Associated Press
October 5, 2000

Mrs. Clinton: I Would Skip Trip

By Beth J. Harpaz

NEW YORK (AP) -- Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday that if she could turn back time, she would skip that trip to the Middle East where she kissed Yasser Arafat's wife.

The first lady was asked at a forum sponsored by The Jewish Week newspaper whether she would do anything differently or had learned any lessons from the meeting last fall with Soha Arafat.

''I wouldn't have gone. That's the first thing,'' she said. ''I was obviously there as a representative of the U.S. government and abided by the appropriate diplomatic protocol. ... It led to a misimpression about my strong feelings and support for Israel.''

Clinton has justified the kiss -- which came after Mrs. Arafat accused the Israelis of using poison gas against Palestinian children -- as a social grace required by her position as first lady. Clinton later condemned Mrs. Arafat's remarks, but some Jews felt she should have skipped the kiss and spoken out sooner.

''I want people to know as the senator from New York, I would look out for and defend the interests of New Yorkers and I would never be in a situation like that,'' Clinton said Thursday.

Regarding the case of Jonathan Pollard, the American convicted of spying for Israel, Clinton said that secret evidence presented to the court for use in determining his life sentence should be released publicly ''so that we could make our own judgments.''

On Sen. Joseph Lieberman's contemplation of a meeting with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, the first lady said: ''I would not meet with him. Joe has a different potential assignment. There are things one does when the whole nation is your responsibility ... but that would not be useful for me.''

A new New York Magazine poll shows Clinton with 47 percent to 45 percent for her Republican opponent, Rep. Rick Lazio of Long Island. That is a tie, given the poll's four-point margin of error. Most other recent polls have favored the first lady by five to nine points.

Copyright 2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved.