Israel as an Ally

The US call for all nations to join in battling global terrorism was like switching on a giant magnet. Iron needles are lining up quickly, either for or against.

In Israel, the needle is spinning. Just last year, Israel was trying to upgrade itself as a closer US ally. But since the Sept. 11 attacks - which were not unlike what Israelis live with almost every week - some of Israel's actions appear to many as if it doesn't fully support the US campaign. (See story, page 2.)

Unlike European allies of the US in NATO, Israel cannot offer military help. That would scare away Arab nations to this global cause. But the US does hope the hard-line government of Ariel Sharon will switch from its hawkish stance toward Palestinians to something more dovish. It also doesn't seem to want to submit to Israel's wish to add the militant Islamic groups that regularly attack Israel to the US list of global terrorists.

Perhaps that's why President Bush restated the US conditional support for a Palestinian state a few days ago. His timing hinted that the US might be more evenhanded in the Mideast. Unfortunately, by so starkly outlining an expected outcome for peace, Mr. Bush undercuts the long US role of being only a mediator, not a director, in the peace process.

Perhaps because Israel now is more aware of its current odd alignment with the US, Israel's foreign minister met with Palestinian officials yesterday to talk about patching up a shattered cease-fire. The US may take that as a sign that Israel really does want to act more like an ally.

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