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Israelis Grateful As Allied Forces Press Ahead with War Against Iraq

February 27, 1991
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

“Iraq’s given the order to withdraw,” said the 12-year-old Israeli girl, rubbing sleep from her eyes Tuesday morning. “That’s terrible, isn’t it?”

The plaintive query was a clue to the mood in Israel, where everyone, including children, has become either an armchair general or a kibitzing diplomat, watching the military and political drama unfold in Kuwait and Iraq.

The schoolgirl was reacting to Baghdad radio’s announcement that Iraq had ordered its occupation army to withdraw from Kuwait.

Her unspoken fear was that this move might prompt the U.S.-led allies to halt their ground offensive before it destroys the Iraqi army and topples Saddam Hussein.

Just about everyone in Israel has been concerned that Washington might succumb to Soviet and Third World pressures to end the war short of the destruction of Hussein, one of Israel’s most implacable foes.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir spoke for many Tuesday when he said it was in Israel’s interest that Hussein “disappear from the international arena.”

“I don’t want to talk about the ways to achieve this,” he said. “The main thing is that he no longer control developments in the Middle East.”

Like countless other Israelis, the 12-year-old was relieved to hear later in school that President Bush had dismissed the Baghdad broadcast and said the battle against Iraqi forces would not end until all surrender or retreat unarmed from Kuwait.


In a speech from the White House Rose Garden, Bush called Hussein’s announcement that Iraqi troops should leave Kuwait “an outrage.”

Hussein “is not voluntarily giving up Kuwait. He is trying to save the remnants of power and control in the Middle East by every means possible,” the U.S. president said.

The coalition forces are now ahead of schedule, said Bush, and “the liberation of Kuwait is close at hand.”

He urged “all Iraqi forces in the theater of operation, those occupying Kuwait, those supporting the occupation of Kuwait, to lay down their arms, and that will stop the bloodshed.”

Israelis were also heartened after Washington brushed aside Moscow’s 11th-hour peace offensive late last week, aimed at averting a ground war.

But by midweek, the picture had become more complex. The clash of arms was in full fury, and Israelis sympathized with the U.S. president’s need to weigh American casualties against the pursuit of his war aims.

Those sympathies were heightened when Israelis learned of Monday night’s deadly Scud missile attack on an American army barracks near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in which 27 soldiers were killed and 98 injured.

Israel has suffered only four fatalities in some 39 Iraqi missile attacks since the war began six weeks ago, though several hundred people have been injured by debris, and property damage, particularly in the Greater Tel Aviv area, has been extensive.

The Orthodox — and a considerable number of less-observant Israelis — consider that a miracle and sufficient proof that the Jewish state enjoys divine protection.


There had been an abiding fear in recent days that once the ground war began, Saddam Hussein would launch a chemical weapons attack on Israel in desperation.

So far, that has not materialized. Former Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin said Tuesday morning that the threat of poison gas attack has now greatly diminished.

Among Israeli politicians and in government circles generally, there are somber predictions of diplomatic clashes to come with Washington and other allied capitals once the Palestinian issue resurfaces with renewed urgency after the war.

Still, at this juncture, when the drama of war grips the world, there is a deep sense of gratitude in Israel that the country, spared the need to wage war and shed blood, is aligned with the forces of good in a historic confrontation.

(Contributing to this report were JTA correspondents David Friedman in Washington and Hugh Orgel in Tel Aviv.)

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