Iraq war was good for
By Dan Williams
11/22/06 "Reuters" -- -- The Iraq war was a boon for
Israel's security, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
said on Wednesday, voicing fresh endorsement for a Bush
administration sapped by the unpopularity at home of its
Middle East policies.
The mid-term election losses of U.S. President George W.
Bush's Republican Party were widely considered a
repudiation of his decision to topple Iraq's Saddam
Hussein as part of a vision of democratizing the region
and bolstering allies like Israel.
Olmert avoided explicit comment on the Republicans'
fortunes during Washington talks with Bush earlier this
month. But in a speech to visiting American Jews, Olmert
made clear he had few regrets about the changes wrought
by the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
"I know all of his (Bush's) policies are controversial
in America. There are some who support his policies in
the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, and some who do
not," he said.
"I stand with the president because I know that Iraq
without Saddam Hussein is so much better for the
security and safety of Israel, and all of the neighbors
of Israel without any significance to us," added Olmert,
who was speaking in English.
"Thank God for the power and the determination and
leadership manifested by President Bush."
With U.S.-led forces mired in an Iraqi insurgency,
political analysts have speculated that Bush may
redirect his attentions toward solving an
Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is a major grievance
in the Arab and Muslim world.
That could prompt Olmert to reconsider his unilateral
policies towards a Palestinian leadership that he has
argued is incapable or unwilling to make peace with
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a moderate who has
been struggling to revive rapprochement efforts despite
opposition from the Hamas Islamists with which he shares
power, has said that Israel should seek peace as a key
to wider regional calm.
Under Saddam, Iraq backed Palestinian militants and
posed a menacing presence to Israel's east. During the
1991 Gulf war, Iraq rained missiles on Israel but Israel
held its fire at the behest of Washington, which was
wary of alienating Arab allies.
But Olmert's views on today's Iraq have not been shared
by all Israeli experts.
Yuval Diskin, chief of the Shin Bet intelligence
service, said in a leaked briefing earlier this year
that Israel could come to rue Saddam's ouster if it
deepens regional instability.
"When you take apart a system in which a dictator has
been controlling his people by force, you have chaos,"
Diskin said in a recording broadcast by Israeli
television. "I'm not sure we won't end up missing
Copyright © 2006 Reuters Limited.