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Blame Game

Hillary, Lazio Fault Arafat for Mideast Violence

N E W Y O R K, Oct. 4 - Stepping up their rhetoric on the recent spate
of violence in the Middle East, Rep. Rick Lazio and Hillary Rodham Clinton
have been taking turns pointing the finger of blame at Palestinian leader
Yasser Arafat.
"It is important that we understand and put the blame where it ought
to be placed, and that's at the feet of the Palestinians and the
Palestinian leadership and Yasser Arafat," Lazio said today, campaigning
today in Suffern, N.Y., as the Republican candidate in New York's Senate
race.
Asked today by a journalist who identified himself as Palestinian if
he felt sorry for the Palestinian children killed in recent days, Lazio
responded, "It is a tragedy and my heart does go out to those children.
But I think we need to understand that it's not the children who are at
fault, it's the Palestinian leadership that's at fault.
Lazio added that Palestinian leaders had been "training young people
how to kill Israelis. We need to change that mentality."
More than 60 people have been killed in fighting on the West Bank and
in the Gaza Strip over the last week.
Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic candidate in the race, stepped
up her own rhetoric while addressing reporters in Buffalo.
"It is incumbent upon Chairman Arafat to do everything in his power
to stop the violence and to maintain the cease-fire," said Mrs. Clinton.
"He also must make it clear that violence is not an acceptable political
statement."
Israeli-Palestinian relations have been a consistently thorny issues
for the candidates in a state where between 10 percent and 15 percent of
the vote tends to be Jewish.
Mrs. Clinton has struggled to gain the kind of support from New
York's Jewish community usually enjoyed by Democratic candidates, in part
because of her 1998 call for a Palestinian state.
Mrs. Clinton was also heavily criticized for embracing Arafat's wife,
Suha Arafat, after a speech last fall in which Mrs. Arafat accused Israel
of using poison gas on Palestinian women and children.
Lazio was among those finding Mrs. Clinton at fault for the embrace,
but a photo released by the White House last month showed him broadly
grinning while sharing a handshake with Arafat during a 1998 trip to the
Middle East.

-ABCNEWS' Stephen Yesner and Eileen Murphy, and The Associated Press
contributed to this report.

Questions over 'Bill'

Rep. Rick Lazio, the Republican whose advertising campaign has
dramatically shifted gears in the New York Senate race, released a new
radio spot today.
The new, 60-second spot, titled "Deliver," reflects the campaign's
effort to highlight Lazio's accomplishments as a four-term member of the
House.
Until recently, most of Lazio's commercials focused on his opponent,
concluding with the phrase, "Hillary Clinton - you just can't trust her."
Top advisers to the campaign repeatedly told reporters that the
advertising campaign would continue to focus on the first lady's
trustworthiness until Election Day.
But several recent polls have indicated that the strategy may not be
working, and may even be counterproductive. Lazio's negative ratings,
which were very low when he first entered the race in May, are now close
to Clinton's, which have been higher for most of the campaign.
In the last week, Lazio has also resurrected a TV commercial that
first aired in mid-August and released a new television commercial. All
three of the spots deal with Lazio's legislative accomplishments. But
questions about the new TV ad, "Bill," were raised after it was learned
that the "bill" in question has not yet taken effect in New York.
The spot shows handicapped New Yorkers, implying they have benefited
from legislation authored by Lazio. But funding for the bill in question,
the "Work Incentives Improvement Act," which comes from individual states,
has not yet been provided for in New York.
A spokesman for Mrs. Clinton's Senate campaign told The New York
Times the ad was "cruel and cynical." But Lazio asserted that part of the
bill is in effect in New York and contended that his opponent was trying
to take away from his record.
"I just think that Mrs. Clinton doesn't want New Yorkers to know that
I have been an effective legislator, that I've gotten important things
done," Lazio told reporters Tuesday.
A spokesman for Lazio claims funding for the bill has been earmarked
in the state's 2001 budget.

-Stephen Yesner, ABCNEWS

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