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January 25, 1991 - Image 17

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-01-25

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Palestinians show their support for the PLO and Iraq and their anger at the United States during a demonstration this past week in Jordan.


Strange Bedfellows:
Israel And The Arabs

Aligned with Jerusalem against Saddam
Hussein, Arab leaders scramble to satisfy
international, and domestic, demands:


Foreign Correspondent

ar creates situa-
tions that any ra-
tional thinker
might previously
have dismissed

as too fanciful for serious con-
sideration. How else can you
explain the possibility of
Israel fighting on the same
side as Saudi Arabia, Egypt,
Kuwait — and even Syria —
against Iraq?
Yet, this prospect became
very real as the Gulf war
entered its second week.
Fears that the leading Arab
members of the United
States-led U.N. coalition
would bolt at the first hint of
Israeli involvement proved,
at least initially, to be
After Iraqi Scud missiles
fell on the Jewish state,
Jerusalem said it would
strike back — in its own

Ira Rifkin, assistant editor of
the Baltimore Jewish Times,
contributed to this story.

Saudi and Kuwait officials
said on CNN that Israel had
every right to strike back in
kind. And Syrian Foreign
Minister Farouk Charaa,
meeting with European
Community ambassadors,
agreed that Israel does, in-
deed, have every right to
retaliate. According to
reports, Mr. Charaa said
Syria would not leave the
coalition even if Israel's re-
sponse was "100 times" har-
sher that what Baghdad has
so far dished out.
The Damascus daily news-
paper, Tishrin, even said
that Iraq had played into
Israel's long-term interests
by lobbing Scud missiles at
Tel Aviv and Haifa. The ar-
rival of American Patriot
missiles, along with the
military crews to fire them;
was, as much as anything,
• proof that the Tishrin
editorial writer may have
been right on the mark.
But Israel and its sup-
porters should not rest
assured. In the quirky Mid-
dle East, where alliances
shift with the sands, Saddam
Hussein's grand design for
jihad, holy war, could still

become tragically successful.
For no matter what Arab
leaders may say, they must
still contend with the stark
fact that within Saddam's
arsenal is a weapon that can
be neither seen nor
intercepted: his ability to tap
straight into the
Arab/Islamic bloodstream
and to invoke the myths and
glories of vanished
greatness. Nor does he seem
to care if, in the process, he
sets brother against brother
in the name of faith and
This is a weapon of such
potential power that it could
snatch victory for Saddam
from the jaws of defeat. This
is the nightmare scenario
that has spurred Western
leaders to frantic efforts over
the past week to keep Israel
out of the fray.
There is not a country in
the Middle East that is im-
mune to Saddam fever.
Arabs and Palestinians are
pulled toward him. Even
Egypt, a key member of the
anti-Iraq alliance and a
country regarded as the
most stable and moderate of
Arab states, is showing
alarming signs of infection.
Earlier this month, Presi-
dent Hosni Mubarak said
Egypt would "adopt a defen-
sive posture" if Israel
intervened in the war. The
statement was taken to
mean that Egypt would
leave the anti-Iraq coalition.
More recently, Mr. Muba-
rak shifted ground and
agreed that Israel had the
right to retaliate against
Iraq. But it is noteworthy
that this statement was not
reported by the media in
Egypt, where Iraq's missile
attacks on Israel were met
with public jubilation and an
embarrassed official silence.
But other Egyptians were
not so silent.
Moderate Muslim leaders
declared bluntly that the
Egyptian public and
military would not tolerate
any Israeli retaliation
against Iraq. Vice President
Hamza Adebes of the Egyp-
tian Liberal Party said:
"The government can take
any position it likes, but the
people will not be with Israel
whether or not it is attack-
An Egyptian Labor Party
leader added that President
Mubarak would "lose much
support" for statements con-
sidered supportive of Israel.
"How can the president of
the major Arab state say
Israelis have the right to kill



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