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The struggle in the Middle East is no longer a conflict between Arabs and Israelis, but is increasingly a battle between moderates and extremists, said US Senator Joe Lieberman Thursday, during a visit to the Jewish Agency Absorption Center in Mevaseret Zion where he celebrated the seventh night of Hanukka with new immigrants from Ethiopia.
Here as part of a five-person congressional delegation that arrived in Israel Sunday following visits to Afghanistan and Iraq, Lieberman said there is a "new strategic direction" in the region that is both "hopeful and threatening." "On one side are Iran and its agents, Hizbullah and Hamas, on the other are the moderate governments of the region and Israel," he said. "Hopefully it is a chance for many people in the Arab world to realize that the threat of destruction no longer comes from Israel, but from Iran and other extremist elements." Lieberman, an independent, Jewish senator from Connecticut, also said that he fully supported US President George Bush's decision this week to send more troops into Iraq.
"America cannot give up on Iraq. The people there are under constant threat from terrorist factions," he said, adding that during his visit there he spent time with US military personnel and it was clear to him that more soldiers were needed.
According to Jewish Agency officials, Lieberman had asked to visit the absorption center and celebrate Hanukka with the immigrants.
"With all its problems and threats to its security, Israel remains a light that continues to grow," said Lieberman after singing along to traditional Israeli songs and Hanukka tunes in the newly inaugurated social club. "Much of that effort comes from Ethiopian immigrants and you have contributed to making this country grow stronger", he told them.
Jewish Agency Chairman Ze'ev Bielsky thanked the senator and his wife, Hadassah, for their contributions to Israel and the Jewish people.
After kindling the Hanukkah lights, Lieberman joined a round table discussion with some of the more successful Ethiopian immigrants and sampled some traditional Ethiopian coffee.
During his visit, Lieberman, along with senators John McCain, (R-Arizona), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and John Thune (R-South Dakota) and Representative Mark Kirk (R-Illinois), met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Lieberman said that he and his wife spent Thursday at the new Menachem Begin Heritage Center.