Former President Bill Clinton told Jewish supporters in Toronto this week that he would fight and die to protect Israel if Iraq or Iran ever invaded.
"The Israelis know that if the Iraqi or the Iranian army came across the Jordan River, I would personally grab a rifle, get in a ditch, and fight and die," Clinton, who avoided the Vietnam War, said to cheers at a Hadassah children's charity fund-raising dinner Monday.
Jim Kennedy, a spokesman for Clinton, provided the transcript of his comments. Clinton's remarks were first reported in the Toronto Star.
Clinton tried to broker a Middle East peace accord in the waning days of his presidency. His wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, courted Jewish voters aggressively during her successful Senate bid in New York.
Clinton told the crowd of 350 on Monday that the best solution to the Middle East conflict is an interim settlement "to establish a Palestinian state now." Its creation, he said, must be preceded by a timetable and security assurances for Israel.
Clinton said Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat made "a disastrous mistake" turning down peace offers in the last months of his presidency, but there is still "reason for hope."
Clinton was accused of ducking the draft during the Vietnam era. He received an induction notice but got a deferment when he promised to participate in an army reserve program but he never joined it. He later withdrew his deferment but drew a lottery number too high to be drafted.