JERUSALEM (Aug. 2)
While comparing Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait to Adolf Hitler’s aggression in the 1930s, Israel urged the world community Thursday to recognize that the threat to peace in the Middle East and beyond comes from Baghdad and not from the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
But the incursion by President Saddam Hussein’s forces into Iraq’s oil-producing Arab neighbor early Thursday does not necessitate an immediate military response from Israel, Defense Minister Moshe Arens stated.
He said Israel’s deterrent strength provided a bulwark, from which it could follow events in the region with quiet confidence.
Israel has no common border with Iraq. Its longstanding policy has been that an intrusion of Iraqi forces into Jordan would trigger an Israeli response.
Meanwhile, the Israelis are utilizing the latest events to press their view internationally that Iraq is the chief menace to peace and stability in the region, while stressing that Israel is not involved in any actions Washington may take in response to the invasion of Kuwait.
Israel’s “lesson to the world” was delivered by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s media spokesman, Avi Pazner.
DANGER COMES FROM IRAQ
“This is the same Saddam Hussein who attacked Iran 10 years ago,” Pazner observed. “The world should reconsider its perceptions of the Middle East and should understand that if there is danger, it comes from Iraq.”
The Hitler analogy was used by Arens, and by the right-wing Tehiya party.
Appearing on U.S. network television, Arens compared Hussein to the Nazi leader, “gobbling up one country after another,” and that “Saddam represents a danger to the entire world,” just as Hitler did more than a half-century ago.
“The world is not going to put up with this kind of aggressive behavior. I don’t like to say ‘I told you so,’ but I told you so,” Arens added.
He stressed that Israel wants to avoid conflict with Iraq, but does not fear it.
“Israel is a small country, but we have a strong army, and I think we’re in a position to deter any aggression by Iraq against Israel,” Arens said.
“If that doesn’t turn out to be the case, we’re certainly in a position to defeat them on the battlefield,” he stated.
An aide to Arens said the Iraqi invasion underscored Iraq’s recent and repeated threats against Israel. On April 2, Hussein threatened to destroy “half of Israel” with chemical weapons if Israel repeated its 1981 attack on an Iraqi nuclear reactor.
The invasion of Kuwait disrupted Israeli government routine. The Cabinet, which convened in special session Thursday to discuss economic and immigration issues, had to adjourn at midpoint to allow Shamir, Arens and Foreign Minister David Levy to be briefed on the situation in the
Persian Gulf by senior officers of the Israel Defense Force.
The Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee went into special session early Thursday afternoon to hear an assessment of the situation from Brig. Gen. Danny Rothschild, deputy commander of the IDF’s intelligence branch.
Yossi Sarid of the opposition Citizens Rights Movement told the committee that Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait should prompt Israel to define in the clearest possible terms what it would consider a cause for war with Iraq.
He said the entry of Iraqi troops into Jordanian territory should automatically set off a preemptive military response from Israel.
Observers recalled that a similar doctrine prevailed long before the 1967 Six-Day War, when the government of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion made it clear that Israel would regard any Iraqi troop movement into the West Bank as a casus belli.
The right-wing Moledet and Tehiya parties used the occasion to take swipes at the Israeli peace movement and advocates of territorial compromise.
Moledet said the collapse of Kuwait demonstrated the importance of strategic depth and the impotence of U.S. support.
Hussein has thumbed his nose at Washington, a Moledet Knesset member said.
Meanwhile, Israel is seeking strenuously to mobilize world opinion against Iraq.
Shamir’s spokesman, Pazner, said Hussein was using the million-man army he built up for his eight-year war with Iran, which ended in 1988, to dictate to his neighbors.
“The danger to peace and stability in the region flows not from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which everyone talks about all the time, but from Iraqi policy,” Pazner said.