Israel endorses Bush's new deadline --while hoping that Iraq won't meet it WAR IN THE GULF

February 23, 1991|By Doug Struck | Doug Struck,Sun Staff Correspondent

TEL AVIV, Israel -- Israel expressed official praise for President Bush's ultimatum yesterday and strong fears that it might be accepted.

Officials offered their support on the record, then renewed previous warnings that if Saddam Hussein survived in power, he would again attack Israel.

The army chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Shomron, said that if Mr. Hussein were to withdraw from Kuwait with his army not destroyed, the war would not have been a success, according to official State Radio.

Although Israel is not a partner in the anti-Iraq coalition, its dissatisfaction with a settlement of the war could be ominous. Israel has repeatedly vowed that it will pick some time to retaliate against Iraq for the 15 missile attacks against it.

Top officials have become increasingly strident in their vows of eagerness to become involved militarily, despite Israeli opinion polls that show a consistent 80 percent support for restraint.

In a speech yesterday morning, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shami again complained how difficult it has been for him not to order an attack on Iraq. He referred to Mr. Hussein as "this crazy man" and said that if the restraints on Israel changed, "Our army is ready."

A settlement to the war in which Israel still feels endangered ma be the green light that Mr. Shamir has said he welcomes.

The prime minister did not comment further after Mr. Bush's ultimatum in Washington. A statement from his office said the U.S. president had "shown determination" in "not enabling Saddam Hussein to manipulate or buy time."

Other government officials offered perfunctory applause for the deadline set by Mr. Bush but expressed fears that Iraq might regroup and again attack Israel.

Deputy Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "We believe that unless that war machine is dismantled . . . there will be other Kuwaits. If we seek stability after this conflict, the first thing to do is to disarm this dictatorship."

Yossi Olmert, the government's press spokesman, said, "Iraq's military potential is a danger. We were attacked by Iraq. As a country that was affected by Iraqi aggression and suffered from it, we have a full right to say what we are saying."

Also viewing the diplomatic moves dourly, for different reasons, were the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Earlier attempts by Mr. Hussein to link his withdrawal from

Kuwait to settlement of their issue appear to have been abandoned.

Many Palestinians have cheered Mr. Hussein for his endorsement of their cause. But those sympathies have cost them the loss of much international support and the burden of a strict curfew imposed by Israel.

Palestinian leaders tried to remain philosophic yesterday.

"I think the world knows now that they have to solve all the Middle East problems comprehensively," said Daoud Kattub, a prominent Palestinian journalist.

Saeb Erakat, a professor of political science, said Palestinians' support for Mr. Hussein may have been a bitter lesson. "Our only solution is in the establishment of a Palestinian state," which he said Palestinians would have to accomplish themselves.

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