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New book criticizes Clinton over dormant accounts

President Clinton and Edgar Bronfman share a joke at the gala commemorating the global settlement

(Keystone)

The role of President Clinton in the Holocaust reparation case against the Swiss banks is at the centre of a controversy in the United States.

In a book entitled "Between the Alps and a hard place", American author Angelo Codevilla alleges that Clinton agreed to "caricature Switzerland" to thank the chairman of the World Jewish Congress for generous contributions given to his electoral campaigns.

In an interview with swissinfo, Codevilla says that Clinton's role in pushing for reparations from Switzerland was "merely an example of interest-group politics translated on the international stage".

"What Bill Clinton did was to take international relations, which is a serious matter, and use it for constituent service", says the former State Department employee who now teaches at Boston University.

More precisely, Codevilla charges that the US president "orchestrated a propaganda operation" aimed at "caricaturing Switzerland" because he wanted to reward WJC chairman, Edgar Bronfman, for being the largest contributor to his 1996 electoral campaign.

WJC spokesman, Elan Steinberg, has refuted the allegations. Steinberg says Codevilla is out to discredit Clinton and the Jewish-American community. He says Clinton received higher contributions than Bronfman's.

Asked how he would describe the role played by Clinton in the Jewish assets claims laid in the mid-90s by Jewish organizations that led to an out-of-court settlement in August 1998 in which Swiss banks agreed to pay $1.25 billion, Steinberg says the US president "made the decision that the administration will fully back the effort, not only in Switzerland but elsewhere".

However, the WJC's official emphasizes that "the fact that Bronfman wanted help from the US government is no secret while the suggestion that he or the entire Jewish community control that government is anti-Semitic in nature".


by Marie-Christine Bonzom

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