Pirro Says Israel Has Right To Secure Borders

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The Republican candidate for attorney general, Jeanine Pirro, yesterday defended Israel’s two-week-old offensive in the Gaza Strip, saying Israel has “the right to ensure the security of its borders.”

The Westchester district attorney’s comments came after the Arab American Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based political group that has included Mrs. Pirro as a special guest at many of its formal gatherings, denounced Israel’s military operations as dangerous to civilians and called on President Bush and other political leaders to condemn the country.

The president of the group, James Zogby, said it was “unconscionable” that Israel’s military actions in populated areas “should be tolerated.”

Asked to respond to the group’s demands, Mrs. Pirro said in a statement that Israel “did not return Gaza for it to become a staging area for terrorist activity.” Officials at the Arab American Institute did not respond to calls seeking comment on Mrs. Pirro’s statement.

Israel moved troops and tanks into Gaza after Palestinian Arab gunmen connected to the Hamas-led government kidnapped an Israeli soldier, Corporal Gilad Shalit, in a cross-border raid on June 25. Israel expanded the operation after Palestinian Arabs in Gaza fired rockets into Israel.

Mrs. Pirro’s view on the conflict was shared by her Democratic opponents in the attorney general race — Mark Green and Andrew Cuomo — whose campaigns both released statements defending Israel’s actions.

Mrs. Pirro, a Catholic whose parents are Lebanese, is the only Arab-American political candidate in New York that the Web site of the Arab American Institute lists as running in the 2006 election.

Mrs. Pirro has been a VIP guest at events organized by the group, including a Republican convention gathering in New York City in 2004 and its annual awards gala in May.

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