- The Washington Times - Friday, May 3, 2002

The House and Senate overwhelmingly approved pro-Israel resolutions yesterday as lawmakers denounced Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat for leading a terrorist organization.
"Homicide bombings are evil incarnate," said House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Texas Republican. "Let every terrorist know, the American people will never abandon freedom, democracy, or Israel. America will never permit the Jewish state to fall to aggression."
Lawmakers brushed aside concerns by the Bush administration that the declarations of support for Israel would complicate efforts to reach any agreements in the Middle East. The Senate vote was 94-2; the House approved its resolution 352-21.
"As President Bush said, 'You are either with us or you are with the terrorists.'" said Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat and co-author of the Senate measure. "Israel has been under siege."
The House resolution was worded more strongly and condemned Mr. Arafat by name for his "ongoing support of terror."
The White House softened some of Mr. DeLay's language in the resolution. The original draft criticized Arafat for "coordinating" terrorist attacks against Israel; the final version blamed "forces directly under Yasser Arafat's control."
The administration persuaded the House authors to add a paragraph calling on the international community to help "the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people."
There was a small but determined opposition in both chambers, despite the long history of U.S. support for Israel and the nonbinding nature of the resolutions. The two senators who voted "no" were Democrats Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia and Ernest F. Hollings of South Carolina.
"Peace in the Middle East is a two-way street," Mr. Byrd said. "Nowhere in this resolution is Israel called upon to fulfill its role in working for peace."
In the House, 29 members voted "present" in addition to the 21 "no" votes. Opponents of the resolution said it favored Israel without qualification and would hamper efforts by the United States to serve as an impartial broker for peace in the region.
"I think this is a green light for [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon to do things on a scale of what the Palestinians do killing civilians," said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican. "There are piles of bodies of innocent people on the other side as well. There are bad people on both sides who are willing to kill noncombatants."
But far more typical was the sentiment of Rep. Tom Lantos, California Democrat. "It is morally incumbent on us to express our solidarity" with Israel, he said.
In an unrelated development, a Muslim advocacy group demanded an apology from House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican, who said in a television interview that "the Palestinians should leave" the West Bank.
"Even the most extreme Israelis are reluctant to publicly advocate such an insane policy," said Jason Erb, governmental affairs director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Mr. Armey later issued a statement that his comment on MSNBC "does not reflect my views. I was merely trying to convey my strong belief that Israel should yield no further territory until its security is assured and that the individuals who support terrorist acts may properly be exiled from the area," Mr. Armey said.

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