NEW YORK - Hillary Rodham Clinton on Saturday blamed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for the breakdown of the Middle East peace talks as her Senate opponent, Rick Lazio, accused her of flip-flopping on moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Lazio, courting the Jewish vote in the Hamptons, noted that Mrs. Clinton's call on Saturday to relocate the embassy from Tel Aviv by the end of the year came just nine months after she told an Orthodox Jewish group that she could not support an immediate move of the facility.
''I just don't think her remarks have credibility,'' Lazio told reporters outside a Long Island diner. ''The real issue here is that she has said in the past that she is not for placing the embassy in Jerusalem.''
During an interview Saturday on WCBS-AM radio, Clinton praised Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's efforts during the recent Middle East summit and criticized Arafat. The 14-day summit ended last week with conflicting claims over Jerusalem remaining a stumbling block to an agreement.
''It's clear that Prime Minister Barak came committed to reaching a deal that would guarantee peace and security for Israel and the entire region. And I'm sorry that Chairman Arafat didn't show the same commitment,'' the first lady said.
''It's time that Chairman Arafat step forward and conclusively demonstrate his willingness to forge a real lasting peace agreement,'' she said.
As Clinton seeks New York's critical Jewish vote, about 12 percent of the state's electorate, she appears to be taking a page out of her husband's political book.
One day after President Clinton reiterated his campaign promise that the United States would consider moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, his wife took a stronger position Saturday, declaring a timetable for the move.
''I'd like to see that move be made before the end of the year,'' she said.
Lazio, speaking at the same synagogue the first lady visited last week in Westhampton Beach, received applause from the congregation when he called for the relocation of the embassy to Jerusalem.
''I support a united and undivided Jerusalem,'' Lazio said. ''And I have repeatedly called for and voted for placing the U.S. embassy in the eternal city of Israel - Jerusalem.''
The Clinton campaign, which has taken strong pro-Israel positions, has faced a number of flaps involving Jewish issues, including the first lady's remark at a 1998 youth conference on Middle East peace in Geneva: ''I think it will be in the long-term interests of the Middle East for Palestine to be a state,'' and a meeting last year between the first lady and Arafat's wife that resulted in their much-publicized kiss.
Clinton on Saturday again denied accusations in a new book that she once used an ethnic slur against an aide in her husband's campaign.
''Everyone who's ever worked with me or knows me knew from the beginning that it wasn't true,'' she told WCBS, adding that she is ''very gratified'' that Jews all over the world have shown their support for her.
Later Saturday, the president joined the first lady as she addressed a fundraising luncheon in Manhattan put on by Korean-American contributors.
On the Net:
Clinton campaign: http://www.hillary2000.org
Lazio campaign: http://www.lazio.com