Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Tom DeLay (R-Texas), majority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, told Israelis in Jerusalem on Wednesday not to fear in their war against terrorism.
DeLay, who is a on a weeklong visit to the region, said that victory in the war on terrorism depends on the survival of Israel and U.S. support for the Jewish state would never falter.
Speaking to Israeli parliamentarians and guests at the Knesset in Jerusalem, DeLay charged that it was Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Yasser Arafat and terrorist groups and not Israel who are oppressing the Palestinian people.
The Texas Republican, who is a born-again Christian and staunch supporter of Israel, has been sharply critical of the U.S.-sponsored "road map."
President Bush has hosted both PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in separate visits at the White House during the last week in order to press ahead with implementation of the road map.
Many evangelical Christians who supported Bush in the last election are opposed to the road map - which calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state by 2005 - and are trying to make it an issue in upcoming elections.
Steering clear of a possible controversy, DeLay didn't mention the road map but focused his comments instead on the war against terrorism. He said that Bush's "leadership and clarity" made Middle East peace "possible" and victory in the war against terrorism "inevitable."
Traveling with Florida Republican Congressman Ander Crenshaw and their wives, DeLay met with former "refuseniks" - immigrants from the former Soviet Union who were refused the right to immigrate to Israel - visited the Western Wall and met the owner of the Moment Caf\'e9 in Jerusalem, which has been rebuilt after it was destroyed last year by a suicide bomber who killed 11 people and wounded more than 50.
He also met a woman whose daughter and son-in-law were killed in a suicide bombing attack on a bus while they were on the way home from seeing a sonogram image of their third child, he said.
Describing himself as an "Israeli of the heart," DeLay said that the bond between Israel and the U.S. is based on the "endowment of our God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness...the universal solidarity of freedom.
"In its name, I come to you - in the midst of a great global conflict against evil - with a simple message: 'Be not afraid,'" he said to rousing applause.
"My country is not ignorant, nor are we indifferent to your struggle. We know our victory in the war on terror depends on Israel's survival," DeLay added.
"Israel's liberation from Palestinian terror is an essential component of the victory. And it's a liberation we are determined to secure - not merely a paper-thin cease-fire.
"False security is no security, and murderers who take 90-day vacations are still murderers," DeLay said in an obvious reference to the three-month pact between the PA and terrorist organizations to halt attacks.
Both Washington and Israel have welcomed the temporary respite from massive violence over the last month but have demanded that the PA act to dismantle terrorist organizations.
"An immediate and total end to Palestinian terrorism is not a concession the civilized world asks of the Palestinian Authority to advance the peace process," he said. "It is a prerequisite to the Palestinian Authority's invitation to it."
A month ago, the House overwhelmingly passed a resolution - co-authored by DeLay - recognizing Israel's right to fight terrorism and acknowledging Israel's fight as part of the global war against terrorism.
DeLay said the resolution underscored years of support for Israel in Congress and the position of the American people that "Israel's fight is our fight. And so it shall be until the last terrorist on earth is in a cell or a cemetery."
DeLay, who met with PA Finance Minister Salam Fayyad during his trip here, said that the Palestinian people have been "oppressed and abused by a pernicious enemy."
But that enemy is not Israel, he said, it is Yasser Arafat, Hamas, Hizballah and "the vast network of violent men who threaten this region like so many desert scorpions.
"Democracies must only make peace with those men capable of it," DeLay said, adding that he hoped Abbas was up to the task of ridding the Palestinian people of terrorist leaders.
Abbas has pledged to put an end to violence and - to that end - established a temporary truce with terror groups, but last week, he said that cracking down on those groups and their leaders was out of the question.
DeLay called on the international community to isolate Arafat and not validate the "lie" of terrorism that he is a legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
Bush has consistently refused to meet with Arafat, and Israel has declared him "irrelevant," but European countries continue to send the emissaries to visit and meet with him in what is left of his Ramallah compound.
Speaking to reporters after DeLay's speech, Likud Knesset member Uzi Landau said that the congressman's statements fit both Israel's and America's sentiments on terrorism.
"You do not negotiate with terror. You're not trying to reach a cease-fire with them. You rather do whatever possible to eradicate them," said Landau, who also opposes the road map in its current form.
Landau has argued that the road map deviates from Bush's own plan for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, which he outlined in a Middle East policy speech in June of last year.
Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.