McCain Visits Sderot, Endorses Stronger Action
Visiting U.S. Senator John McCain (R., Arizona), all but assured of his party's nomination for President, says the U.S. would not take rocket attacks on a city lying down.
McCain's visit - together with fellow Senator Joseph Lieberman - formerly of the Democratic Party and now a self-declared "independent" - has included stops in Jerusalem and Sderot. McCain expressed sympathy for the people of Sderot, saying, "The residents obviously live under very severe stress... Living under a 15-second [rocket] alert is no way to spend Purim" - a reference to the usually ultra-joyous holiday that begins Thursday night.
Asked how he thinks Israel should respond to the Arab rocket attacks from Gaza, the future Republican candidate for U.S. President said he could not "give a good answer." But, he added, "I can tell you that I believe that if rocket attacks came across the border of the United States of America, that the American people would probably demand pretty vigorous actions in response."
On the topic of Hamas, McCain said, "Someone is going to have to answer me the question of how you are going to negotiate with an organization that is dedicated to your extinction."
McCain was accompanied by Lieberman, an observant Jew, to the Western Wall on Wednesday, with both Senators sporting white knitted kippot (yarmulkes) for the occasion. Earlier, McCain visited Yad Vashem, and met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and Opposition Leader Binyamin Netanyahu.
At a joint press conference with Sen. McCain, Prime Minister Olmert said that Hamas is armed and sponsored by Iran and Syria. It is possible to stop the Kassam rocket attacks from Gaza "even without conquering Gaza," Olmert said, but did not elaborate.
The senator said that as President of the United States, he would be active in trying to achieve peace between the sides in accordance with the principles agreed upon by the U.S. and Israel. He also had words of support for PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, whom he called the President of the PA. "I believe wants to gets the [peace] process started," McCain said, adding his confidence that Abbas "does not support the [terrorist] activity taking place in Gaza."
Twelve people have been killed in and around Sderot by Kassam rockets, the most recent being Roni Yihye, 47, a father of four, less than a month ago. Five weeks ago, 8-year-old Osher Tuito lost his left leg, and his 19-year-old brother Rami suffered serious wounds to his legs as well, in a Kassam rocket attack in Sderot. The Victims of Arab Terror International Organization (VAT) honored Osher on Wednesday with a visit to his hospital bed, a Purim food package, and financial help "to ease the plight of this suffering family and in recognition of his great courage," VAT founder Shifra Hoffman said.