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August 17, 1990 - Image 26

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-08-17

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War of



el Aviv — The current crisis in
the Persian Gulf has yet to touch
Israel directly, but people here
are following it with emotions
that range from trepidation to
The trepidation stems from transpar-
ent Iraqi threats to attack Israel should
hostilities break out, and from the fact
that the Iraqi army has chemical weap-
ons and, in the Iraq-Iran war, demon-
strated a willingness to use them.
Israeli officials have attempted to calm

In Israel,
A Sense Of

There is no panic about
an attack, but there is
concern about Saddam
Hussein and his motives.


Israel Correspondent

Israel draws the line: Prime Minister Shamir let it be
known this week that Israel would not tolerate an
Iraqi military presence in Jordan.

fears with a combination of scolding and
soothing rhetoric. Last week former army
chief of staff Rafael Eitan, now Minister
of Agriculture, chided the public for
"wetting their pants" over the Iraqi
threat. On Sunday, Defense Minister
Moshe Arens declared that he does not
believe that Iraq has chemical warhead
missiles capable of hitting Israel. "They
do have airplanes," he said, "but we are
certain that the Israeli air force is capable
of dealing with them."
Most Israelis seem to have been reas-
sured by Mr. Arens' evaluation, but there
is still considerable uneasiness. On Sun-
day, a Tel Aviv attorney appealed to the
Supreme Court to force the government
to distribute gas masks and other protec-
tive equipment. Defense Ministry offi-
cials say there is no need to hand out such
equipment, and that doing so would cre-
ate panic and perhaps convince Iraq that
Israel intends to enter hostilities.
This is an impression that Jerusalem is



trying very hard to avoid. Throughout
the crisis, Prime Minister Yitzhak Sha-
mir and other cabinet officials have de-
clared their intention to stay out of the
picture, leaving the confrontation with
Saddam Hussein to the U.S. and other
Mr. Shamir and his advisors are aware
that Saddam Hussein hopes to drag Isra-
el into the conflict, enabling him to pres-
ent it to his fellow Arab leaders as a bat-
tle against the Zionist foe. Thus far, ac-
cording to news reports, Israel has moved
some forces toward its eastern border,
but has refrained from offering any mili-
tary support to American efforts. "They
know we're here if they need us," said a
senior offical.
Most Israelis applauded the American
intervention in the Persian Gulf, but re-
actions here included a certain skepticism
about U.S. resolve. Ariel Sharon, former
Defense Minister and currently Minister
of Housing, advised President Bush to
strike quickly in order to get the Iraqis
out of Kuwait.
"Pretty soon we'll be seeing pictures on
television of hungry Iraqi children and
babies," he said. "There will be a demand
to bring the soldiers home before Christ-
mas. The hostage problem will become
more serious. And America's allies will
get tired of sitting in the desert. If you're
going to act, then you should act militari-
ly right now. Otherwise, the world will
get used to the idea that Kuwait is part of
Iraq, and it will be hard to get them out of
This skepticism regarding Western in-
tentions and American resolve is wide-
spread, and stems from what many here
see as Washington's inability, or unwill-
ingness, to view the Middle East realis-
Only a few months ago, Senate Minori-
ty Leader Robert Dole, fresh from a visit
to Baghdad, tried to convince Israeli lead-
ers that Saddam Hussein is a moderate
who wants peace with his neighbors. U.S.
officials have also pushed the notion that
the PLO, which enthusiastically supports
the Iraqi aggression, is a force for region-
al stability.
"Maybe now the Americans will wake
up and see Arafat for what he is — a sec-
ond rate Saddam Hussein," said a Likud
Member of Knesset. "And maybe now
they'll realize that appeasing people like
them is dangerous."
This I-told-you-so mood is especially
strong among right- wing politicians, who
point to the pro-Saddam Hussein reac-
tion of the PLO as proof that an Arafat-
led state in the West Bank and Gaza
would pose a mortal threat to Israel.
Moreover, many Israelis, on the left as
well as the right, have been shocked by
the outpouring of Palestinian support for
Baghdad's aggession against Kuwait.
Since the invasion, six babies born in

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