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Arafat Backs Kerry, Israelis Favor Bush

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Arafat Backs Kerry, Israelis Favor Bush
By Patrick Goodenough

CNSNews.com Pacific Rim Bureau Chief
October 19, 2004

(CNSNews.com) - Relying on the traditional support of Jewish voters,
the Kerry-Edwards campaign may not welcome news from the Middle East on
how the parties to the Arab-Israeli conflict view the election.

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.

"If [President] Bush wins, he said he would renew efforts to resume the
peace process," PA foreign minister Nabil Shaath told the BBC in
London. "However, with the staff that surrounds him and with his current
opinions, it doesn''t look promising."

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, the 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 last 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 view on the electi! on 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.

"Force of habit''

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 Democra! tic 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, and
said "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, the American Jewish
Committee (AJC) 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 the AJC survey backed Kerry over B! ush by 69 points to
24.

That support for the Democrats constitutes a drop-off from the last
three elections. President 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 while Bush only garnered 19 percent.

The Republican Jewish Coalition has been drawing attention to some
other recent endorsements of Kerr, which it says Jewish voters should be
worried about - those of the Arab-American PAC and the 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 Ara! fat 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 Democratic
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 website, the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) presents
what is says are the candidates'' records on Israel.

On Arafat, it notes that Kerry said last 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, the 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, the 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
the 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.

The 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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