Hillary Makes Her Views Known

Original Title: Hillary: "I Wouldn't Hug Suha Now"

Robert Hardt Jr. and Gregg Birnbaum - The NY Post - October 6, 2000

Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday expressed her strongest regrets about embracing the wife of Yasser Arafat - saying she "wouldn't have gone" to the politically explosive event last year if she had been a senator.

"I want people to know that as a senator from New York, I will look out for and defend the interests of New Yorkers and I would never be in a situation like that," Clinton said at a forum in the Park East Synagogue on East 67th Street, sponsored by the Jewish Week newspaper.

"I would never find myself in that kind of difficult dilemma that I was in."

Clinton was responding to a question about one of her lowest points on the campaign trail - a visit to the West Bank last November where Suha Arafat claimed that Israel was poisoning the water supply of Palestinian women and children.

Clinton was criticized for embracing and kissing Mrs. Arafat following the speech - and for not immediately denouncing her remarks.

Asked if she would do anything differently today, Clinton said: "I wouldn't have gone - that's the first thing - and I was there obviously as a representative of the United States government and abided by the appropriate diplomatic protocol which was very unfortunate in the circumstances.

"I think it led to a misimpression about my strong feelings and support for Israel and security of Israel."

Clinton also revealed that she has spoken to the president about the case of Jonathan Pollard, a former naval intelligence analyst serving a life sentence in federal prison for spying for Israel.

The first lady said she believed that certain "secret evidence" used to prosecute the case should be released so that the public can determine whether Pollard received a fair sentence.

Clinton acknowledged telling her husband of her feelings about Pollard, saying: "I have made my views known, yes."

Clinton also refused to condemn Democratic veep candidate Joe Lieberman for saying he would meet with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

"I would not meet with him [Farrakhan] but I have the greatest respect and regard for Joe Lieberman," Clinton said.

Clinton never referred to the charges of anti-Semitism that have dogged Farrakhan's career, saying only that she wouldn't meet with him "because I don't find that would be a very useful thing for me to do."

"If that would not be useful for me, I would not do it."

Meanwhile, Rick Lazio, Clinton's rival in the race for U.S. Senate, campaigned in Albany where he picked up the endorsement of Mark McMahon, the political novice who ran against Clinton in the Democratic primary last month.

Several veteran political reporters were clearly puzzled over McMahon's identity as he began speaking on the steps of the state Capitol without introducing himself.

Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson ridiculed the event, saying: "If this is their October surprise, the Lazio campaign must be in worse shape than we thought."

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