WASHINGTON — There was little doubt about the impeachment vote of the Senate's 10 Jewish Democrats: All voted not guilty on both the perjury and obstruction of justices charges.
But Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the Senate's only Jewish Republican, surprised observers when he broke ranks with his party last Friday and voted to acquit President Clinton on both articles.
Specter, a former prosecutor, offered a unique vote. He rose and stated, "Not proved, therefore not guilty." He earlier announced he would vote that way in accordance with Scottish court practice, which he said allowed the nuance of "not proved" as an alternative verdict.
Other Jewish lawmakers distinguished themselves as well during the course of the trial.
Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wisc.) was the only Democrat to break party rank and vote against dismissing the charges against the president earlier in the trial. He also joined Republicans in voting to take depositions from the three witnesses called by the House managers.
At one point during the impeachment deliberations, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) brought up his Jewish background. In a speech on the Senate floor, he underscored his reverence for the Constitution's protections against "partisan prosecutions" and invoked his family's experience fleeing Nazi Germany.
And in the last matter of official business directly following Clinton's acquittal, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-S.F.) attempted to bring to the floor a censure resolution for which she had painstakingly gathered 38 signatures. It stated that Clinton had "deliberately misled and deceived the American people" and took actions "impeding" the judicial process.
Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas), however, threw up a parliamentary roadblock that prevented the measure from being considered. It appears unlikely the Senate will revisit the issue again.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cabled Clinton on Saturday to congratulate him and "the American people," on the Senate acquittal, adding that he hoped Clinton would now be able to concentrate more easily on the Middle East peace process.
"From now on you and the American people will be able to turn your attention back to other matters of the day, both inside and outside America," wrote Netanyahu in the cable. "First and foremost among them is the advancement of peace and security in our region."
However, an official at the Prime Minister's Office admitted that, in fact, Clinton's ordeal had not stopped him in any way from involving himself in the peace process. On the contrary, said the official, "perhaps it is because he wanted to divert his and the American public's attention from the case, that he worked even harder."