Text size

Those concerned by the apparent friction in the U.S.-Israel relationship in recent weeks would do well to now and then hum the tune that Hoagy Carmichael made famous in the classic film Casablanca, "The fundamental things apply, as time goes by." Colin Powell's calls for restraint, President Bush's anger at Ariel Sharon's "Czechoslovakia speech," the most recent demands from Washington that the IDF "immediately" withdraw from Palestinian towns in zone "A", all that will soon be forgotten as the war against terrorism with "worldwide reach" swings into high gear.

The fundamental things will come to a fore. And they are, that the United States and Israel are allies in this war so crucial to Western civilization, a war which the U.S. may not have an abundance of allies.

Nevertheless, it is well to point to the cause of this hiccup in the longstanding relationship between the United States and Israel after September 11. It is the direct result of the U.S. administration's attempt to retrace the steps taken 11 years ago by President George Bush Sr. during the Gulf crisis when he successfully stitched together a coalition against Saddam Hussein that included a number of Arab countries. This time as well, Saudi Arabia and Egypt were approached. Even states deeply involved in acts of terrorism, like Syria and Iran, were invited. Even Yasser Arafat was invited. Thank God that Saddam Hussein has not been approached. And not unlike U.S. policy 11 years ago, Israel has been asked to be unobtrusive on the sidelines. But it is already becoming clear in Washington that despite the superficial similarities, there is a world of difference between the war against Saddam Hussein and the war against Osama bin Laden and his associates now. Eleven years ago, the Saudi royal family, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Hafez Assad in Syria felt themselves threatened by Saddam Hussein and were eager to aid the United States in bringing about his defeat. Moreover, without the use of bases and areas of deployment in Saudi Arabia, General Schwartzkopf could not have mounted the Desert Storm offensive. This time around, Saudi Arabia's participation is not needed and the Saudi royal family is not fearful of Osama bin Laden, who is their own creation. Likewise, neither Mubarak nor Assad Jr. is overly concerned with bin Laden. Not only are they unenthusiastic about joining the coalition against him, but also they will find a million excuses why not to join it. The Iranian ayatollahs are probably laughing at the very thought that they were invited, while Arafat's contribution will be limited to his well photographed blood donation. The coalition, in the final analysis, will be composed of America's true allies.

When Sharon asked Colin Powell that Hezbollah, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad be added to the U.S. list of terrorist organizations that will be targets of the war against terrorism led by President Bush, he was told it would not be appropriate at this time. However, when the president shortly thereafter presented to the world the pictures of the 22-most-wanted terrorists, Imad Mughniye, a leading member of the Hezbollah, was among them.

It could not have been otherwise. Before September 11, Imad Mughniye held the record for the number of victims claimed by acts of terror masterminded by him. He is credited with the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut and the French military compound in Beirut in 1984, the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 and the bombing of the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires in 1994, as well as numerous other crimes. Mughniye belongs right next to bin Laden among the worst of evildoers. At the moment, he moves freely between Iran, Lebanon and Syria.

So before long, Hezbollah will appear on the list of terrorist organizations targeted by the United States in its war on international terrorism. And most probably so will Hamas and the Islamic Jihad and even Arafat, under whose protection they operate.

As the American effort moves into high gear, and as the going gets tough as it undoubtedly will, the United States will find at its side true friends. Hopefully that will be a long list. But even if it turns out to be short, Israel will be on it. As time goes by the fundamental things will apply.