Israel's response to the recent Kassam rocket attacks on Sderot has been measured and appropriate, Kim Howells, Britain's Minister of State for the Middle East, told The Jerusalem Post, disregarding Palestinian appeals for the world to rein in the IDF.
Howells, on a three-day visit to the region, hinted in an interview Wednesday night that financial aid to the Palestinian Authority might be withheld if the PA did not seriously begin tackling the terrorism in its midst.
"The Palestinians are receiving more aid per capita than any other people on the face of the earth, and we want to see some proper response," Howells said, hinting at a decrease of economic aid if the Palestinians don't fight terror.
"I thought the retaliation this week was proportionate," said Howells about the IDF operations. "The [Palestinian] attack was a very serious one, it could have killed a lot of people. It's a miracle really there weren't more casualties."
"I think there is no excuse now," he added. "Gaza is now in the hands of the Palestinian Authority, and there are no Israeli troops there. One hopes that where tough decisions have to be made, Abu Mazen [PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas] and the PA will make them."
At the same time, Howells said, the world would carefully watch how "selective" the IDF's retaliation would be. "I don't think that any nation on earth relishes the prospect of world opinion if it retaliates by shelling indiscriminately. But it seems to me that the Israelis have targeted with great care those it believes responsible for firing those rockets."
If this care continues, Howells said, "the world will understand [Israelis] are trying to defend their citizens, which after all is the primary responsibility of any government."
To say that the world will suddenly be more understanding is a bit much, but I would have thought that the US would be more appreciative.
And I would be wrong.
According to the Jerusalem Newswire
Asked for the US government's reaction to Israel getting “a little more active,” State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack repeated what he told reporters earlier in the week: Israel must act with restraint and consider the effects of its actions on American efforts to birth a Palestinian Arab state.
“We have always maintained that Israel has a right to defend itself, but we have urged the Israeli government to be mindful of the consequences of its actions on what all share as the ultimate goal - moving down the road towards two states,” McCormack said.
The spokesman said the Bush Administration wants to see the “Palestinians” and Israelis “work together to build on what we believe was a successful withdrawal in Gaza.”Of course it could be that Howells is merely paying lip service and that this is a personal view and not that of British government itself. But I miss the days when the US would unabashedly back Israel when she defends herself against terrorism.
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