Candidate Hillary Under Fire

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The Independent Online
THE POLITICS of the Middle East have surfaced as a potential obstacle to Hillary Clinton's ambitions.

Mrs Clinton's expressed support for a Palestinian state has been raised as a possible issue in the race for the New York Senate seat which she may contest.

Rudolph Giuliani, Mayor of New York City and the most likely Republican candidate, is using it as a weapon against her. It is one of a number of signs that Mrs Clinton's candidacy may be waning.

Mrs Clinton last year expressed support for a Palestinian state at a time when Israel was blocking progress on Middle East peace. The White House immediately said that this was a personal position taken by Mrs Clinton, and not US policy.

"I'm in the same position as the White House and Mrs Clinton is out there favouring the Palestinians," Mr Giuliani said yesterday in a TV interview.

The statement about Palestine came as the White House was trying to manoeuvre the Israelis back to the negotiating table. One of the levers it had was the threat that if Yasser Arafat declared a Palestinian state this year, the US would align itself with him against the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

New York City has a large Jewish population, though it is by no means clear Mrs Clinton's statement would count against her. The American Jewish population disapproved of Mr Netanyahu's resistance to peace negotiations. But the appearance of the issue is a sign that Mrs Clinton will not get a free ride to the Senate.

She would have a strong chance if she chose to stand. She scored well in an opinion poll by Time magazine and CNN, which put her ahead of Mr Giuliani by 52 per cent to 43 per cent. Her lead was especially strong in New York City.

But Mr Giuliani is seen as a stronger voice on New York's interests: Mrs Clinton was born in Illinois, lives in Washington and spent many years in Arkansas.

Doubts expressed by people close to US Vice-President Al Gore put a further question- mark over her candidacy. "Mr Gore may have more to lose than gain if Mrs Clinton runs in New York," The New York Times reported yesterday.

The campaign would draw support from Mr Gore, who is all but certain to be the Democratic candidate for president in 2000. It would focus the President's attention on New York, and draw money and celebrity attention away from him, the report said.

Sources close to Mr Gore also told reporters last week that on balance they thought it unlikely Mrs Clinton would run. She has not decided yet and may not do so for some weeks.