlier yesterday, at the Columbus Day parade, the first lady said she was deeply distressed by the desecration of Joseph’s Tomb, for which she used the Hebrew name, and she criticized Palestinian authorities for “not protecting religious sites as they had agreed to do.”
Political observers believe Mr. Lazio missed an opportunity by not reacting immediately to Mrs. Clinton’s criticism of U.S. policy and questioning her involvement with her husband’s Middle East stance. Some speculated that Mr. Lazio had decided to avoid personal clashes with the first lady; others suggested he simply wasn’t quick enough.
Yesterday, the Lazio campaign released a statement saying that Mrs. Clinton “could have and should have weighed in on” the U.S. vote on the U.N. resolution. New Yorkers, he said, have yet to hear what the first lady did to stand up for Israel.
Dan McLagan, communications director for the Lazio campaign, said in an interview: “Rick continues to be strong on the issue. It is outrageous that she continues to want it both ways. She does a distance dance from the administration when it suits her needs.”