JERUSALEM (Jul. 26)
Israel, keeping a close watch on the dispute between Iraq and Kuwait, has opted for vigilance without panic, Foreign Minister David Levy told the Knesset on Wednesday, as the chances of a military showdown in the Persian Gulf seemed to recede.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, former Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin contradicted an observation by his successor, Defense Minister Moshe Arens, that war between Israel and Iraq was closer than ever before.
In a radio interview, Rabin concurred that an Iraqi threat existed, but said the danger was not immediate.
Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein is well aware that Israel is militarily the strongest state in the region and could deliver a “crushing blow” should Iraq attack it with aircraft or missiles, Rabin said. The countries have no common border.
But Rabin stressed that the Iraqi threat must not be taken lightly and all necessary preparations should be made, even though chances of war with Iraq are not high in the short term.
Political and military developments in the region are interconnected, he said.
If there is no progress toward peace, Rabin said, Egypt will be weakened, making it easier for Iraq to create a hostile front against Israel “in the medium-to long-term period.”
Likud Knesset member Yehoshua Saguy, a former chief of military intelligence, said the real issue was Saddam Hussein’s attempt to establish himself as the leader of the Arab world.
He said Hussein was trying to assert his leadership by attempting to drag Syria and Jordan into a cycle of war.
Egypt, meanwhile, has emerged as the peacemaker in the Gulf crisis.
President Hosni Mubarak’s top diplomatic trouble-shooter, Osama el-Baz, arrived in Kuwait on Thursday after an unannounced visit to Baghdad. He will try to work out terms for a meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, of oil, finance and diplomatic experts from both countries.