Monday, March 17, 2003

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THE NEXT TEST FOR AMERICAN DIPLOMACY: Matt Drudge has exclusive excerpts from an interview with Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz in Time's European edition. The key parts:

"Time: If there is an Iraqi Scud attack on Israel, will you retaliate or refrain, as Israel did in the 1991 Gulf War?

The reality of 1991 won’t repeat itself. The chances that we’ll be attacked are low. But if we’re attacked, Israel is obliged to defend itself and its civilians. This time it must be clear to everyone that might endanger us, especially the Iraqis, that Israel reserves the right to retaliate.

Time: What if the attack is with nonconventional weapons?

We are a sovereign state, but we are also a responsible state. We won’t retaliate automatically. It will be only after an assessment. The ties we have with the Americans are so strong that we won’t carry out automatic actions."

My suspicion is that the Arab street will not be roiling that much is the United States attacks Iraq. If Israel chooses to do so, however, that would lead to massive protests.

It's clear from the interview that the Israelis won't act before consulting with the Bush administration. That consultation will prove crucial to the politics of the Middle East for some years to come. One does hope that they will be more persuasive than they have in the past with the Sharon administration.

UPDATE: One reader e-mails that this post demonstrates an "apparent callousness towards Israel in its efforts to defend itself and its civilians." That was not my intention. The obvious (but unstated) point is that if Iraq chooses to retaliate by attacking Israel, it would be much better for the United States to respond with force (or, rather redirect what force they are applying), rather than have Israel act on its own.

posted by Dan on 03.17.03 at 01:28 PM