Link of Israeli occupation to Kuwait crisis tightened

October 09, 1990|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- The bloodshed on the Temple Mount throws a new spotlight on the Palestinian uprising, compounding the difficulty faced by the United States and its allies in keeping the violent struggle over Israel's occupied territories separate from efforts to force Iraq from Kuwait, several analysts and diplomats said yesterday.

At a minimum, it adds greater urgency to the need, cited previously by Arabs, the Soviets, French and British, to work to settle the Palestinian question once the Persian Gulf crisis is over, they said.

"The Palestinian problem has made the job of all of us more complex now," said a diplomat for a moderate Arab ally of the United States. The killing "underlines the urgency of resolving this problem as soon as we get rid of the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait."

Secretary of State James A. Baker III, at a news conference, reasserted the U.S. rejection of any "linkage" while directing mild criticism at Israeli authorities.

"This tragic loss of life is obviously a cause for great sadness," he said. "Each side is pointing to provocation by the other. We do not see any linkage to the gulf situation. We will continue to work on the peace process. But we do not think that that has anything to do with the issue of reversing Iraq's aggression."

He said, "We really do not have, as we sit here now, all of the facts, but I do think it's fair to say that Israel needs to be better prepared and to exercise restraint in handling disturbances of this nature."

Asked if yesterday's violence could weaken the U.S.-Arab alliance against Iraq, he replied, "We would not like to see that, of course. . . . We would like to see full and complete implementation of those resolutions [by the United Nations] and not see efforts made to divert attention" from them.

A U.S. diplomat acknowledged that yesterday's violence undermined the effort by the United States and its allies in the gulf crisis to keep the issues separate.

"Intellectually it doesn't, but emotionally it does," said the diplomat.

Judith Kipper, a Mideast expert at the Brookings Institution, said yesterday's violence at what Moslems consider their third-holiest site would reverberate through the Arab and Moslem worlds, exacerbating rifts between the Arab populace and governments aligned with the United States against Iraq.

The Middle East "is a mosaic," Ms. Kipper said. "When you move one piece, everything else on the board moves."

The United States and its Arab allies have rejected consideration of a settlement to the gulf crisis that would link Iraqi withdrawal directly with efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. They say this would only reward Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

At the same time, the United States has urged the Israelis to maintain a low profile.

The Iraqi invasion pushed the Palestinian uprising off center stage of Middle East politics. Palestinian popular support for Mr. Hussein created friction between Palestinian leaders and rulers of the gulf states, who opposed Iraq's moves.

Gail Pressberg, a spokeswoman for Americans supporting the Israeli Peace Now movement, called yesterday's violence an inevitable result of the lack of any mechanism for communication between Israelis and Palestinians to prevent rumors from exacerbating tensions.

Contradicting other analysts, Barry Rubin, who works at the generally pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said yesterday's incident would not have a long-term impact on the dynamics of the gulf crisis. The Iraqi crisis could well last six months or more, he said, during which time yesterday's incident in Jerusalem will be pushed into the background.

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