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Netanyahu Clarifies His Praise of Castro

U.S. Congresswoman expresses her dismay at Netanyahu’s apparent praising of comments made by former Cuban leader.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 11/25/2010, 2:24 AM / Last Update: 11/25/2010, 2:18 AM

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has phoned a U.S. congresswoman in order to qualify his recent praising of comments made by former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, AP reported.

In a recent interview with journalist Jeffrey Goldberg of Atlantic Magazine, Castro had acknowledged that Jews have been persecuted more than any other people. He also attacked Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his denials of the Holocaust.

In response to Castro’s comments, Netanyahu said he was full of admiration for the former Cuban leader and added that Castro's remarks show his deep understanding of the history of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

President Shimon Peres also praised Castro and sent him a personal message in which he wrote: “Your unexpected words comprise a kind of surprising bridge between a difficult reality and a new horizon. This is proof that those distant from one another can be close.”

The kind words, however, were less than pleasing for Florida Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Lehtinen, a Republican who has represented Florida's 18th congressional district since 1989, is a Cuban exile and fierce critic of Castro. She is also the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a strong supporter of Israel and is therefore considered a key player for Israel.

During a recent conversation with Politico, Ros-Lehtinen said that she had expressed her dismay over the pro-Castro comments. “I just said look, this guy has been an enemy of Israel, just because he said something that a normal person would say — after 50 years of anti-Israel incitement, it’s one phrase from an old guy who doesn’t even know where he’s standing.”

Netanyahu subsequently called Ros-Lehtinen to clarify his position on Cuba and Castro. AP quoted a statement from Netanyahu's office which said that "in response to questions," Netanyahu had called the Ros-Lehtinen and said that his comments were limited only to Castro's remarks about Israel and the Holocaust.