JERUSALEM (Jun. 19)
As Israel’s new leaders were searching for ways this week to demonstrate their commitment to the peace process, they were confronted by ominous signs of hostile intent from two hard-line Arab states.
Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein, whose recent warnings against Israel have set off alarms here and in the United States, on Monday again threatened to attack the Jewish state with all available means, if Israel took action against any Arab country.
Hussein even made the point of including Syria in his protective embrace, despite the fact that its leader, Hafez Assad, is his own archenemy. He appeared to be emphasizing that confrontation with Israel is paramount to any internal Arab differences.
The Iraqi leader’s dire warning was viewed in Jerusalem as an expression of Arab concern that Israel might retaliate against Libya for the role it played in the abortive Shavuot attack on Israel’s beaches by terrorists belonging to the Palestine Liberation Front, led by Abul Abbas.
Libya helped train the terrorists and contributed advice and other assistance to the intended seaborne attack, which was thwarted on May 30.
Meanwhile, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi reportedly has instructed his scientists to speed up the development of nuclear arms and ballistic missiles. Gadhafi’s instructions coincided with news reports that Libya has begun building a second chemical warfare plant.
A spokesman at Israel’s Foreign Ministry made a point of stressing Tuesday that Israel has no aggressive intentions against any Arab countries.
A MESSAGE FROM KING HUSSEIN
While Israeli officials say there is presently no reason to worry over the threats from Iraq, they believe that a Syrian-Iraqi alliance against Israel should be regarded as dangerous.
Former Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin voiced concern to American Jewish groups last week that a potentially dangerous alliance could develop on Israel’s eastern front, composed of Syria, Jordan and Iraq.
In an apparent attempt to calm such concerns, which have been echoed by other Israeli leaders, Jordan’s King Hussein has conveyed a message to Israel, transmitted through the United States, indicating that no Arab army would be deployed in his country.
Yediot Aharonot reported Tuesday that Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir responded to King Hussein’s message by assuring Jordan that Israel had no aggressive intentions against it and is interested in maintaining the stability of the Hashemite regime.
His message was reportedly sent after the Jordanian leader gave a lengthy news conference Monday, during which he said he had received information that the new Shamir government had designs on Jordan.
Shamir did express concern Tuesday about Libya’s growing military might, even though military experts here have dismissed Libya’s nuclear and chemical warfare potential as “remote.”
The Israeli leader, speaking after he visited ailing Foreign Minister David Levy in an Afula hospital, said Gadhafi’s new chemical weapons plant has introduced “dangerous elements into the artificial atmosphere of tension” the Arabs are trying to create.
Shamir expressed hope that “the entire world will see to it that that danger will be done away with.” He stressed that Israel would act against such a threat from Libya “through political means.”