Torricelli Says Israelis Prepare for Iraqi Attacks; Ethics Still Race Issue after Return from Mideast.(NATION)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 16, 2002 | Go to article overview

Torricelli Says Israelis Prepare for Iraqi Attacks; Ethics Still Race Issue after Return from Mideast.(NATION)


Byline: Amy Fagan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Sen. Robert G. Torricelli, New Jersey Democrat, returned yesterday from Israel, saying Israelis are "making serious efforts to prepare" for attacks by Iraq should the United States go to war against Saddam Hussein's regime.

Mr. Torricelli, whose seemingly insurmountable lead for re-election has vanished since he was admonished by the Senate Select Committee on Ethics, traveled independently to Israel and met government and military officials.

"They understand the enormous dangers to the population of Israel if a war is begun, and they also know the overriding dangers if war is now avoided and Saddam Hussein develops weapons of mass destruction," he told reporters at a briefing yesterday.

Political analyst Cliff Zukin said that by taking the trip to Israel, Mr. Torricelli is "trying to change the subject" and divert attention away from the ethics problems.

Rick Thigpen, a Democratic analyst in New Jersey, pointed out Mr. Torricelli has a lot of experience, including in foreign affairs, that may very well speak to voters deciding between him and Republican Party challenger Doug Forrester.

Polls indicate that support for Mr. Torricelli has declined since he was admonished by the Senate panel in late July for violating rules by accepting expensive gifts from businessman David Chang.

A poll released last week by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute found the two candidates tied at 37 percent, with 19 percent undecided, for the November election.

Mr. Zukin, head of the Eagleton Institute at Rutgers University, said the race is clearly a battle of issue definition. "Forrester wants to talk about ethics, and Torricelli wants to talk about anything but," he said.

Mr. Zukin said about 9 percent of the state's registered voters are Jewish, so it is not a particularly large voting block. But, he said, financial contributions from this section are very important in elections, "more so than the numbers."

The senator said that in deciding when to make a move against Iraq, the United States must consider whether Israel is fully ready to defend itself and whether America has done everything possible to get allies and access to bases to minimize U.S. casualties.

"The United States can remove Saddam Hussein from power and destroy his weapons of mass destruction without question, what is required is to do this in minimizing the casualties of the United States Armed Forces," said Mr. …

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