America's friendship and support for Israel runs deep, a fact that has cost the United States heavily in its relationship with Arab states over the years. But those historic ties are being badly strained.
Israel's stubborn refusal to cooperate in a United Nations investigation into the Oct. 8 Temple Mount is causing anger in Washington.Israel this week rejected a second unanimous Security Council resolution asking it to cooperate with a U.N. mission investigating the violence. This refusal to budge is an embarrassment to the United States, which has joined in U.N. resolutions criticizing Israel. The refusal came even after President Bush personally asked Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to cooperate.
While the United States historically has gone to great lengths to give billions of dollars in financial and military support to Israel and to defend it in the U.N., there must be a limit to American patience.
As long as the uproar over Israel continues, and as long as the Israeli government refuses to abide by U.N. resolutions, the world's attention is diverted from the barbaric actions of Iraq's occupation of Kuwait. And the Israeli intransigence makes it harder to hold together the Arab coalition against Iraq.
Israel claims its response to the Temple Mount riot was justified because police were attacked by thousands of stone-throwing rioters and peaceful Jewish worshippers and tourists at the sacred Wailing Wall were stoned. No one disputes that there was a riot. The question is whether "excessive force" was used to put it down.
Certainly, Israel has some right to be upset with U.N. declarations that seem more concerned with the safety of stone-throwing rioters than with those who are being stoned. But cooperation, not rejection, is the way to get around those problems.
If Israel's claims about the riot are correct, then a U.N. investigation will not hurt. In any case, the situation is not going to go away and will remain an irritant until some kind of impartial finding is made.
Israel has concerns about the status of Jerusalem, but allowing a U.N. team to investigate an incident in the city is not going to remove Israeli control over Jerusalem. In fact, U.N. observers already are in Jerusalem and have been for years. Their presence is nothing new.
For the most part, Israeli rule of the city has been enlightened and fair, more so than when Jordan held the city. Before Israel captured all of Jerusalem in the 1967 war, Jews had been kept from their sacred religious sites by Arab troops. Although Israel may some day give up the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, it has vowed never to surrender any part of Jerusalem.
But those are other issues. By its refusal to allow the U.N. to investigate the Temple Mount violence, Israel is hurting itself, hurting the United States, hurting its image in America and giving aid and comfort to Iraq's murderous Saddam. It still isn't too late for Israel to reconsider and reverse its stance.