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Knesset Ends Debate on Gulf Crisis with Shamir Speech and a Resolution

A resolution urging the dismemberment of the “Iraqi war machine” was adopted by the Knesset on Monday after Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir branded Saddam Hussein a war criminal and predicted he would eventually be punished as such.

The prime minister’s lengthy speech marked the end of a prolonged debate over the Persian Gulf war and Israel’s role in it.

Shamir outlined Israel’s position and policies, saying the situation created by the Persian Gulf war is one that Israel has not faced before.

He vowed that “the time for us to take direct action against the Iraqi enemy will come.” But Israel will decide when and will consult with the United States, he said.

Shamir described Israel’s policy as neither restraint nor response but rather a policy under constant review to decide how best to serve the national interest and defend the country.

He praised the spirit of the nation under Iraqi missile fire and declared that the U.S. government and President Bush deserve the world’s gratitude for recognizing that Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait was more than another inter-Arab dispute.

“The attacks on Israel have created a new political situation which has so far contributed to a positive change in Israel’s international relations,” Shamir observed.

“The wicked attacks on our population have brought in their wake a wave of sympathy from many countries in the world, and not just traditionally friendly countries, but others as well.”

ISRAEL READY TO PURSUE PEACE

He noted that the United States, Britain and other countries have rejected linkage between the Gulf war and Arab-Israeli relations.

“They correctly understood that Saddam Hussein is using the interest in the Arab-Israeli conflict to cover up his aggression. And, indeed, any such linkage would damage the international front against Iraq.”

He added that Israel will not need to be prodded to resume the peace process with added vigor once the war is over and the Iraqi dictator is eliminated.

But he called on “all sincere peace-lovers” to drop the idea of an international conference, which he said would be counterproductive.

He promoted instead Israel’s own 1989 peace plan, which envisaged peace agreements with the Arab states and elections and autonomy for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

He said the national duty now is “to do everything possible to defend Israel and its population.”

But “this time it is a war where the Iraqi enemy faces an international coalition which is fighting with courage and vigor out of its own considerations, and it would have been unreasonable of us not to take this fact, as well as its operative ramifications, into account when planning our defense,” Shamir said.

The prime minister spoke of the “many economic problems caused by the situation.”

“Tremendous resources will be needed for all these things,” he said, “and we must prepare and examine the possibilities for raising this money,” with help from “friends abroad.”

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