JERUSALEM (Aug. 22)
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein “surely knows” that if he attacked Israel, his country would “pay a terrible and awesome price,” Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir declared Wednesday evening.
The Jewish people he added somberly, is “schooled in suffering and losses. We are not prepared to play games with our destiny.”
The tough-sounding statements, made in an extensive television interview, were the prime minister’s first lengthy discussion of the Persian Gulf crisis since it erupted Aug. 2 with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
Shamir said that given the present situation, it is natural for Israelis to be worried. He said he, too, was worried, because the situation is one of “emergency, although it is possible that nothing will happen.”
Iraq could “do something to us,” the premier said, “and we have to be ready and prepared to defend ourselves and prevent such action.”
But Shamir assured the Israeli public that they could rely on the Israel Defense Force to protect the country. He extolled Israel’s military might and warned Iraq of the disastrous consequences it would face if it dared attack the Jewish state.
Shamir stressed that Israel was in no way involved in the outbreak of the crisis but is “watching tensely, anxiously, but not passively. There are decisions made all the time, and our present posture in the crisis is a direct result of these decisions,” he said.
The prime minister refused to comment on reports that Israeli intelligence had concluded Iraq does not at present have the capacity to arm its ballistic missiles with chemical warheads.
The Israeli public will be told what it “needs to know,” he said.
Shamir said he was not surprised by Palestinian support of Iraqi President Hussein.
The Palestinians always sought a “savior” who would rid them of the Jews, Shamir said. But he predicted “the day will come when they will accept us here.”