Tags: Arafat | Backs | Kerry; | Israelis | Favor | Bush

Arafat Backs Kerry; Israelis Favor Bush

Tuesday, 19 October 2004 12:00 AM

Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority on Monday gave its first public indication of which candidate it would like to see in the White House next year.

Under a Kerry administration, however, "it would be likely that several staff members during Clinton's administration would return," Shaath said. "That would be a good thing, but it could take at least a year before a policy is formulated."

Elaborating on the PA's unhappiness with the incumbent, Palestine Media Center, an official PA institution, said Palestinians held the Bush administration responsible for Israel's isolation of Arafat since the end of 2001.

"Bush's refusal to deal with Arafat was interpreted by Palestinians as another 'green light' for Israel to impose and to maintain the siege on Arafat," it said.

The comments add substance to an assessment in July by Israel's military intelligence chief, Major-General Aharon Ze'evi, who was quoted as telling the cabinet, "Arafat is now waiting for the month of November in the hope that President Bush will be defeated in the presidential election and turned out of his office."

The PA's view on the election contrasts sharply with that of Israeli leaders, who have echoed the words spoken by former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Washington in 2002: "There has never been a greater friend of Israel in the White House than President George W. Bush."

Last week, in a coordinated survey of opinions in 10 key countries in Europe, Asia and North America, Israel was one of only two countries - the other was Russia - where poll respondents favored Bush over Kerry (by 50 percentage points to 24).

Other polls in Israel have indicated that a majority of Israelis are grateful to Bush for going to war against Iraq and toppling Saddam Hussein, a sworn enemy of the Jewish state.

Jewish organizations in the U.S. say Jewish voters base their choice largely on domestic issues, and most are liberals.

Writing in the Boston Globe last month, columnist Jeff Jacoby attributed Jewish loyalty to the Democrat ticket to historical factors.

"In the 19th and early 20th centuries, waves of Jewish immigrants from Europe, where the most anti-Semitic elements of society were often the most conservative, brought with them an intense aversion to right-wing politics - and an appreciation for the left, which they associated with emancipation and equality."

Jacoby argued that the U.S. in 2004 was a very different country. "American Jews owe it to themselves to base their political loyalty on something stronger than force of habit."

Israel is a very important factor for American Jews.

In its annual opinion survey, published last month, American Jewish Committee found that 75 percent of Jewish respondents felt "very close" or "fairly close" to Israel.

Seventy-four percent agreed that "caring about Israel is a very important part of my being a Jew."

Respondents in AJC's survey backed Kerry over Bush by 69 points to 24.

That support for the Democrats constitutes a drop from the last three elections. President Bill Clinton won 80 percent of the Jewish vote in 1992 and 78 percent in 1996. In 2000, Al Gore won 79 percent of the Jewish vote, and Bush garnered only 19 percent.

Republican Jewish Coalition has been drawing attention to other recent endorsements of Kerry, which it says Jewish voters should be worried about - those of Arab-American PAC and Muslim-American PAC.

"Clearly these groups do not support President Bush because of his unwavering support for Israel and his relentless war against Islamic terrorists," RJC executive director Matthew Brooks said in a statement Monday.

"The endorsements of John Kerry by these two anti-Israel groups speaks volumes and should serve as a warning to Jewish Americans who think John Kerry is on their side."

Brooks noted that Kerry called Arafat a "statesman" in his 1997 book, "The New War." ("Terrorist organizations with specific political agendas may be encourage by Yasser Arafat's transformation from outlaw to statesman," Kerry wrote.)

Bush has pointedly refused to invite Arafat to the White House during the past four years, a far cry from the days of the last Democrat administration, at the end of which Time magazine reported that "President Clinton has held more tete-a-tetes with the Palestinian leader than any other world leader during his eight years in office."

On its Web site, National Jewish Democratic Council presents what is says are the candidates' records on Israel.

On Arafat, it notes that Kerry said in March that the PA chairman had "proved himself to be irrelevant," but it makes no reference to the 1997 assessment of Arafat as a statesman.

As for Bush, NJDC noted that Bush in 2002 was quoted as saying he would not label Arafat a terrorist because he "has agreed to a peace process." The council made no reference to the fact Bush made Arafat persona non grata at the White House.

On Israel's security fence, NJDC highlighted the Bush administration's concerns about the route of the barrier rather than its support for Israel's right to build it.

It also ignored that fact that the administration opposed the right of International Court of Justice to rule on the matter.

On the other hand, it cited comments by Kerry in February and April 2004 showing that he "strongly supported Israel's right to build" the barrier.

NJDC made no mention of another Kerry quote on the fence, last October, when he told an Arab-American audience the fence was "provocative," "counterproductive" and a "barrier to peace."



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Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority on Monday gave its first public indication of which candidate it would like to see in the White House next year. Under a Kerry administration, however, "it would be likely that several staff members during Clinton's administration...
Tuesday, 19 October 2004 12:00 AM
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