- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 2, 2002

Senate Democrats pressed ahead yesterday with a pro-Israel resolution despite opposition from the White House, prompting a top House Republican to revive his similar resolution that the administration had quelled.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle told President Bush that it was "important for the Senate to go on record" and that he planned to bring up the resolution for a vote as early as this week.
But White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Mr. Bush is concerned that "no foreign policy can survive 535 different secretaries of state."
"The president understands that it's delicate right now in the Middle East," Mr. Fleischer said.
Mr. Daschle said, "We don't need an endorsement" from the White House.
Last week, the White House persuaded House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, to shelve his pro-Israel resolution, arguing that it could inflame the situation in the Middle East.
Mr. DeLay's measure expressed support for Israel and condemned "the ongoing coordination of terror" by Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.
The Senate resolution authored by Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, and Gordon H. Smith, Oregon Republican expresses solidarity with Israel. As originally proposed, it also "demands that the Palestinian Authority fulfill its commitment to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure in the Palestinian areas."
Lieberman spokesman Dan Gerstein said the White House "weighed in with suggestions for changing the Senate resolution." But he said Mr. Lieberman and other sponsors decided to keep the original language.
With the Senate proceeding on its resolution, Mr. DeLay and other Republican leaders scheduled a House vote on his proposal today. The White House was working with Mr. DeLay yesterday to rewrite his resolution.
A senior House Republican aide said the administration asked for the DeLay resolution to state that there were Palestinians interested in peace and to change the reference from Mr. Arafat "coordinating" terror to "tolerating" terror.
The House resolution also is expected to include support for "additional U.S. assistance to help Israel defend itself."
Both resolutions are nonbinding, but the behind-the-scenes negotiations show the White House's sensitivity to any action that could tip the balance in Middle East talks, as well as Congress' high level of commitment to defend Israel.
"It's touch and go on foreign policy," said DeLay spokesman Stuart Roy. "It's a delicate situation, and [Mr. DeLay] wants to be a team player."
House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, said it is imperative for Americans "to speak with one voice as much as humanly possible and be together." He also said he supported the Senate resolution but refused to say whether he would back Mr. DeLay's resolution.
"Israel is in a moment of great danger," Mr. Gephardt said. "So we've got to speak with one voice. We have to support Israel, the only democracy in the region. We have to be a leader for peace and the resumption of peace negotiations."
When first proposed, the Senate resolution commended Israel as "a frontline state in the war against terrorism." It said the United States "will continue to assist Israel in strengthening its homeland defenses" and condemned Palestinian suicide bombings.
Mr. Fleischer said the White House was working with lawmakers on the resolutions because the president "understands the urgings of Congress to speak out in a nonbinding way."
"On the other hand, the carrying out of foreign policy is the purview of the executive branch," he said.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell urged Mr. DeLay last week to withdraw his resolution because "further legislation on the Middle East was not going to be helpful to our efforts," a State Department spokesman said. Mr. DeLay initially refused to budge; he relented only after a call from the White House.
The administration fears that too much attention to U.S. support for Israel could prove embarrassing to Arab allies, who are facing popular anger over recent Israeli actions.
The question of additional money for Israel also is a subject of intense debate as lawmakers prepare to draw up their own appropriations bill for the $27 billion supplemental anti-terror package requested by the White House.


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