By Munir K. Nasser
The battle to win Jewish votes in the New York race for the US Senate heated up this week when Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was accused by Republican challenger Rick Fazio of having “close relationship” with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.
Fazio, who recently joined the race after former candidate Rudolph W. Giuliani withdrew following his diagnosis with prostate cancer, charged that Hillary Clinton is a good friend of Arafat and his wife Suha and has “embraced them” when she visited the Middle East.
Fazio’s comments, published in a New York Jewish newspaper, came in reference to Hillary Clinton's visit to the West Bank last year, in which she hugged and kissed Suha Arafat after giving a speech accusing the Israelis of poisoning Palestinian women and children with tear gas. The incident turned into a campaign nightmare for Hillary, hurting her standing with Jewish voters.
Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson responded to Fazio’s accusation by saying, "New Yorkers know Hillary is a strong supporter of a safe and secure Israel at peace with its neighbors. It's too bad that all Congressman Lazio can offer is recycled attacks.”
Lazio claims he got an eyewitness view of Clinton's coziness with the Arafats when he traveled with the Clintons to the Gaza Strip in late 1998 as a congressional representative.
The four-term New York congressman also suggested Hillary Clinton lacks experience in the Israeli cause and said that should raise doubts with voters. "I think people can rightfully ask about our records and who has shown an unwavering commitment to the state of Israel," he said. "New Yorkers who are pro-Israel - and there are an awful lot of us - need to look at what people say and do - not when they're a candidate, but before they are in political spotlight: what they've been doing the last eight years."
Fazio, 42, expressed serious reservations about the establishment of a Palestinian state, which he claims Clinton supported before she became a candidate and now says should be decided at the negotiating table. "I have to say I am concerned about the creation of a state, especially in the West Bank, where you have islands of [Palestinian] sovereignty surrounded by areas that may be under the control of Israel - whether or not that creates a kind of Balkan situation that isn't sustainable."
Fazio argues that Jerusalem should not be divided, but should be recognized as the capital of the Jewish state, and should be the home of the US embassy, which is in Tel Aviv - all positions shared by the first lady -- Albawaba.com
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