WASHINGTON – Suicide bombings and other "evil tactics" used by Israel's enemies threaten the civilized world itself, the incoming House majority leader said Wednesday. He praised President Bush for "standing solidly with Israel."
"We cannot allow the flame of democracy to be extinguished by a wave of aggression," said Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, who as majority whip now ranks third among House leaders. "The terrorists attempting to destroy the state of Israel should know that America will never allow that to happen."
DeLay commended Bush for "resisting the constant calls to force Israel back to the negotiating table, where they will be pressured to grant concessions to terrorists."
"The free world must never negotiate with terrorists," he said in the text of a speech to be delivered Wednesday evening at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., where Winston Churchill gave his "Iron Curtain" speech a half-century ago.
"Suicide bombings specifically, and terrorism generally, are not a form of resistance -- they are cold-blooded murder," he said. "This hellish strategy of destruction menaces far more than the state of Israel. It is a threat to the entire civilized world."
DeLay praised Israel as a "lone light of democracy" in the region, "fending off an orchestrated onslaught of death ... by groups committed to her complete elimination."
He denounced the Yasser Arafat-led Palestinian Authority as an "impediment to peace."
"During four decades of terrorism, Yasser Arafat has proven his total contempt for human life," DeLay said. Therefore, he said, "We should support Israel as they dismantle the Palestinian leadership that foments violence and fosters hate."
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., took a different tack when asked about U.S. policy toward Israel, saying he had advised Bush to exercise caution.
"We don't want to jump into the middle of this," Hastert said during a political trip to Birmingham, Ala. "The best type of intervention is peaceful intervention, trying to get people to the table. I think that's what needs to be done."
But DeLay said the United States should "drop the empty pretense that we can serve the region as a mere broker. Israel is resisting a campaign of death," and the United States must stand squarely against the terrorist organizations attacking Israel.
DeLay's support for Bush follows a weekend during which three senators — a fellow Republican and two Democrats — said the president must try harder to stop the violence.
"I think we need to move aggressively with the Arab countries, where we think the financing is coming from," said Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa.
Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, "I think there needs to be something dramatic done, and that means the president has to step up his involvement."
And Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., demanded "much bolder moves" by the administration, saying Bush should send Secretary of State Colin Powell to the Middle East.
U.S. special envoy Anthony Zinni remains in the region, trying to work out a cease-fire. Vice President Dick Cheney was there last month, although on a mission originally planned to round up support for military action against Iraq.