- The Washington Times - Friday, March 14, 2003

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell yesterday denied that "a small cabal" of pro-Israeli American Jews had masterminded the Bush administration's drive toward war with Iraq.
Mr. Powell, in an extraordinary exchange at the beginning of a congressional hearing devoted to foreign-aid spending, became the highest U.S. official to date to enter the incendiary debate that has seen charges of anti-Semitism and dual loyalty among senior U.S. policy-makers and pundits.
"The strategy with respect to Iraq has derived from our interest in the region and our support of U.N. resolutions over time," Mr. Powell told a House Appropriations subcommittee.
"It is not driven by any small cabal that is buried away somewhere, that is telling President Bush or me or Vice President [Richard B.] Cheney or [National Security Adviser Condoleezza] Rice or other members of the administration what our policies should be," he said.
A sharp subterranean debate burst into the open earlier this month after Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, suggesting that the influence of American Jews had pushed the country to the brink of a war with Saddam Hussein.
The White House and senior Republican and Democratic lawmakers condemned Mr. Moran's remarks. The congressman quickly apologized for his comments.
But others, including a number of left-wing antiwar groups and commentators such as conservative columnist Pat Buchanan, have made the charge much more pointedly, arguing that many of the most effective war advocates in the U.S. government are neoconservative Jews with a long history of strong support for Israel and its security needs.
Israeli and Jewish influence on U.S. foreign policy is a staple of news reports in the Arab world and has been given a much broader airing even in Western European newspapers.
Recent editorial cartoons in leading Arab newspapers depict President Bush as a string puppet of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and suggest Mr. Sharon will use the possible outbreak of war in Iraq to an excuse to begin killing Palestinians.
Mr. Moran's critics counter that opinion polls show support among U.S. Jews for an Iraqi war is equal to or even lower than that among voters as a whole, and that Mr. Moran's suggestion that American Jews are a monolithic bloc with the power to move U.S. policy smacks of anti-Semitism.
Mr. Powell was asked to comment on the controversy by subcommittee Chairman Rep. Jim Kolbe, Arizona Republican.
Mr. Kolbe said he was "hesitant to raise the issue" at all, but invited Mr. Powell to "help end any speculation that our policy was developed and is being pushed in some kind of conspiratorial manner by supporters of Israel, or Saudi Arabia, or any other [ethnic] group or nation."
Mr. Powell said U.S. policy toward Iraq had evolved over a dozen years, covering two presidential administrations and a long series of U.N. resolutions demanding Saddam Hussein disarm, culminating in the current Security Council debate on whether to use force against Baghdad.
"It is driven by our own national interests. It is driven by us trying to help the United Nations do its job. It is driven by our concern for the people of Iraq," Mr. Powell said.
He said the United States has been one of Israel's strongest supporters for half a century, but added, "We have other friends in the region."
He said the United States also has close alliances with Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and President Bush is committed to the establishment of a Palestinian state on Israel's borders.
The looming confrontation with Iraq "is not just the result of a few individuals who are running loose, as some suggest, but it's a comprehensive policy developed over the years with the support of Congress," Mr. Powell said.
Christopher Wolf, head of the Washington office of the Anti-Defamation League, said Mr. Moran had "merely brought to the surface the strong undercurrent of anti-Semitism at play in the United States."
He said he welcomed Mr. Powell's answer but feared forcing a top government official even to acknowledge the issue in a congressional hearing room would feed anti-Semitic stereotypes.
"Just raising the question plants in the mind of anti-Semites the false idea that our Iraq policy is really driven by Jews and the state of Israel," Mr. Wolf said.

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