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War On Iraq Threatens Israel

by William O. Beeman

Bush Promises Vague "Road Map" For Israel Peace
(PNS) -- Members of the Bush administration have long been convinced that there would be one clear, beneficial side effect of the war with Iraq: improved security for Israel.

This is a mistake. In fact, Israel will be put in far more danger if a war is launched.

The danger to Israel comes from three sources, should the U.S. lead an attack against Saddam Hussein:

  • Direct attack on Israel, most likely from Iraq, would be a greater possibility.

  • Suicide bombings and terrorist action will also increase.

  • American attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will diminish.

Israelis themselves know this. The head of the Israeli army, Lieutenant-General Moshe Yaalon, in a recent interview with the newspaper Yediot Ahranot, warned of an "earthquake, which will reshape" the Middle East following the American invasion of Iraq.

General Yaalon notes that violence against Israel has already increased in anticipation of the war. He is worried about additional attacks from external sources once the war has begun, including those with nuclear weapons.

Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Professor at the University of Maryland and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, believes that the United States does not realize that suicide bombings and terrorist acts in Israel will increase once the United States begins the war.

Non-state actors such as Hamas or the Islamic Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades carrying out these acts will benefit from international disturbances in the region. Syria and Lebanon may serve as staging areas for these groups, but those governments also place limits on their actions to avoid retaliation from Israel. Destabilization of the region, a probable consequence of a U.S.-led war, far from weakening these forces, would unleash them from any state restrictions. With host states in chaos, no police force or governing body would remain to contain them.

Telhami maintains that violence between Israel and Palestinians is on the increase in any case. In a public forum at Brown University on March 11, he stated that "only external intervention or a strong internal initiative" could stem the violence. Since the Israeli government is not likely to carry out any internal policy change, only external intervention from the United States is likely to be effective.

However, the United States will be so preoccupied with Iraq for years to come that it will never be able to repeat the kinds of intensive initiatives that led to the Camp David or Oslo accords, Telhami claims. Washington will effectively leave the Israeli-Palestinian situation to deteriorate.

It is somewhat mysterious why U.S. policymakers supporting the war, who generally are strong supporters of Israel, would promote a policy that is likely to critically damage America's chief ally in the region.

The faulty reasoning stems from a mistaken premise: that terrorism only exists when it receives state support.

This idea is the basic assumption made in the 1996 document "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," prepared for then-incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by a group of American advisers. The authors of the report included Richard Perle, now chairman of the Defense Science Board; Douglas Feith, now U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy; and David Wurmser, author of "Tyranny's Ally: America's Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein," and director of Middle East Studies of the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

The plan was later espoused by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and others in the Bush administration.

This document promoted a kind of "domino" theory. By toppling Iraq, Syria would be weakened, and thereby "support" for the non-state forces attacking Israel would be eliminated. Israel would supposedly be more secure as a result.

The authors have a mistaken belief that these terrorist groups will cease to exist if they lack state support. However, by their very nature, non-state based terrorist groups like Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Hamas have learned to carry out their operations with no support from one specific government. Their sources of funding are multiple and varied, and include private donations from all over the world.

The chief example of a non-state based terrorist group is al Qaeda. The Iraqi war may be just the opening it needs to begin operations in Israel.

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Albion Monitor March 13, 2003 (

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