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THE ISLAMIC BOMB AND THE PALESTINIANS

(Commentary by Danny Rubinstein, 
"Ha'aretz", June 1. 1998, p.B1)

It would perhaps be hard to maintain that the nuclear tests carried out by
Pakistan awakened great happiness among the Palestinian public, but it was
certainly possible to observe signs of satisfaction in the territories.
The regime in Islamabad reported the realization of the dream of the
"Islamic Bomb", and the Palestinians joined in the feelings of pride of
many of the hundreds of millions of Muslim believers throughout the world.

The eastern Jerusalem newspaper "Al-Quds", for example, printed an
illustration of the nuclear mushroom cloud, with an Islamic crescent above
it, seeing it as a response to the Indian provocation. Another newspaper
illustration connected the events to the current Palestinian situation.
Nuclear missiles are seen, accompanied by the sarcastic message - "The New
Middle East".

Palestinian acquaintances of mine agreed that if it was an Iranian or
Iraqi bomb under discussion, an outburst of joy would have taken place
across the West Bank and Gaza. That bomb would be aimed against Israel,
while the Islamic bomb of Pakistan has no direct connection to Israel.

The Pakistani bomb does have an indirect connection to us, which finds
expression in the hints in the Palestinian media that the nuclear
developments in the Indian sub- continent bring closer the day when there
will also be an Iranian bomb. This is reflected in the energetic attempts
by the Israeli government to stop Iranian progress and the announcement by
the Teheran regime on Friday, according to which nuclear testing is likely
to now spread throughout the region. According to the Iranians, the
Israeli government, which possesses nuclear weapons, is to blame for this.

The dark cloud of nuclear weaponry has already hung over the Arab-Israel
conflict for decades. In the past, it was suggested that the main reason
for Anwar Sadat's dramatic peace initiative, in November 1977, was his
conclusion that it would be impossible to destroy Israel, since it
possessed nuclear weapons, and would be ready to use them if all else
seemed lost. There were also analyses according to which one of the
reasons that motivated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to change his mind and
recognize the PLO in spring 1993 was the assessment that within a few
years some countries in the region would have atomic weapons, and
therefore every effort should be made, beforehand, to begin the process of
peace and reconciliation.

Among the Arabs in general, and the Palestinians in particular, there is a
great deal of talk that the source of the tough Israeli position in the
peace process is the absence of balance between the parties. Israel is
very strong and a central component of its strength is its nuclear
capability.

Against this background, Palestinian spokesmen have, in recent days, made
considerable efforts to criticize once more the double standard of the
United States and other countries, which discriminate in favor of Israel.
For example, they say, these countries now condemning India and Pakistan,
demanding that sanctions be imposed on them, are silent and do nothing
when the issue of Israel's nuclear weapons is raised.

Egypt has been making this complaint for years, every time that the
Israeli rejection to sign the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty arises.
Why is it all right for Israel to have atomic bombs and weapons of mass
destruction, while other countries should not? This is a question that
appears regularly in all the Arab and Palestinian media.

The exposure of the Pakistani bomb has, to a certain extent, implications
for the internal Palestinian arena as well. This is an Islamic bomb, not
an Arab one, and thus it has added to the prestige of Islamic movements
around the Arab world, which constitute an opposition to the ruling
nationalist movements. Hamas, too, as an Islamic movement which presents
an alternative policy to the PLO's national rule, will certainly exploit
the new bomb in order to strengthen its hold on the public in the
territories, at the expense of the Palestinian Authority, which is at an
impasse in negotiations with Israel.

.


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