Mystery e-mails attack Howard Deans Israel stance

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washington | Howard Dean is smarting from e-mails that distort his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and he has suggested that President Bush’s right-hand man is behind the e-mail campaign.

Speaking Monday, Dec. 15, to the Pacific Council on International Policy, a leadership forum in Los Angeles, Dean said he believed Karl Rove, the White House’s senior political adviser, is behind an e-mail campaign that has flooded inboxes of American Jews across the country.

The White House referred calls about Rove’s alleged involvement in the e-mail campaign to the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. Scott Stanzel, a campaign spokesman, said the campaign does not respond to comments by the Democratic contenders.

The message in the e-mails is that Dean wants an “evenhanded” policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Many Jews consider that a way of saying that the United States should be less supportive of Israel.

“I’ve discovered that ‘evenhandedly’ is a code word to certain people who think that is being unfair, and I don’t want to ever repeat that word again,” Dean said after his speech, in which he outlined his vision for foreign affairs and national security. “It is now making its way around the Internet in an unsigned piece of literature, undoubtedly from one of my worthy opponents, perhaps Karl Rove.”

The campaign later said Dean made the comments in a lighthearted exchange with a questioner, who wanted to know how he would deal more evenhandedly with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Matthew Dorf, Dean’s liaison to the Jewish community, noted that the audience broke into laughter after Dean said it. However, Dorf reiterated Dean’s comment that the e-mails are politically motivated, saying, “It’s clearly the work of political opponents and not true friends of Israel.”

The e-mails, which have been widely circulated in the past few weeks, highlight comments Dean made in September, when he said it was not in America’s interest to “take sides” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Howard Dean promised that if he is elected president, the United States will no longer support Israel the way it has in the past under both Democratic and Republican presidents,” one of the e-mails says.

The e-mail also makes reference to other Dean comments and says, “I urge you that if you have any love for America and Israel you should not and cannot vote for Howard Dean for the office of president.”

Dean has since spent a great deal of time and energy clarifying his views. He has said that he meant that Bush, by downgrading U.S. involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict early on in his administration, had abandoned the role of honest broker.

Other Democratic candidates have chastised Dean for being insensitive, at the very least, for using a term like “taking sides.” Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), who has been heavily courting the American Jewish community for support, has been especially critical.

The Internet campaign against Dean has made waves in the American Jewish community, and it remains unclear how prominently the e-mails and Dean’s initial comments about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will affect Jewish support for the former Vermont governor.

On its Web site, the Anti-Defamation League called the e-mail campaign against Dean “malicious, misleading and factually inaccurate.”

“In response to concerns about his September speech, Dean has assured the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish organizations of his support for the state of Israel and his belief in the importance of strong U.S.-Israeli relations,” the Web site reads.

The Dean campaign says it has been responding aggressively to the e-mail campaign. People who contact Dean about the e-mails receive a response from Dorf providing information on Dean’s positions on Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.