In full presidential-campaign mode, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton came well prepared to the Northeast AIPAC dinner last week, armed with a speech that touched all the right bases.
The former first lady, a Democrat who hopes to be the first female president, blasted Iran’s “pro-terrorist, anti-American, anti-Israeli rhetoric” as well as that country’s ambition to be a nuclear power and the Holocaust conference convened by its president, which she termed “beyond the pale of international discourse and acceptable behavior.”
Linking Tehran to the capture of two Israeli soldiers by the pro-Iran Hezbollah, Clinton also expressed solidarity with Karnit Goldwasser, the wife of one of the men, who preceded her at the podium.
“I met with Karnit and other family members last summer,” Clinton told the crowd at the Marriott Marquis in Midtown. “I know how important it is to ensure the safe return of the captured soldiers.”
In local coverage of the event, Clinton’s declaration that “no option can be taken off the table” in dealing with Iran eclipsed her call for the release of captured soldiers Ehud Goldwasser, Gilad Shalit and Eldad Regev. (Shalit is being held by Palestinians.)
Also unnoticed was her promise to spearhead an issue she raised during her successful 2000 Senate bid, but which has largely stayed off the map in Washington: the content of Palestinian schoolbooks.
“In 1999, I raised the problem of anti-Semitism in Palestinian textbooks,” said Clinton. “Now eight years later, we continue to hear reports that the textbooks have not been changed. I will be doing an event in Washington in the Senate … to highlight the anti-Semitism and anti-Israel rhetoric that is still part of the curriculum.”
A spokesperson later said the event would be a Capitol Hill news conference Thursday unveiling a new report from Palestinian Media Watch, a pro-Israel group.
In 2000, Senate candidate Clinton, joined by Elie Wiesel shortly before Election Day, said, “We can’t afford to be indifferent to the lessons taught in Gaza and the West Bank. For generations, lessons of hatred and violence have been a vital part of the curriculum … designed to deny the legitimacy of Israel and encourage violence and racist attitudes”
Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, recalled testifying in the Senate chamber about Palestinian curricula and media before a subcommittee including Clinton in 2003. “This issue is essentially ignored, even though it’s the most important issue for anyone who wants to see real peace between Arabs and Israelis,” said Klein in a phone interview from Jerusalem Tuesday.
While praising Clinton’s interest in the subject, he said it had to be matched by action.“Is she proposing legislation to cut off all funding?” Klein asked. “It is lip service unless there are consequences.”
Orthodox groups are thrilled about a proposal by Gov. Eliot Spitzer to sacrifice $25 million in personal income tax revenue to provide a $1,000-per-child deduction for middle-class private school parents.
The break would apply to families earning under $125,000 for children in K-12.
“We’re very pleased Governor Spitzer is giving overburdened private school parents relief,” said Howard Biegelman, deputy director of public policy at the Orthodox Union.
David Zwiebel of Agudath Israel, in a statement, noted that Spitzer is the first Democratic governor in New York to propose such a cut.
“By at least seeking to open the door to relieving some of the tax burden on parents in our community,” the Agudath Israel leader said, “Governor Spitzer is showing his willingness to think outside the partisan box.”
But another Democrat — the man who could pull the plug on the tax cut — called it much ado about nothing.
“If a family is making $100,000 and is paying $20,000 to day school, this will provide them with $68 per child” at current tax rates, said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. “It’s rather insignificant.” Parents earning half that sum and in a lower tax bracket would get no benefit, he said.
Silver, who last year passed a $330 tax credit for every school-age child in the state whose family earns under $140,000, said Spitzer should use the same $25 million to enhance mandated services for non-public schools, such as busing, textbooks and special education resources.
Within hours of a Kassam rocket slamming into a southern Israeli kibbutz, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn was on the phone from Israel with New York reporters, discussing her experience a mile away from the blast site.
Quinn and 10 other Council members were in Sderot’s city hall meeting with Mayor Eli Moyal when an alarm sounded, and their group was rushed to a shelter.
“It made us wonder what it must be like to live with the knowledge that a terrorist attack can come at any moment,” said Quinn, who likened the experience to another trauma that befell many of the politicians — witnessing an assassin gunning down a colleague, James Davis, in City Hall two years ago.
“You have to credit people who can go on with their daily lives after this,” said Quinn.
No one was hurt in Tuesday’s attack, which hit about 4 p.m., Israel time.
The group was on a tour sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council. In addition to Sderot, they visited several social service programs funded by JCRC’s parent, UJA-Federation.
In a sign that such “junkets” have come under increased scrutiny these days, a Daily News reporter asked Quinn during the conference call if such a trip was appropriate or served the city’s interests.
Quinn responded that JCRC does not lobby the city, adding that the trip “gives the Council a better understanding and appreciation of the situation in Israel which is very important to New Yorkers.
”Quinn, who took part in a similar delegation before she became speaker, said despite the brush with danger she would still encourage New Yorkers to visit Israel.
“The gratitude [Israelis] express to us for having come and visited was so enormous, it should erase any fear anyone might have,” said the speaker.