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Bill Clinton At Shimon Peres's President's Conference Jerusalem
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Clinton receives the Shimon Peres Presidential Award of Distinction
photo by Rhonda Spivak

photo by Rhonda Spivak

photo by Rhonda Spivak

Editor's Report: The Story Behind Bill Clinton's Controversial Speech in Jerusalem , the Clinton Foundation and the US Election

by Rhonda Spivak, Sept 26, 2016

As the American election campaign rages on and as the Clinton Foundation comes under increased scrutiny with some calls  for it to be closed altogether, I have been thinking about the time  I heard  Bill Clinton speak at Shimon Peres's Presidents conference in Jerusalem. Clinton's appearance there caused an  absolute uproar in Israel when  the Israeli public learned through Israeli media that  Bill Clinton was to be paid  $500,000 in return for his coming to Israel to give a speech at a gala evening in Rehovot, and for taking part in the President's Conference, for Shimon Peres's 90th birthday.  The speaking fee to the Clinton Foundation was to be absorbed by the Peres Academic Centre and others, and by the time  the President's  conference I attended  took place, everyone in the country was talking about the exorbitant speaking fee, which was all the more exorbitant  to Israelis, many of whom live in "minus" (  debt) and can barely keep afloat financially.  


I remember Clinton's speech very well since I had a stroke of luck when getting my entrance ticket to the hall in the Jerusalem Convention Centre (Binyanei Ha'uma), the same building where years earlier I received my call to the Israeli Bar.  Journalists were all supposed to be seated in the upper balcony, but for some reason my ticket was on the main floor. Realizing the mistake, I said nothing and took my seat in row 22, only to discover that I had landed up in a section designated for  Israeli television crews from all the major stations. The television crews all asked who I was and laughed when I said I was the Editor of the Winnipeg Jewish Review, and when I explained to them in Hebrew that I had decided not to say anything to the  media organizers about the mistake but instead had chosen to use the "upgraded ticket" and get a much better seat on the main floor.(I actually ended up making some good contacts) .


It so happened that a friend of mine from Winnipeg was in Israel for work related reasons and I got him into the Conference as my photographer. He brought an excellent quality video camera and  regular camera and promised to video Clinton's entire speech and get great photos as well. (The Israeli television crew laughed even harder when I explained that he wasn't a real professional photographer but was a friend and that we both managed to get seats in their section).


I had brought my low quality $120 dollar camera along with a very limited zoom and decided that  I would try to take some photos of Clinton while he spoke. I noticed a security guard who was moving towards the stage and decided to follow him, walking directly behind him, realizing that if he didn't turn his head around 180 degrees he wouldn't notice me. As he walked he got to the area that was roped off for the front section of  VIP's there to hear Clinton speak, and he opened up the ropes and walked into the front section . I followed directly behind him and managed to get into the fifth row, with a clear view of  Clinton and crouched down during the speech in the aisle so I could snap photos of Clinton. I remember the woman seated near where I was sitting crouched down in the aisle saying to her friend as Clinton arrived to the podium "Oh, he's so good looking." She was too enthralled with Clinton's looks to bother to ask me to move away from where I sat in my crouched position and so I remained there for the duration of the speech, snapping as many shots of Clinton, with my camera's limited zoom function.


After the speech I returned to my seat and my friend asked me where I had been and I explained how I'd managed to get some pretty decent shots of Clinton from the fifth row, although I was sure that they wouldn't be as good as his.  That's when my friend told me that he had begun videotaping Clinton' s speech but his battery died and as a result he didn't get any  video of Clinton and he also hadn't taken any photos of him either. The television crews laughed when they realized this,  which is when I told them that at least I had gotten some photos of Clinton with my rinky dinky camera. "That's why I am the Editor in Chief and he's not," I said, pointing to my friend.


Clinton spoke about the  need for a two state solution  saying that "There are no perfect solutions to the Israel-Palestine conflict," adding that the "key is to expand the definition of 'us' and shrink definition of 'them." 



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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.