- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle yesterday said U.S. backing for Israel must remain "absolute," and he criticized European, Arab and U.N. officials for anti-Semitism and unfairness toward the Jewish state.

"Our commitment to Israel must be unshakable it must be absolute," he told a luncheon crowd of several thousand at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the country's largest pro-Israel lobbying group.

"The United States must honor a commitment to preserve Israel's military superiority," he said.

"The U.S. Senate will continue to stand with Israel in these difficult days now" as it did in Israel's war with Arab states in 1967 and 1973, said Mr. Daschle, South Dakota Democrat.

"As long as I am majority leader of the United States Senate, we will be a friend to Israel in fair weather and in foul."

He criticized Palestinian Authority chief Yasser Arafat for rejecting Israel's offer two years ago at Camp David to return 97 percent of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a home for a Palestinian state.

"Instead of giving his people something real to live for, he gave them something false to die for," he said.

Last night, President Bush sent his chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., who assured those gathered that "to the core of his being, the president knows the U.S.-Israel friendship is deep and enduring."

"Neither complacency nor crisis can shake the U.S. commitment to Israel's success and security," he said. "Since September 11, we are bound closer than ever before."

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu then told AIPAC that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and Mr. Arafat must be driven from power.

"Get rid of Arafat and get rid of that regime," he said. "As long as [Mr. Arafat] is there, terrorism will not stop. Hussein and Arafat both have to go. Militant Islam is more of a threat than communism."

Earlier in the day, conservative pundit and editor William Kristol told the AIPAC convention that President Bush had made "unfortunate" moves on the Middle East.

He criticized Mr. Bush's call for Israel to pull back troops before completing military operations in the West Bank.

He also said the president's decision to send Vice President Richard B. Cheney and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to the Middle East was a mistake because they failed to win Arab support for an end to violence.

Mr. Kristol, a former aide to Vice President Dan Quayle and editor at the Weekly Standard, said, however, that Mr. Bush had appeared to shift policy.

"I think now he's back," in support of a strongly pro-Israel policy, said Mr. Kristol.


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