World Opinion of Israel

It was early in the afternoon on June 7, 1981, when F-15’s and F-16’s of the Israeli Air Force lumbered with their heavy loads of weapons and extra fuel tanks into the sky above Etzion Air Force Base in the Sinai Peninsula. Now over twenty years later, the base has been turned over, by agreement, to the Egyptians. Nonetheless, on that day, the planes leaving Etzion changed the world dramatically. The Israeli planes managed to elude radar and Jordanian, Saudi and Iraqi air patrols at they flew over 600 miles at low level through Arab territory to the Osirak nuclear reactor near Bagdad, Iraq. Two hours after their mission began and in less than two minutes, the planes delivered their ordinance on the dome of the reactor. The Israelis managed to destroy the reactor before it was loaded with nuclear fuel and went hot. It is very likely that that single act kept nuclear weapons out of the hands of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. If Hussein had such weapons, the Iranian-Iraqi War and the Gulf War to liberate Kuwait could have been radically different with far more loss of life. Hussein has shown little reluctance in using chemical weapons. There is little reason to believe that he would exhibit much more continence with regard to nuclear weapons.

The Iraqi reactor was built under contract by the French who argued that under their supervision nuclear material that could be used for bomb construction would be difficult to smuggle from the reactor. It is impossible to know for a certainty whether French supervision would have been effective, but more recent international supervision of Iraq with regard to weapons of mass destruction has not been successful. Add this fact to the 1975 remark by Saddam Hussein that getting a reactor would represent “the first Arab attempt at nuclear arming” and it is easy to appreciate the importance of the bold Israeli action.

Rather than expressing gratitude for disarming a dictator, the world reacted with universal, brutal, and severe criticism. The ever-predictable New York Times characterized “Israel’s sneak attack” as an “inexcusable and short-sighted aggression.” United States Senator Mark Hatfield described the destruction of the reactor as “provocative, ill-timed, and internationally illegal.” What time would Hatfield have suggested would have been better to destroy the reactor? Even the Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher, who one might have hoped would have known better, thought the attack was unjustified and that it represented “a grave breach of international law.”

The wise ambassadors in the United Nations Security Council unanimously (that means the US joined in) adopted resolution 487 which “Strongly condemns military attacks by Israel in clear violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the norms of international conduct.”

Now Israel suffers international condemnation for its efforts to stop terrorist attacks on its citizens by attempting to root out terrorists in the West Bank. The condemnation is virtually universal. It does not follow logically that just because the entire world was radically wrong with respect to Israel twenty years ago that the world is again in error, but the precedent it there.

Despite the fact that the Palestinian Authority led by Yasser Arafat, in direct violation of the Oslo accords, was arranging for massive arms shipments from Iran, Hanna Kvanno of the Nobel Peace Prize committee wished it where possible to recall the prize from Shimon Peres who shared the 1994 Peace Prize with Arafat. Peres is currently Israel’s Foreign Minister. There was no similar expressed desire to recall the prize from Arafat. Despite the fact that evidence has appeared directly linking Yasser Arafat with financing homicide bombers who deliberately kill as many civilians as possible and the fact that Arafat rejoiced at the bombing of a Jewish celebration, the Belgians are considering indictment of Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a war criminal. Given the uncalibrated ethical barometer of much of the world, reticence in the use of world opinion a moral standard is justified.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.