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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

February 25, 2003

Israel lays hopes on success of U.S. arms

A number of anti-war writers note that Israel stands to be hit by missiles should the US attack Iraq, and thus ask why Israel seems to be pro-war. To simplify: who pays 25,000 reward money to the families of suicide bombers, and what do such payments encourage? This Herald Tribune article makes clear how many Israelis feel
JERUSALEM Israelis once believed that the Oslo agreement with the Palestinians would usher in a new Middle East of comfortable Israeli-Arab coexistence. With Oslo in tatters, they are now putting similar hopes in an American war on Iraq.

Other nations may cavil, but Israel is so certain of the rightness of a war on Iraq that it is already thinking past that conflict to urge a continued, assertive American role in the Middle East.

Shaul Mofaz, the Israeli defense minister, told members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations last week that, after Iraq, the United States should generate "political, economic, diplomatic pressure" on Iran.

"We have great interest in shaping the Middle East the day after" a war, he said.

It may seem paradoxical that the country most vulnerable to an Iraqi attack in the event of war is most eager for that war to begin.

But Israel's military intelligence has concluded that the chances of a successful Iraqi missile strike here during this war, while ever-present, are small. Israel believes that Saddam Hussein seeks devastating weapons but has far less capacity now for mayhem than he did during the first Gulf War, when he fired 39 Scud missiles at Israel. The army also believes its own national defenses are much improved.

Israel regards Iran and Syria as greater threats, and it is hoping that once Saddam is dispensed with, the dominoes will start to tumble. According to this hope, moderates and reformers throughout the region will be encouraged to put new pressure on their regimes, not excepting that of Yasser Arafat in the West Bank city of Ramallah.[more]