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March 12, 2003

Equivocal Israeli Rhetoric Weakens Deterrence

DEBKA special report
In his briefing to the Knesset foreign affairs and security committee on Tuesday, October 1, Ben Eliezer said the countdown had begun for the American assault on Iraq. He went on to declare: “If the Iraqis do attack us, it will only be if they are in critical distress. The Americans will do their utmost to crush Iraq’s capability, inter alia to fend off an Israeli response.” Then: “The Iraqis do have a surface missile capability, but they can carry no more than small quantities of chemical and biological materials. If we are attacked, we have the right to act to defend ourselves.”

Israel’s defense minister did not assert that Israel would fight back; he only noted that it has the right to do so.

Sharon’s own contribution to Israel’s deterrence has been equally uncertain. Last week, he went on record as saying that Israeli would not respond to just any Iraqi strike – only one that caused damage to life and property.

This stream of halfhearted rhetoric that emanates from domestic political agendas sends equivocal messages to the outside world. Blair quickly spotted the weakness, as no doubt have Saddam Hussein, Hassan Nasrallah and Yasser Arafat.

Meanwhile the Israeli army continues its counter-terror sweep in West Bank towns with no mind for the equivocations at the top of Israeli politics. In a typically blunt statement, the commander of the Nahal Brigade operating in the Palestinian West Bank town of Nablus told a reporter Tuesday, October 1, after one of his men, Staff Sgt. Ari Weiss was killed in action: “We’re taking casualties here to keep them from launching more terrorist attacks.”[more]