Congress passes pro-Israel resolutions
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A week after the White House asked Congress to avoid action that could "inflame" the situation in the Middle East, the Senate Thursday approved resolution with pro-Israel sentiments.
The vote was 94-2, with Sens. Fritz Hollings, D-South Carolina, and Robert Byrd, D.-West Virginia, voting against it.
Minutes later the House approved its version 352-21, with 29 representatives voting "present."
The White House said it would have preferred Congress not take up the resolutions at all, but spokesman Ari Fleischer said the timing is "much better" now than a week ago because of encouraging developments in Israel.
Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, a sponsor of the House bill, worked with White House officials as late as Thursday morning to finalize language that would satisfy both the White House's desire to protect its diplomatic efforts and DeLay's desire to hold Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat accountable for allowing terrorist attacks to continue against Israeli citizens.
For instance, an earlier draft of the DeLay resolution condemned Arafat's "support and coordination" of terror. At the White House's request, that language was softened by dropping the word "coordination," an aide to the majority whip said.
Also, a paragraph was added that "encourages the international community to take action to alleviate the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people." The White House wanted the language added to reflect that not all Palestinians are responsible for the suicide attacks, the Delay aide said.
The Senate bill, written by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Connecticut, was considered milder by the White House and it did not ask for any changes in language.
The resolution states clear support for Israel's actions in the past month, even though the White House's repeated calls on Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to withdraw were generally ignored.
"The Senate stands in solidarity with Israel, a front-line state in the war against terrorism, as it takes necessary steps to provide security to its people by dismantling the terrorist infrastructure in the Palestinian areas," says the resolution.
It also "demands that the Palestinian Authority fulfill its commitment to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure in the Palestinian areas."
House Republicans had planned to move the DeLay resolution earlier this week. But they put it off after Secretary of State Colin Powell warned the language could "inflame" the situation because the original language directly linked Arafat to terrorism.
They quickly put the House resolution back in play after Lieberman announced his intention to move his resolution this week.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said he wanted to act before Sharon comes to Washington next week.
"I think it's important for us to express our solidarity with Israel as they are under attack with the suicide bombers that have so plagued their country over the last many months," Daschle said. "So, that is the intention. To simply restate our solidarity with the people of Israel."
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