arafat_yasserArafat? ‘Hang him,’ said Cheney

Feb. 9, 2002: In comments that were presumably never supposed to leave the White House briefing room, Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin ben Eliezer sparked a flurry of denials after revealing off-the-cuff remarks about Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat made by Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

“On the subject, Cheney was more extreme than me,” ben Eliezer told the press. Ben Eliezer also said that when he had discussed Arafat with Rice, she had said that it was a waste of time dealing with him.

Yedioth Aharonot quoted ben Eliezer yesterday as saying: “The vice president told me: ‘As far as I am concerned, you can even hang him,” with regard to Arafat.

“It’s a fantasy,” said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer of the Arafat quote, as the administration attempted to get the genie back in the bottle.

A chastised ben Eliezer called Rice and Cheney to apologize and changed his recollection, saying he had not attributed the hanging remark to the vice president.

“I also want to make clear that no White House official told me that it’s a waste of time dealing with Arafat,” ben Eliezer said, backtracking from his earlier comments.

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