Hussein Invasion Likely to Stall U.S. Pressure on Israeli Minister

When Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy arrives in Washington on Wednesday for his first meeting with Secretary of State James Baker, he may find the Palestinian issue relegated to the back burner because of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.

The talks are expected to center on the threat posed by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein rather than the Bush administration’s desire to get an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue started as soon as possible.

That threat seemed to be moving closer to Saudi Arabia on Sunday with reports that Iraq was sending 18 fresh divisions toward the Saudis.

U.S. Defense Secretary Richard Cheney was to leave for that country later in the day for consultations on the Persian Gulf crisis.

President Bush said Sunday he had seen “no evidence” to substantiate Iraq’s claim that it has begun pulling troops out of Kuwait.

Iraq has “lied once again,” said the president, who emphasized that the United States would not accept the “puppet regime” installed in Kuwait by Iraq.

The Iraqi invasion clearly diverts attention from the Palestinian uprising in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Rep. Les Aspin (D-Wis.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said Sunday.

REAL SECURITY CONCERNS

What the situation does, Aspin said on CBS-TV’s “Face the Nation,” is “strengthen Israel’s claim that — don’t get on their back about the domestic situation, they’ve got real national security concerns.”

But former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger warned that while Iraq may be a threat to Israel in the future, the United States should not include the Jewish state in its efforts to get Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait.

“We should take great care not to involve Israel in it at the beginning,” Kissinger said on ABC-TV’s “This Week With David Brinkley.”

He explained that it would “make it look at the beginning that it is a Zionist-American joint enterprise.”

Kissinger warned that if Iraq is not forced to leave Kuwait, Saddam Hussein “will have hold” of world oil supplies. However, he said he believed that if the European Community and Japan join the U.S. embargo on Iraqi and Kuwaiti oil, as they have promised, “then Iraq will have to listen to us.”

In addition to the economic sanctions, Baker and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze issued a joint statement in Moscow on Friday agreeing not to sell any arms to Iraq. Moscow had been Iraq’s chief arms supplier.

The People’s Republic of China, which also sells missiles to Iraq, joined the arms embargo Sunday.

Meanwhile, Israel has made it clear that it does not see Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait as a direct threat to its security, but that it would see such a threat if Iraqi troops moved into Jordan.

King Hussein of Jordan appears to be Saddam Hussein’s main supporter in the Arab world, although he is claiming he wants to be able to help mediate the crisis.

Levy will come to Washington able to point out to Baker that Israel has been warning the United States for months that Saddam Hussein is dangerous and that his threats should not be taken lightly.

More important, he is expected to stress that the Iraqi aggression proves the argument of the Likud government that Israel needs the strategic depth of the West Bank for its security.

While many in Washington have argued that territory is no longer important in the age of long-range missiles, the Iraqi invasion demonstrates that territory is still important to stop tanks.

In addition, many of those in Washington who criticized Israel’s 1981 air strike that took out Iraq’s nuclear reactor are now saying they are thankful that Israel acted.

This does not mean that U.S. pressure on the Palestinian issue has gone away, but it will be less urgent than it was a week ago.

American Jewish leaders and organizations meanwhile continued to praise the United States’ stand against Hussein.

Hadassah’s national president, Carmela Kalmanson, compared Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait to Hitler’s aggression in Europe in the 1930s.

“Surely now the United States and other world leaders understand the seriousness and immediacy of Saddam Hussein’s threats against Israel and other nations in the region,” Kalmanson said.

Sidney Silverman, president of the Zionist Organization of America, said that “as long as Iraq continues to maintain its state of war against Israel and arrogantly threatens to obliterate the Jewish state with the latest technology of mass destruction, all moral, financial and military support for Israel which she requires should be forthcoming from the United States.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Daniel Moynihan (D-N.Y.) pointed out in a statement Friday that Kuwait had rarely voted with the United States on Middle East and other issues in the United Nations.

In fact, he observed, “Having supported those who would use force against Israel, Kuwait has unwittingly lent its support to Saddam Hussein’s illegal occupation of its territory.”

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