Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Sen. Hillary Clinton has donated more than $1,200 toward a fund to purchase protective gear for Israelis who work in the disputed West Bank.
Clinton's contribution to New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind's fund, which has raised some $150,000 to purchase 115 sets of bulletproof vests and helmets since December, drew praise from Hikind, but cynicism from some critics.
"If her husband had not pressured Israel into giving [Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser] Arafat and his terrorists so many weapons, then today we wouldn't need bulletproof jackets and helmets," said David Wilder, spokesman for Hebron's embattled Jewish community, on Thursday.
"The best thing she could do is to advise [President] George Bush against the policies of the last president," said Wilder.
President Clinton was heavily involved in negotiations between Israel and the PA. He was often accused here of pressuring Israel into making concessions to the PA, in return for nothing more tangible than undertakings, which were often not honored.
Under the Oslo Accords, Israel provided the PA with thousands of weapons to arm a limited "police force." Afterwards, the PA set up around a dozen different security force agencies, far larger than permitted by the accords. Some PA officers have been implicated in terrorist attacks in recent months.
Hebron was divided into Israeli- and PA-controlled areas in an agreement brokered by Clinton two years ago. The small Jewish community there has come under heavy Palestinian gunfire during the uprising, and a baby girl was killed there last week.
Benjamin Elon, leader of a pro-settlement party in the Israeli Knesset, said that although he thought reports of Rodham Clinton's donation was rather "unbelievable," he remained optimistic.
Like many left-wing Israelis, perhaps the senator had learned that the campaign of violence was "the reality" rather than the "utopia and dreams" of the peace process, he said.
Maybe she, too, had learned to "be suspicious of terrorists and have sympathy for the victims."
For many years, Rodham Clinton has supported the establishment of a Palestinian state. She drew particular criticism recently for accepting election campaign donations from organizations sympathetic to Mideast terrorist groups.
While visiting the region two years ago, she sat silently by while Arafat's wife, Suha, accused Israel of using poisonous, carcinogenic gas against Palestinian women and children. The then First Lady did not challenge the claim, but embraced Suha Arafat following her remarks.
Zionist Organization of America President Morton Klein said it was "laudable" that Rodham Clinton wanted to contribute to the purchase of the protective gear. But that did not solve the problem.
"Any of us can give money," he was quoted as saying. "But what we can't do is introduce legislation to make Arafat feel the pain of his promotion of his murder."
Hikind, who is known for his pro-Israel stance, was more positive about the donation, saying it was a "clear and powerful statement on her part."
"By making this commitment, Hillary is saying she feels strongly about what's going on over there," the New York Post quoted him as saying.
Clinton has also offered to help Hikind raise $1 million for protective equipment for Israeli teachers and medics, who travel in the disputed territories and regularly become targets for Palestinian snipers.
Arab-American Institute leader James Zogby criticized Hikind for even having such a fund, saying that politicians who support him are "not helping peace."