WASHINGTON – Anti-Defamation League Director Abe Foxman, one of the foremost Jewish leaders in the United States, said Thursday that he regretted former US President Bill Clinton's statement about the Russian immigrants in Israel, calling it an "amateur analysis."
Clinton's comments in Foreign Policy Magazine, suggesting Russian immigrants to Israel are one of the main obstacles to reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority, have been widely criticized since their Tuesday publication.
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Foxman did, however, qualify his reaction, saying that Clinton's remark was "simplistic, but not racist," adding that in American politics, it was not uncommon to analyze political inclination according to ethnicity.
Foxman said that in one of his past meetings with Clinton, the former US president demonstrated great knowledge and understanding of the problems in the Middle East; adding that nevertheless, delving into the ethnic segmentation of Israeli politics was "beyond" Clinton's capabilities.
Reducing the situation in Israel into a question of who is and is not in favor of a peace agreement, he added, was an overly-simplistic analysis, which is tempting but ultimately not useful – "especially coming from someone in his position."
Clinton, continued Foxman, should leave the matter to Israeli politicians and sociologists, since Israel has a very "complex ethnic fabric."
Still, the ADL director stressed that he did not view Clinton's remarks as racist, just simplistic: "Israelis do it all the time. We do it here, we talk about how Jews, African-Americans and Hispanics vote for Democrats. That's not racism – just political analysis."
As unfortunate as Clinton's comment was, it does not diminish the respect his knowledge commands, Foxman concluded.
Clinton's statement irked many Israeli officials: Yisrael Beiteinu denounced the statement and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement saying that "As a friend to Israel, Clinton surely knows that the Russian immigration has and is contributing greatly to the promotion, development and strength of both the IDF and the State of Israel."
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