Touring Mideast, Dean Praises Sharon

By E.J. Kessler

Published September 23, 2005, issue of September 23, 2005.

While traveling in the Middle East this week, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean offered President Bush some diplomatic advice.

“If President Bush wants to accelerate the peace process, he has to watch out for the stability of Jordan,” Dean said during a telephone interview from Israel. “The Jordanians are under pressure because of rising fuel costs. He ought to be on the phone with his friends, the Saudis, to get them to help the Jordanians with their fuel bill.”

Dean was visiting Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories for meetings with officials and dignitaries during a trip sponsored by both the National Jewish Democratic Council and the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange program. He traveled to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, the Palestinian city of Ramallah on the West Bank, the ancient Nabatean city of Petra in Jordan and the Jordanian capital, Amman.

Dean, who toured southern Israel in a Black Hawk helicopter, praised Prime Minister Sharon for taking “extraordinary” risks to pursue peace during the recent disengagement from Gaza. Dean called the recent Gaza pullout a historic move that “will put [Sharon] in the same category as Yitzhak Rabin and Menachem Begin,” a reference to two Israeli premiers who undertook peace initiatives. He also pronounced himself “impressed” with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, but said there remained the question of whether Abbas had the power to stop terrorism emanating from Palestinian territories. Even so, “the atmosphere is positive,” Dean said.

Dean traveled with Steven Grossman, a pro-Israel activist and former DNC chairman, and with the Democratic state chairs of Arizona, Florida and Ohio. The travelers recorded their impressions on a blog at www.njdc.org.



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