A U.S. senator has charged that Israel is behind the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq.

Sen. Ernest Hollings, a South Carolina Democrat, wrote a column that appeared in several newspapers asserting that the U.S. war in Iraq represented a decision by President George Bush to protect Israel and ensure American Jewish support for his reelection.

The column reflects a growing sentiment in the corridors of power in Washington according to congressional sources. The view attributes the U.S. war in Iraq to the so-called neo-conservatives in the administration, particularly Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and former Pentagon adviser Richard Perle, Middle East Newsline reported. Both men are Jewish, and many have pointed out that the term ‘neo-conservative’ has become a code-word used almost exclusively for politically-involved Jews, or those with Jewish sounding names.

"There is a strong fear among American Jewish leadership that the whispering campaign that 'the Jews started it,' will become public," a senior congressional staffer told the World Tribune. "We could be seeing others get on Hollings' bandwagon."

"Bush felt tax cuts would hold his crowd together and spreading democracy in the Mideast to secure Israel would take the Jewish vote from the Democrats," Hollings said in a column first published on May 6 in the Charleston Post and Courier. "You don't come to town and announce your Israel policy is to invade Iraq."

Congressional sources said Hollings was expressing a view that has become increasingly prevalent in Congress and parts of the administration.

For his part, Hollings said Israel has never claimed that Iraq maintained a weapons of mass destruction arsenal. The senator, who later refused to retract his statements, said Wolfowitz's advocacy of a plan to promote democracy among Arab states comprised an Israeli initiative.

"With Iraq no threat, why invade a sovereign country?" Hollings asked. "The answer: President Bush's policy to secure Israel. Led by Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Charles Krauthammer, for years there has been a domino school of thought that the way to guarantee Israel's security is to spread democracy in the area."

The Senator concluded with the oft-stated mantra that there is no military solution. "In the Mideast, terrorism is a separate problem to be defeated by diplomacy and negotiation, not militarily," Hollings said. "Here, might does not make right – right makes might. Acting militarily, we have created more terrorism than we have eliminated."

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