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Gulf Crisis May Benefit Israel, State Department Official Says

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The Persian Gulf crisis could result in positive changes and ultimately greater peace and prosperity for Israel and its Arab neighbors, a State Department official told B’nai B’rith leaders here this week.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s blatant disregard for human rights and his reign of terror in Iraq and Kuwait will end in victory for the international community and United States, Aaron David Miller, a member of the department’s policy planning staff, said during B’nai B’rith International’s 35th biennial convention here Tuesday.

“No one should doubt the United States’ staying power” in Saudi Arabia, said Miller, a pinch-hitter for Assistant Secretary of State John Kelly, who was unable to attend because of the Gulf crisis.

“It is absolutely imperative that Iraq not be allowed to prevail in this crisis,” Miller said.

He said a possible outcome of the confrontation with Iraq “could be Israel living in a less dangerous neighborhood.”

The guest speaker assured nearly 1,000 members of the world’s largest Jewish organization that Israel’s security and its recognition by all Middle East countries remain an important part of the Bush administration’s policies.

The danger of Saddam Hussein was brought home to convention delegates earlier in the week by Moshe Arad, Israel’s outgoing ambassador to Washington.

“We meet at an ominous moment in history,” he said in an address to the convention Sunday night. “There is global consensus that he is a menace to the peace, stability and security not only of that region, but of the entire democratic and industrialized world.”

In Israel, he said, “we take the Iraqi threat very seriously, and we are prepared to respond to any act of aggression against us, to defend ourselves effectively,” he said.

“The Iraqi crisis ought to tell the people of the United States something about who American’s friends are in the region,” Arad said.

That lesson is not lost on the Bush administration, Miller indicated in his speech. “We support Israel because it is right,” he said. And we support Israel because it is in the United States’ national interest.”

The B’nai B’rith convention featured a number of other prominent speakers, including the nation’s first black governor, L. Douglas Wilder of Virginia, and Simcha Dinitz, chairman of the Jewish Agency Executive.

In a hotly contested race that came to a vote on the plenary floor Wednesday, the convention elected Kent Schiner of Baltimore to replace Seymour Reich as B’nai B’rith president. Schiner defeated Richard Heideman of Washington.

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