- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 28, 2002

The Senate's second-ranking Democrat said yesterday that the chamber will "pass overwhelmingly" a resolution that affirms it "stands in solidarity with Israel" and "Israel's right to self-defense."
"If there is a problem in the Middle East, it's that man Arafat," said Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, majority whip, on CNN's "Saturday Edition with Kate Snow," referring to Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestinian Authority.
Asked whether he will support the resolution introduced by Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, Mr. Reid, who is also assistant majority leader, said: "For me, that's easy to do. I think what has gone on in the Middle East is terrible. I don't think Israel had any choice but to do what they have done." He was referring to recent Israeli incursions into Palestinian cities in an effort to root out suicide bombers and other terrorists.
"Think about it. If we had these suicide bombers coming from Canada or Mexico, would we want to react and clear out an area so we could stop them? The answer, of course, is yes," Mr. Reid said.
On Friday, House Republicans delayed a vote on a resolution that goes beyond the Senate's version because it contains anti-Arafat language, which the Bush administration has said could undermine Mideast peace efforts. The House resolution sponsored by Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, and Rep. Tom Lantos, California Democrat supports Israel's fight against the Palestinians and condemns Mr. Arafat.
On Tuesday, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell spoke to leaders of both houses of Congress and told them that further legislation on the Middle East would not help U.S. efforts to obtain a cease-fire and get the combatants back to the peace table. Nevertheless, a bill the Bush administration opposes, which would give Israel an additional $200 million in aid to cope with the military crisis, could be voted on in the House this week.
Two weeks ago, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, seemed wary of the prospect of having a pro-Israel resolution debated on the Senate floor. However, Mr. Daschle was listed as a sponsor of the Lieberman resolution when it was introduced April 22.
In the CNN interview yesterday, Mr. Reid gave no indication the Senate will postpone a vote on the resolution. He said only that it will "pass overwhelmingly."
An aide to Mr. Lieberman said Friday that the senator has received no pressure from the White House to withdraw the resolution.
Asked whether Congress should stay out of foreign policy, Mr. Reid said: "Well, you know, the legislative branch of government has equal power to the executive branch of government. I think the secretary of State and the president should be able to direct our foreign policy. But the legislative branch has an obligation and a right to speak out on foreign policy."
In a separate interview, Rep. Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican and chairman of the International Relations Committee, said he's "glad" Mr. DeLay withdrew his pro-Israel, anti-Arafat resolution "for the moment."
"I think we're trying to get beyond who is at fault and get to the point of what needs to be done to have a cease-fire, what needs to be done to avoid an all-out conflagration," Mr. Hyde said yesterday on CNN's "Novak, Hunt & Shields."
"The resolution, while it would pass comfortably, would not advance discussions between the two parties. And so I think there's merit in holding back on it," Mr. Hyde added.
He said it's "unfortunate" the Israelis have not fully withdrawn from occupied territories of the West Bank, more than three weeks after President Bush first asked them to. "It does diminish the impact of the president's wishes over there in that part of the world," he said.
However, Mr. Hyde hastened to add: "I find it difficult to be critical" of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, "whose objective is to protect his people" from "homicide bombings" and other violence by Palestinian militants.
"You really can't expect Sharon to lay down or to take orders from us while his people are under such direct attack so repeatedly," the congressman said.

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