- The Washington Times - Monday, May 22, 2006

When Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert meets President Bush at the White House today, two of the top issues they will discuss deal with the Islamofascist threat to Israel: 1) the danger from Iran, particularly the prospect of that regime becoming capable of developing nuclear weapons in the near future; and 2) how to deal with the threat posed by a Hamas-run Palestinian Authority while ensuring that Palestinians living under its rule retain access to health care and other forms of humanitarian assistance.

The prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran is possibly the most dangerous military threat Israel has ever faced. The combination of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles that can deliver them to Tel Aviv; an Islamist regime run by people who suggest the Holocaust was a myth and declare that Israel must be destroyed; and Iran’s record of supporting terrorism against Israel are a lethal combination. Since becoming president of Iran last summer, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has declared that Israel should be “wiped off the map” and that “the Zionist regime is a rotten, dried tree that will be eliminated by one storm” — heightening concern that Tehran wants the weapons for the purpose of striking Israel.

The Jewish state’s concerns have been further heightened by Tehran’s threats to retaliate against Israel if the United States takes action — much as Saddam Hussein did in the 1990-91 run-up to the first Iraq war.

According to Mr. Olmert, the important question is not when Iran builds an atomic bomb, but when it obtains the knowledge to manufacture such a weapon. On Sunday, Mr. Olmert said Israel had not anticipated that Iran’s uranium enrichment efforts would make as much progress as they have. “The technological threshold is very close. It can be measured in months, rather than years,” the prime minister said in an interview with CNN. “The technical threshold is nearer than we anticipated before. This is because they are already engaged very seriously in enrichment.”

Regarding Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, Israel is faced with two major problems: a Taliban-like regime on its borders committed to its destruction and unapologetic about harboring a who’s who of terrorist groups, ranging from Palestinian Islamic Jihad to Hezbollah and al Qaeda. While Israel is determined not to subsidize a Hamas-led regime devoted to its destruction, Mr. Olmert is also determined to make sure that the anarchy in the Palestinian Authority does not prevent the Palestinian people from receiving humanitarian assistance such as food and health care. To facilitate this, Mr. Olmert has agreed to reopen the Karni crossing between Israel and Gaza (despite numerous security alerts about terrorists targeting the crossing) and if necessary to directly finance medical equipment and medicine for Gaza residents. On Saturday, after Palestinian intelligence chief Tareq Abu Rajab, a senior Fatah official, was seriously wounded in a bombing in Gaza, he was transferred to Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv for treatment.

At the same time, Israelis received yet another reminder last week of the dangers inherent in transferring funds to a terrorist regime: Mr. Olmert’s office issued a statement about Fuad Shubaki, a former top financial aide to Yasser Arafat who is currently in Israeli custody over his role in smuggling 50 tons of weapons from Iran to the Palestinian Authority four years ago. Mr. Shubaki said that after the Palestinians went to war against Israel in September 2000, Mr. Arafat used tax revenues transferred by Israel, Arab and Western assistance and Palestinian tax revenues to purchase weapons. That’s precisely the kind of thing Messrs. Olmert and Bush are determined to prevent Hamas from doing today.

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