- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 4, 2002

Leaders of the nation's most powerful pro-Israel lobby have been conducting behind-the-scenes negotiations with Rep. John H. Sununu, anticipating his victory over Sen. Robert C. Smith in the New Hampshire Republican primary Tuesday.
"American Israel Public Affairs Committee leaders believe Sununu is likely to defeat Smith" in the Senate primary and go on to face Democratic candidate Gov. Jeanne Shaheen in the November general election, the Washington representative of a major Jewish organization said yesterday.
The purpose of the private talks between Mr. Sununu, who is of Palestinian-Arab descent, and AIPAC leaders is to try to wring concessions from the New Hampshire Republican on policy positions toward Israel if he is elected to the Senate, according to American Jewish leaders who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
"Senior members of the leadership of AIPAC their lay leadership and top staff, including [AIPAC executive director] Howard Kohr have already begun working aggressively with Sununu in the expectation that he is going to win the primary," said another Jewish leader with close ties to major pro-Israel organizations. "And the past national chairman, Mayer 'Bubba' Mitchell from Mobile, Ala., has spoken with Sununu several times."
"They are doing this to try to cut their losses if Sununu wins," the Jewish leader said. "They are unwilling to go after Sununu and are trying to co-opt him instead."
Ed Levey, a member of the AIPAC executive committee, also has been involved in private talks with Mr. Sununu, a Jewish activist source said.
However, AIPAC spokeswoman Rebecca Needler denied the organization was having any special discussions with Mr. Sununu or was trying to co-opt him. She said: "That has no basis in reality. AIPAC has met with virtually every Senate candidate across the country and has worked with them to write position papers concerning their views on the U.S.-Israel relationship."
Some Jewish leaders have criticized Mr. Sununu for what they say are his anti-Israel views and voting record. Mr. Sununu is challenging Mr. Smith, who has served 18 years in the Senate, in the Republican primary. Mr. Smith is known on Capitol Hill as a strong proponent of the Jewish state.
The latest opinion polls show the Republican Senate primary a statistical dead heat.
Mr. Sununu's Arab heritage and accusations that he is soft on terrorism were expected to be used by Mr. Smith during the campaign.
Mr. Smith has steadfastly said he will refrain from playing the "ethnic card" or engaging in accusations that his opponent is not tough enough on Arab terrorism.
Matthew Brooks, who heads a Jewish Republican organization that is pro-Israel, said the American Jewish community will intervene in the New Hampshire Republican primary.
"Bob Smith has gotten a significant amount of support from the Jewish community," Mr. Brooks said.
"I think the intervention will not be by the same scale and degree of mobilization as" the Jewish community used to help defeat Democratic Reps. Cynthia A. McKinney of Georgia and Earl F. Hilliard of Alabama in their primary elections last month, Mr. Brooks added. The two Democrats had criticized U.S. support of Israel.
None of the Jewish leaders interviewed equated Mr. Sununu's views on Israel with those of Mrs. McKinney or Mr. Hilliard.
"McKinney and Hilliard were so strident and visible, and their rhetoric so bad on Palestinians, the Middle East peace process and the war on terror, that no matter whether you were a Republican or a Democrat, it was clearly important to mobilize around the cause of beating them in their primaries," Mr. Brooks said.
Some Jewish leaders, however, were outspoken yesterday in their opposition to Mr. Sununu.
"We're supporting Bob Smith in the primary, and if Sununu wins, we will certainly be supporting Shaheen in the general [election]," said Morrie Amitay, a founder of the pro-Israel Washington Political Action Committee. "Shaheen has authored a very fine Middle East position paper, while Sununu's record in the House can only be described as dismal."
Mr. Amitay said he, along with many other Jewish leaders, do not regard Mr. Sununu as an enemy of the Jewish state.
"I would not consider him as drinking the blood of Jewish children, but when two candidates are running against each other, you try to go with the one who has the better position," Mr. Amitay said.

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