This editorial is from Israel's leading 'liberal' newspaper, Ha'aretz, on 17 Feb 2003:
An additional waiting period
The principal conclusion drawn by U.S. President George Bush's administration from the September 11, 2001, terror attacks was that a new policy was needed, one based on taking action against states that support terrorism or that threaten those around them with weapons of mass destruction.
Several months ago, soon after the end of the first stage of the war against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the president announced that he would also take action against Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. At the recommendation of his secretary of state, former general Colin Powell, Bush agreed to first try to obtain diplomatic support for his decision to take military action. The events of the past few days were an attempt to persuade Bush to reevaluate the situation.
These events took place both in the diplomatic arena and in the public square - in speeches at a special session of the UN Security Council and in mass demonstrations. The positions of those who participated in the UN debate and the numbers of those who participated in the demonstrations both indicate that Powell miscalculated. The farther the world gets from the horrors of September 11, the more the opposition to unilateral American action crystalizes rather than weakens.
In effect, a reciprocal relationship has been established between the governments leading the opposition in the West, especially those of France and Germany, and those who are worried by America's influence in general and by its government's policies in particular.
America's willingness to allow the UN and the International Atomic Energy Agency to conduct inspections in Baghdad has wound up becoming more of a trap for Bush than for Saddam. The fears of those senior administration officials who disagreed with Powell have thus been realized. The military timetable, which initially focused on the final weeks of February or, at the latest, the beginning of March has now been chained to the timetable of international politics.
Israelis are entitled to take note of the fact that the most vocal opponents of eliminating Saddam and the dangers he poses are also the fiercest opponents of Israel. Of all the states that are helping the Americans against Saddam, or that are likely to become the victims of Saddam's enmity - including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait - only Israel has been presented not as a victim with no choice in the matter, but as a partner in the evil designs of Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
This was evident both in the speech given by Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Shara and in the demonstrations held throughout the world. This is a disgraceful phenomenon, and one that shows just how far the struggle against the war, noble though some of its motives may be, is from being free of extraneous considerations and traditional interests.
Iraq has fought against Israel in all of its wars. Saddam is the last Arab ruler to have attacked Israeli cities, with 40 missiles and no Israeli response. The four years in which there has been no supervision of his activities in the realm of atomic, biological and chemical weapons or missile development, from the end of 1998 until recently, have increased the danger that he poses.
Even though it is not devoid of risks, it seems that Israel will derive benefit from Bush's policy of either forcing Saddam to disarm or removing him from power. The additional waiting period that will apparently be imposed on the U.S. forces obligates Israel to act with restraint, neither egging Bush on nor panicking itself.