- The Washington Times - Friday, October 19, 2001

How did he do it? How did State Department spokesman Phillip Reeker keep from bursting into undiplomatic laughter when making the preposterous case for there being no parallel between what happened on the West Bank on Sunday morning, and what's going on day and night in Afghanistan?

Here are the facts. With America's high techno-bombers still straining to draw a bead on Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden, Israel hit a bulls-eye in its own unending war on terrorism by killing Abed-Rahman Hamad, the Hamas mastermind behind the June 1 Tel Aviv disco massacre that left more than a score of teen-agers dead and dozens wounded. It took no more than an undisclosed number of Israeli sharpshooters, two bullets, and zero so-called collateral damage. But far from hearing congratulations from its great friend and patron, Israel drew a public rebuke.

"We oppose the policy of targeted killings," said Mr. Reeker, who, with any luck, will one day stand behind the same lectern to discuss the "targeted killing" of the man President Bush likes to call "the evil one." "I really can't draw a parallel between the two," Mr. Reeker added as he tried to scotch the obvious comparison between the American and Israeli efforts plainly and simply two related fronts of the same, general war against Islamist terror networks. If they aren't, of course, then you have to wonder why, according to press reports, the American military has been briefed on Israeli "liquidation" techniques for possible use against Osama bin Laden and his men in Afghanistan.

So what makes the government hedge? For starters, coalition politics. Not only do our coalition "partners" in the Muslim world and also Great Britain balk at taking the war on Islamist terrorism beyond Afghanistan to, say, Iraq, these same Muslim nations also balk at the notion that they could ever have common cause with the state of Israel. Know what? They don't. States who support, sponsor or even, let's say, enable terrorism (Syria and Saudi Arabia, for example), don't have common cause with Israel or any other state that vows to end, or, as Middle East expert Daniel Pipes more realistically suggests, contain terrorism. And that, of course, includes us.

Pretending otherwise smacks of gamesmanship, of treating the battlefield as the chessboard it maybe used to be, not the city streets and office buildings it has unbelievably become. The point of this struggle, frankly, is not to build a coalition, but to win a war. A real war. Last month, unimaginable carnage in the air and on the ground; this month, among other horrors, a puff of highly refined, weapons-grade anthrax actually closed a branch of the federal government. Coalition-building is no longer a priority. Post-Sept. 11, our priority is stopping terrorism before it strikes again. That's why Pentagon planners would like to make Iraq our next military destination, a journey not too many Muslim countries are likely to join us on, coalition or no coalition.

Early one June morning a little more than 20 years ago, the state of Israel sent 16 jets on a vital mission: to destroy Iraq's nearing capacity to make weapons-grade plutonium. A nuclear bomb in the hands of Saddam Hussein, as then-Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin would later say, was a nightmare Israel had been living with for two years. By 1981, this nightmare was about to become reality. Fooling Saudi and Jordanian air traffic controllers by speaking Arabic en route, two waves of specially trained Israeli pilots flew to Iraq's French-built Osirak nuclear reactor outside Baghdad where they neatly and completely destroyed the reactor core before it had been developed to the point of being "hot."

Fabulous, right? The world, including practically the entire United States government (with the notable exception of the late Sen. Alan Cranston and also Jerry Falwell) thought otherwise. Or, at least, it said otherwise. Israel was universally and vigorously condemned literally in the United Nations, where the United States worked closely with Iraq in crafting the resolution denouncing the raid. Arab nations, naturally, railed against "Israeli terrorism," while France, naturally, expressed its bitterness over Israel's "obvious lack of regard for the difficulties … created for France." But there was another view. As then-Sen. Rudy Boschwitz put it, "Very frankly, [the Israelis] probably did the world a favor." It was a favor we should have thanked them for even 10 years later when the troops of Desert Storm faced an Iraq that still had no nuclear arsenal.

Menachem Begin would later justify the raid as an act of "supreme national self-defense." It was. And the world was a safer place. It is now time for the United States to act in "supreme national self-defense." It may be the only way the world will ever be a safer place again.

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