CNN US News

U.S. withholds criticism
of Israel's attack

April 13, 1996
Web posted at: 10:10 p.m. EDT

From Correspondent Jill Dougherty

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In a policy switch, the United States is tacitly giving Israel the green light as it pounds cities in Lebanon.

In previous military exchanges between Israel and terrorists in Lebanon, the United States urged restraint on both sides. This time, it's publicly pointing the blame at the Islamic terrorist group Hezbollah.

"A real fundamental problem is the Hezbollah are rocketing Northern Israel with what are called Katyusha rockets, very dangerous rockets. They basically broke an accord that existed with respect to firing Katyushas," Secretary of State Warren Christopher told CNN's "Evans and Novak" Saturday.


Christopher

"What needs to stop, what needs to happen now, is the Hezbollah needs to stop firing those Katyusha rockets into Northern Israel," he said.

U.S. officials behind the scenes say that they're sending a message. Hezbollah, the United States charges, started the cycle of provocative action by firing those Katyusha rockets. The official view is that Israel's response, to protect the security of its citizens, was reasonable. As a U.S. official put it, "We will not judge Israel."

One observer says the United States changed its policy with an eye on the upcoming Israeli elections. The Clinton administration is siding with the Labor Party, which supports the peace process in the Middle East.


Quote from Geoffrey Kemp of the Nixon Center for Peace and Freedom

Kemp believes there is "overwhelming sympathy in the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon for the actions the Israelis have taken against Hezbollah."

"Unless things escalate very dramatically, I would doubt whether you'll hear anything other than the most muted criticism from Washington," Kemp said.

The White House says its message is also aimed at Syria, which has influence over Hezbollah activities in Lebanon. Officials at the White House say there is concern over Israel's attacks in Lebanon. Nevertheless, as Christopher's comments indicate, the United States has no plans at this point to intervene, nor to mediate.

"The parties there will have to work out a peace process themselves," he said.


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