Forgiveness in Jerusalem: Israelis on Clinton: Whats the big deal Hes a man

JERUSALEM — If the streets of Jerusalem are any indication, Israelis are a very forgiving people.

While President Bill Clinton's public admission that he had an "improper" relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky surprised some Jerusalem pedestrians Tuesday morning, most of those surveyed said they forgive the president.

And a national survey conducted by Channel 2's "Reshet in the Morning" show found that 92 percent of Israelis forgive Clinton and only 8 percent do not.

From talk shows to coffee shops, almost everyone had something to say about the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, however.

"Let him do whatever he wants," said 43-year-old Ori Levy from Shoresh. "If it doesn't affect the political situation, then why should it matter?"

Most people surveyed believed that because Clinton is such a good leader, his confession — and his sins — shouldn't keep him from remaining president.

"He does a good job as the president, and he's good for Israel and for the world. He keeps a check on Iran, Iraq, Egypt," said Avi Cohen. The 27-year-old lifeguard doesn't think it will affect Clinton's status among world leaders. "People like Mubarak, Hussein, Blair, I think they can put it aside."

Discussing Clinton, Na'ama Weintraub, 23, said, "He's done great things for the American economy. If Israel had such a good leader, I don't think we'd care about this kind of thing."

It was Americans themselves who got the rap for their reaction to the whole scandal. "Americans are not normal. Two embassies were blown up and hundreds of people died, and this is what they care about?" said Moti Cohen, a 41-year-old cab driver and father of three.

Europeans are amazed at America's obsession with Lewinsky, said Sara Weil, an American who lives in Belgium. "In Europe, no one cares who you sleep with as long as you do a good job," she said. "They can't understand what the big deal is. They always ask me, `What's wrong with your country?'"

Her French uncle, Daniel Weil, added: "Whoever doesn't mess around, drink a little and let loose – how can you trust him?"

But perhaps the forgiving attitudes of most Israelis reflect less on their kind nature than on their opinions of men, fidelity and extramarital affairs.

"He's just a man, like every other man," said Shoshi Shalom, 40. "He made a mistake."

"He's a man. He can do whatever he wants," said 40-year-old Grigory Vinovsky, who immigrated from Russia six years ago. "In the Russian parliament, everyone does it. It's a man's thing and it has nothing to do with politics," he said.

Sixtysomething Mathilda Pitran from Jerusalem's Gilo neighborhood said, "I can look aside and forgive him. It happens. If my husband cheated on me, I would forgive him. It's in the genes, you know."

Shuli Cohen, 18, was shocked by the confession because she never believed Clinton was guilty. "If my husband would cheat on me, I would leave him in a second. But on the other hand, if I was married to the president, I don't know if that would be true."

Cohen commended Hillary Clinton for her composure, comparing her to Sara Netanyahu, who would have made a "grand hullabaloo."

Twenty-two years in Israel have made 87-year-old Nat Kleinman less pristine about politics and sexual matters. Originally from America, Kleinman said he doesn't believe the scandal will affect the presidency but he does think that Hillary will divorce Clinton after his term is over.

Who Kleinman is really worried about, he said, is their daughter Chelsea. "It won't be safe for her to date. Some boy is going to be with her and try something, thinking, `If it's good enough for her father, it's good enough for me.'"