WASHINGTON'S insistence that the Persian Gulf crisis and the Arab-Israeli dispute are not linked is less supportable after the tragic violence in East Jerusalem Monday. The United States understandably wants to make a bright distinction between Iraq's occupation of Kuwait and Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, because the US needs the continued support of moderate Arab states against Saddam Hussein. That's also why Washington has asked Israel to lie low during the Gulf crisis.
To be sure, the circumstances behind the two occupations are vastly different. But whatever lines moral philosophy may draw are being scuffed out by politics. The Gulf and Israeli crises are linked because the leaders of the Palestinian intifadah, Saddam Hussein, and other Arab leaders have the power to forge the linkage.
The circumstances and events that led up to the violence on Jerusalem's Temple Mount are still being sorted out. If Israeli security forces possibly overreacted, it also seems evident that Palestinians engaged in a premeditated and provocative assault on Jewish worshipers. Whatever happened, though, the incident has thrust the Palestinians' struggle back into the forefront of world consciousness. It is being seized upon by Saddam as justification for his ``holy war'' against the West, and those Arab leaders arrayed against Saddam are likely to come under increasing political fire for aligning themselves with Israel's ally, the US.
In exercising damage control, the US will have to acknowledge the bridge that stretches between Kuwait City and East Jerusalem. Washington cannot try to mobilize world condemnation toward one occupation in the Middle East and turn a blind eye to another. It cannot strive to bring the United Nations into one regional dispute and shun UN involvement in another. Its definition of a New World Order can't be selective if it's to be credible.
When the Gulf crisis is resolved - or earlier - Arab friends of the US will demand as a price for their support redoubled American efforts for a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. The deaths on Temple Mount serve notice that such a day of reckoning will come for the US - and Israel.