TEL AVIV (Jan. 14)
Israel received advanced notice from Washington that the U.S.-led air strike against Iraq on Wednesday would be limited in scope, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has disclosed.
Visiting an air force base in the south, Rabin, who also holds the defense portfolio, said the United States had been in contact with Israel and with other Middle East capitals in advance of the strike against targets in southern Iraq that was carried out by American, British and French warplanes.
Israelis reacted to the raid calmly, despite sharp memories of the Scud missiles fired at them by Iraq during the Persian Gulf War two years ago this week. The public tended to agree with official reassurances that the hostilities this time would not involve Israel.
For the most part, it was business as usual here. There was no run either on food shops or hardware stores, where, at the start of the Gulf war, householders laid in stocks of food and plastic sheeting to seal off rooms against possible gas attack.
Rabin said he did not expect the United States to update Jerusalem on its military plans unless they had a direct bearing on Israel. It had only an obligation to alert Israel “on certain subjects” and it stood by that obligation.
He said the Israel Defense Force and the defense establishment “are, of course, taking all the necessary precautions.”
He also went beyond Iraq to point to the military buildup in Iran of “medium- and longrange” weapons of mass destruction and plans by that country to develop nuclear weapons.
Rabin was scheduled to update leaders of the opposition Likud on the situation in Iraq.
In spot interviews, many Israelis said the allied response to Saddam Hussein’s defiance of U.N. and American demands was too gentle.
“Only a massive military response will halt that megalomanic,” was a typical response of those interviewed by Israel Radio.
(Contributing to this report was JTA correspondent Gil Sedan in Jerusalem.)