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Monday, 18 March, 2002, 23:51 GMT
Cheney holds firm
Dick Cheney lays a wreath at Yad Vashem
Dick Cheney visited the Holocaust memorial
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tom carver
By Tom Carver in Jerusalem
line

This is the seventh in a series of despatches from our correspondent, who is travelling with US Vice President Dick Cheney on his Middle East tour.

After nine days travelling around the dusty flats of the Gulf, the first thing you notice when you hit Israel is how green and hilly it is.

The second thing is how jittery it is.


He has not deviated one bit from his message

The fact that we were travelling with the vice president didn't seem to impress Israeli intelligence, who insisted on going through all our bags as soon as we stepped off Air Force Two.

Once the opening ceremonies had been dispensed with, the Israelis whisked their VIVA (Very Important Visiting American) to Yad Vashem, the Hall of Remembrance for victims of the Holocaust.

The sheer scale of the Holocaust overwhelms everything else.

And for a few moments, journalists, politicians, secret service agents and soldiers stood before the names of the camps which had interned Jews, watched the smoke spiral up through the hole in the roof and forgot about the tribulations of this trip.

Whether calculated or not, it was a clever way of reminding the Americans of what the Jews had been through (just in case anyone thought they might be guilty of using excessive force now).

Even Dick Cheney, the tough politician that he is, seemed to be moved by Yad Vashem.

Buttoned down

After nine days in his approximate company, I have begun to get a sense of Mr Cheney.

He is very buttoned down, keeps his emotions in check and isn't easily swayed.

On the bus somewhere between one airport and another, the New York Times correspondent told a story of how Mr Cheney had cancelled a weapons programme when he was secretary of defence.

An Israeli soldier looks at American and Israeli flags
Israel feels jittery
There were howls of protest in the Pentagon, but Mr Cheney refused even to give them much of an explanation.

It was only later that an aide let slip that Mr Cheney had done it not because there was anything wrong with the weapon itself, but just to show the generals they weren't going to be able to push him around.

He has been subjected to days of haranguing by successive Arab leaders over America's approach towards the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

We all assumed that he would be swayed by it but he has not deviated one bit from his message.

However, as I was struggling to make my satellite phone work 21 stories up on a hotel roof in Qatar late last night in a hurricane, it struck me that if the administration put the amount of energy it is currently devoting to waging war into actually solving the Palestinian question, it would remove a major cause of Muslim extremism against America, and might thereby achieve the same result of ending terrorism by radically different means.

Mr Cheney and others in the administration pride themselves on being firm and decisive, compared to the ever fluctuating Clinton presidency.

It's certainly good to have the courage of your convictions, but if those convictions turn out to be 180 degrees wrong, America and the world will end up worse off than we would have been under a more pragmatic leadership.


Follow Tom Carver's reports on the vice-president's tour:

Click here for Day Six - Bahrain and Qatar
Click here for Day Five - Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia
Click here for Day Four - on the USS Stennis Click here for Day Three - Egypt and Oman
Click here for Day Two - Jordan and Egypt
Click here for Day One - London

See also:

18 Mar 02 | Middle East
Cheney puts Qatar base on map
16 Mar 02 | Middle East
Cheney welcomed in opulent Gulf
16 Mar 02 | Middle East
Cheney visits US aircraft carrier
14 Mar 02 | Middle East
Chasing rumours with Cheney
13 Mar 02 | Middle East
On the road with Dick Cheney
11 Mar 02 | Americas
Cheney's 'thinking through' tour
11 Mar 02 | Americas
Profile: Dick Cheney
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