by A. M. Rosenthal, New York Times, March 3, 1998
At the United Nations it is never mentioned, and around the world governments act as if it does not exist. But the alliance between Saddam Hussein and the Palestinians is a reality in the Mideast, growing in importance politically, emotionally and militarily, and not about to go away.
The critical consequence of the Baghdad-Palestine axis is that whatever the borders or status of the new Palestine turn out to be, Israel will have at its frontiers the most fervent ally of the dictator who has made Israel his particular target.
From now on, Israeli leaders - Likud or Labor - will have to deal with the danger that Iraq will expand the weaponry of the 50,000 member Palestinian Army. With increased firepower, the Palestinian force could deny Israel the few hours of mobilization time it needs if attacked.
And every Israeli general staff will have to prepare for the likelihood that if Arab armies do mount another attack on Israel, Iraq would move in troops and armor though Palestinian territory, or a Palestinian airport or seaport.
The passionate Palestinian demonstrations for Saddam, the screams for him to wipe out Israel with biological and chemical weapons, the outpouring of hatred against America were simply the latest manifestation of the alliance. They took place because the Palestinian Authority gave its approval in advance through its propaganda machinery in the press, schools and clergy.
After a warning of American displeasure by Secretary of State Albright, this time around Yasir Arafat did not himself unbosom his passion for Saddam as publicly as he did in 1991.
But as a result of negotiations with Israel, the Arafat Authority is in control of 97 percent of Palestinians on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Any suggestion that he and his Authority did not authorize and encourage the ugly demonstrations is mockery carried to the point of obscenity.
Mr. Arafat expects to dominate any new Palestine regime. There is no sign he is wrong, or that when he dies he will be replaced by Palestinian politicians who love Israel more and Saddam less.
The crises regularly manufactured by Saddam create results the diplomatic world prefers not to examine.
Israel, the one country in the Mideast that has with constancy and to its risk supported the U.S. in its military and political conflicts with Iraq, gets two things.
It gets Iraq as the ally of the Palestine it is supposed to live with. And now that the crisis is winding down for a while, Israel gets to expect increased pressure from the U.S. to make dangerous new territorial concessions to the Palestinians.
The Clinton Administration is considering making public its own proposals, which neither side has yet accepted. That would mean strong U.S. pressure for them. The decision has not yet been made but the idea worries the Israelis a lot, and Mr. Arafat not at all.
American proposals call on Palestinians to take strong steps to fight terrorism. That could be reversible when Palestinians choose. The proposals call on Israel to surrender more land its Government believes essential to its security. Without war, that would not be reversible.
So the new Palestine, the ally of Saddam, gets to be the beneficiary of the pressure on Israel, America's only steady ally in the Mideast. Is that strange?
Now, as is well known, Palestinians are angry and frustrated. With Iraq and Palestinians benefiting from the Iraqi crisis, maybe foreign supporters of Israel, admiring of the Netanyahu Government or not, will ask when it is permissible for Israelis to get angry and frustrated.
When, after 50 years of terrorism, their neighbor is still at it? When said neighbor burns their flag, vilifies their religion and calls on God to destroy them with the missiles of their sworn and proven enemy? When the U.S., the country they take as their best friend, and is, keeps pressuring them to surrender land essential to their security?
Putting the questions will produce no magic solutions. But it might make Israelis feel entitled to the same emotions Palestinians have cherished for decades. That is something. And it might help the security of their country. That is everything.