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Israel After the Gulf War

- Abstract

Of the two major shocks Israelis suffered in the Gulf War, the “Scud trauma” may have dealt a heavier blow to their sense of themselves than anything since the state’s inception. The nagging daily fear, the flight of tens of thousands from their homes, the cowering in sealed rooms, and, above all, having to accept the ordeal passively were all too reminiscent of a pogrom, while the feeling of helplessness was precisely the kind of experience Israel had been founded to eliminate. To Holocaust survivors, the expectation that one of the Scud warheads might carry poison gas added a flavor of Auschwitz to the ordeal.

Not that the policy of restraint was unpopular. Israelis had nothing but admiration for American determination and political courage in pursuing the war. And despite the abuse Israel had suffered at the hands of the Bush administration in the previous coalition-courting months; despite the incredulousness at the display of American deference to Arab regimes whose very existence depended on American willingness to die in their defense; and despite the general belief that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) could reduce, if not eliminate, the Scud threat with greater effectiveness than the coalition airforce, defying the American wish that Israel stay out of the war was unthinkable. Nor could Israelis imagine a more unacceptable scenario than an accidental clash between Israeli and American pilots in Iraqi skies (which would almost certainly have happened if Israel had tried to retaliate without American permission and cooperation).

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