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Thursday, 12 October, 2000, 19:59 GMT 20:59 UK
Gore and Bush 'support' Israel
Bush and Gore shake hands after the debate
The candidates had similar views on the Middle East
During a discussion on Middle East policy in the presidential debate on Wednesday, both candidates went out of their way to express support for Israel.


We need to insist that Arafat halt some of the provocative acts of violence

Al Gore
Vice-President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W Bush both implied that the Palestinians were to blame for the violence that has cost about 100 lives over the past two weeks, nearly all of them Palestinian.

While the Clinton administration has not openly criticised Israel, the Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called the visit to a disputed religious area of Jerusalem by the right-wing Israeli politician Ariel Sharon "counterproductive".


I call on Chairman Arafat to have his people pull back, to make the peace

George W Bush

Last weekend, Washington abstained from an otherwise unanimous UN Security Council resolution which condemned the "excessive use of force" against the Palestinians - in order, Mrs Albright said, to protect its role as peace-broker.

Appeals to Arafat

Both presidential candidates were speaking on Wednesday, before the latest round of violence in the region in which two Israelis were killed in the West Bank and four Americans sailors were killed in Yemen.

"We need to insist that (the Palestinian leader Yasser) Arafat send out instructions to halt some of the provocative acts of violence that have been going on," said Mr Gore.

Israeli right-wing politician Ariel Sharon
The violence began after Sharon's visit to Jerusalem
"I call on Chairman Arafat to have his people pull back, to make the peace," said Mr Bush.

Vice-president Al Gore suggested, as a final thought, that Washington's ability to "serve an honest broker" needed to be maintained.

But he gave no idea how he would do this, given his repeated insistance that Israel should "feel absolutely secure" about the "historic, strong and enduring" bonds between Israel and the United States.

Texas Governor George Bush, similarly, emphasised that he "would stand by Israel" if he were president.

Iraq

However Mr Bush, who has links with the oil industry, added that it was important to keep strong ties in the Middle East because of its importance as a source of energy.

And he also urged reaching out to "moderate" Arab nations - but once again, but did not say how he would do so.

Both contenders tried to burnish their nationalist credentials over Iraq, stressing that the increasingly controversial international sanctions against it should continue.

Mr Bush, asked how his policy towards the Middle East differed from Mr Gore's, blamed the Clinton administration for failing to engineer the overthrow of the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Mr Gore then pointed out that this was a failure inherited from Mr Bush's father, President Bush.

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