- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 24, 2000

Vice President Al Gore charged yesterday that advisers to former President George Bush tried to "bully Israel" by offering loan guarantees as an inducement in peace efforts.

"In 1991, I vividly remember standing up against a group of administration foreign-policy advisers who promoted the insulting concept of linkage which tried to use loan guarantees as a stick to bully Israel," Mr. Gore said.

The Clinton administration charted "a new course," Mr. Gore told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee at the Washington Hilton Hotel.

"Unlike our immediate predecessors, we chose to get intimately involved, but we also established a firm new rule, and we have followed this rule faithfully: that we must not and would not in any way try to pressure Israel to agree to measures that they themselves did not see were in their own best interests."

On Monday, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, criticized the Clinton administration for trying to set negotiation timetables and for interfering in Israel's elections to support Ehud Barak, Israel's current prime minister.

"In recent times, Washington has tried to make Israel conform to its own plans and timetables, but that is not the path to peace," Mr. Bush said.

The Texas governor said, "America should not interfere in Israel's democratic process and America will not interfere in Israel's elections when I'm the president."

Mr. Bush also said that he would move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Mr. Gore yesterday reiterated America's "enduring support for a strong and unshakable partnership between the United States and Israel."

Mr. Gore also warned Syrian President Hafez Assad that the world community will hold Syria responsible for violence as Israel pulls out of southern Lebanon.

"Syria may choose not to pursue peace. It is Syria's choice. But make no mistake, Syria has no right to pursue a course of conflict that denies peace to others," Mr. Gore said.

"If peace does not come to this area, President Assad will bear a heavy responsibility before the entire world."

Mr. Gore said "a strong, peaceful and prosperous state of Israel" is "one of the cornerstones of America's national security."

He reiterated his call for a preemptive foreign policy of "forward engagement" and said the Middle East peace process will prove a key test of his policy.

"One of the great tests of this approach is in the Middle East, where we still wrestle with the classic questions of war and peace," Mr. Gore said.

"We see in the Middle East the emergence of new threats that must be addressed swiftly and definitively, but we also see the possibility of peace opening extraordinary new horizons."

He said that is why, two years ago, the United States and Israel established a new strategic partnership "ushering in an unprecedented level of military cooperation."

Mr. Gore said Iraq's Saddam Hussein remains an obstacle to peace in the Middle East.

"We have made it clear that it is our policy to see Saddam Hussein gone."

Mr. Gore said the United States must help integrate Israel into the global economy and foster greater trade in the region.

He said America also should "work with the Palestinians to establish transparent democratic institutions to fight corruption and to build a society built on the rule of law."

"When they pursue that path, we should be prepared to help them," he said.

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