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Leaders Set To Address AIPAC Gathering

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) will tout their respective parties’ support for Israel in competing speeches today before the one of the United States’ most prominent pro-Israel organizations.

DeLay and Hoyer, who have steered their parties’ efforts to court the Jewish vote this cycle, will deliver addresses with similar if competing messages at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference in Washington, D.C.

While it is typical for Congressional leaders from both parties to address AIPAC and keep in close contact with Jewish leaders, strategists on both sides of the aisle agree that the stakes are even higher this year, as President Bush campaigns for re-election and the GOP angles to erode Democrats’ traditional advantage in Jewish electoral and financial support.

DeLay’s speech will emphasize the placement of Israel’s current fight in the context of the larger global war against terror.

The Majority Leader plans to say that Israel and the United States are linked “by the bonds of freedom” and that the war will not stop “until the last terrorist on Earth is in a cell or a cemetery.”

DeLay will also criticize Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat’s “thug-ocracy” while saying terrorists “know — from Havana to Tehran to Ramallah — that their days are numbered.”

Hoyer, according to aides, will tell AIPAC that U.S. support for Israel is unequivocal and bipartisan and that the country shares in Israel’s fight against terrorism. He will say the U.S. understands Israel must defend itself and that the civilized world must never equate legitimate acts of self defense with acts of terror.

The Minority Whip, who led a Congressional delegation to Israel last August, is also expected to lay out that the U.S. understands the threats to the country stretch beyond its own borders, including from Iran and Syria. He will also call on Saudi Arabia to crack down on those who fund terrorism.

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