“Don’t Meet With Arafat,” Members Of Congress Urge Cheney At ZOA Press Conference On Capitol Hill
March 22, 2002

Congressmembers Urge:
Let Israel Defend Itself

WASHINGTON, D.C.- Just hours after the latest Palestinian Arab suicide bombing in Jerusalem, prominent Members of Congress and Jewish and Christian leaders held an emergency Capitol Hill press conference, to urge Vice President Dick Cheney to refrain from meeting with Yasir Arafat, and to affirm Israel’s right to do whatever is necessary to defend itself against Arafat’s terrorism.

The press conference, on March 21, 2002, was sponsored by U.S. Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY), a member of the House International Relations Committee, and was organized by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA).

Also participating in the press conference were U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY; U.S. Representative Shelly Berkley (D-NV), a member of the House International Relations Committee; U.S. Representative Mike Pence (R-IN); Gary Bauer, a former Reagan administration official and one-time candidate for the Republican presidential nomination; and ZOA National President Morton A. Klein.

The media covering the event included NBC-TV and CNN.

The speakers at the press conference charged that a Cheney meeting with Arafat now would constitute a “reward for terrorism.” The speakers also expressed their support for the right of Israel to take strong military action against terrorists, just as the U.S. is taking strong military action against terrorists in Afghanistan; they criticized the growing pressure on Israel to make one-sided concessions to Yasir Arafat; and they urged the Bush administration to add Arafat’s Fatah and Force 17 groups to the official U.S. list of terrorist organizations.

Representative Engel said, “The U.S. must now put Arafat and the PLO on the State Department terrorism list. I don’t see how Vice President Cheney can meet with Arafat when the PLO is committing acts of terror on a daily basis. Not only has Arafat not failed to make a 100% effort against terrorism, but it is becoming increasingly clear that he is behind virtually 100% of the terrorism.”

Representative Berkley emphasized that “America, which acts as it sees fit in fighting terrorists in Afghanistan, can’t urge Israel to use restraint in fighting terrorists. Arafat has had chance after chance and has made it clear he has no interest in peace.”

Representative Pence said that he “no longer can tolerate the mealy-mouthed statements from the State Department, such as saying that Israel’s self-defense actions are ‘unhelpful’.” He urged the Bush administration to “stop suggesting there is moral equivalency between the barbaric actions of Arafat’s regime and the legitimate military force that Israel uses to defend itself.”

Mr. Bauer said “The administration’s embrace of Arafat is an obscenity.” He said he has “become disappointed in the Bush administration’s actions toward Israel during the last several months.” Mr. Bauer added: “We in the Christian community demand that Congress stand with Israel and must end all aid to the Palestinians. I pledge to Morton Klein and to the Members of Congress here today to organize and galvanize the Christian community to even greater support for Israel.”

ZOA president Klein said: “If the United States can go 10,000 miles across the world to fight terrorists in Afghanistan, Israel has the right to go across the street to fight terrorists who murder its citizens every day. Vice President Cheney said that he would meet with Arafat if terrorism stops, and since his statement, there were 20 terrorist attacks in which 11 Israelis were murdered and over 100 wounded —and since Arafat continues paying suicide bombers’ families $25,000— we urge Cheney to refrain from meeting with Arafat now or ever, just as he would not meet with Osama Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein.”

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