Hillary Criticizes Arafat's Wife Over Anti-Israel Comments

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - An Israeli political lobby group Friday welcomed Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's criticism of anti-Israel comments made by the wife of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, while questioning the former first lady's motives.

In an interview with the Saudi Arabian women's magazine, Sayidaty, Suha Arafat said she hated Israel and that peace with the Israelis was "unobtainable"

Clinton, who has said she considers Suha Arafat a good friend, said it was "offensive and very disgusting" that she would engage in such language, "especially at a time of violence in the Mideast."

Speaking in Washington, the Senator said: "Any kind of inflammatory comments at a time of peril and danger for Israel that in any way encourages anti-Israeli feelings or actions could present ... a real danger, not just a rhetorical danger."

Michael Matar, administrator for Women for Israel's Tomorrow, said it was questionable whether Clinton's remarks were sincere or motivated by political ambition. Nevertheless, he said, he could not fault her for the comments.

Matar said the wave of violence engulfing the area was an inevitable result of the stand former President Clinton took with regards to the peace process. Arafat had never intended to carry out the terms of agreements he signed with Israel, he charged.

"At best [Rodham Clinton] is coming to her senses [and taking] the stand that she should have taken a long time ago," Matar said.

Clinton, a long time supporter of an independent Palestinian state, waded into trouble two years ago when she hugged Mrs. Arafat just after she delivered a speech accusing Israel of using poisonous gas against Palestinian women and children.

Later, she mildly condemned Arafat's accusations and justified her earlier behavior by saying that the translation had been poor and she had not understood properly.

In the months leading up to last year's election, Clinton embraced Jewish causes, a move some critics called an opportunistic attempt to woo the Jewish vote in New York.

In the rare interview, Arafat told the Saudi publication she rejected normalizing relations with Israeli women and refused to meet with representatives of social institutions because Israelis are "responsible for the problems our children have."

"[Israeli women] always invite me to their functions and I categorically refuse because I hate Israel," she was quoted as saying.

Peace with Israel is "a lie," she said. "I have always had the inner conviction that it wouldn't succeed," she added. "Thus I rejected any proposal for cooperation."

Arafat and her young daughter Zahwa live in Paris and rarely visit the PA-controlled territories, where she has a home in the Gaza Strip.