Last night, the State Department posted 7,000 pages of Hillary Clinton’s emails as Secretary of State, as part of a rolling release of her communications in government. Previous batches have been scrutinized for Clinton’s attitude towards Israel and BDS. But this latest collection contained the presidential contender’s most Jewish–and most mystifying–email of all:
The email and its open-ended question quickly gave rise to speculation: Was Clinton rushing to procure gefilte fish for her upcoming seder? Or did she perhaps snack on it during her spare time while criss-crossing the globe? But the truth, as ever, is stranger than the fiction.
As former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren recounts in his memoir, at the time, Clinton was actually working to avert a crisis in the U.S.-Israel relationship–over a blocked American shipment to Israel of Asian carp:
“My district already has twenty-five percent unemployment and Israel’s going to jack it up to thirty percent,” Illinois congressman Donald Manzullo, a Republican, practically shouted into the phone. “You’ve impounded nine containers–nine–of our frozen Asian carp.”
My first year in office had posed successive and seemingly unsurpassable challenges. …But none of the year’s instructive experiences prepared me for this. Fish.
I tried to calm the congressman, assuring him that I would do my utmost to free the embargoed fillets, but my options were in fact few. America signed its first-ever free-trade agreement with Israel back in 1985, but the treaty exempted certain Israeli products liable to be eradicated by their cheaper American counterparts. Apples, avocados, and oranges fell into this category, and so, too, did the carp cultivated by Galilean farmers. Which was why 400 pounds of the frozen Illinois fish were denied entry to the Promised Land.
Still, in view of the possible diplomatic damage, I thought Israel should make this one exception, and told that to the Ministers of Trade and Finance. Congressman Manzullo, meanwhile, ramped up the pressure. He phoned me incessantly, using increasingly acrimonious tones, and complained to the secretary of state. “You think finding Middle East peace is hard,” Secretary of State Clinton blithely told reporters. “I’m dealing with carp!” Netanyahu called to question me, “What’s all this carp stuff?” I urged him to focus on Israel’s critical issues and leave the fish to me.
Days of effort passed before a compromise was finally achieved. On a one-time, non-precedent basis, the nine containers were unloaded in Israeli ports. A now-composed Congressman Manzullo called to thank me and to ask, “Why do you Israelis need so much carp?” Realizing that his question was genuine, I explained that the Jewish people would soon celebrate Passover, when they traditionally eat gefilte fish. “Carp, Congressman, is the main ingredient.”
So now you know.