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9/11: A Year After / WHO WE ARE NOW

Saul Singer

September 11, 2002

Saul Singer, 41, is editorial page editor of the conservative Jerusalem Post daily newspaper. American-born, he immigrated to Israel eight years ago. It was late afternoon in Jerusalem when the World Trade Center towers were hit. Singer's editorials have urged Washington to take its "war on terrorism" against Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Iraq.

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"The minute we heard that a second plane had hit, we knew it was a terrorist attack. Coming from Israel, I think we more quickly suspect terrorism.

Israel was already under attack. Now it was clear that the United States was under attack. I understood how Americans felt. I knew how they would be feeling in terms of being attacked by terrorists. It was a process where terrorism was spreading. As part of that, I expected there would be more sympathy for Israel. Now Americans would have the kind of feelings that we have here.

It took some time, but as the war on terrorism has gone on, I think Israelis feel they are not alone. Initially there was concern, almost shock, when it seemed that the allies that the U.S. was gathering included Syria and Arafat and so on and maybe even Iran.

That changed relatively quickly. The big turning point was [President Bush's] State of the Union address, when he made clear that anybody who harbored terrorists is a terrorist.

The question Israelis had was, would there be separate standards--some countries that support terrorism but are not targeted for 'regime change' and others that would be?

We had written in editorials that we were concerned that Arafat was operating as if he had immunity, and that was contributing to attacks against Israel. We connected Saddam [Hussein] and Arafat, saying that heating up the Palestinian situation was Saddam's best defense against attack. Since the United States decided the Middle East had to be quiet before it hit Saddam, the more Arafat heated up things, the more safe it was for Saddam.

Bush's June 24 speech [calling for Arafat to be replaced] got out of that bind. It released the U.S. from that trap.

I'd like to think that Israel was being persuasive, but I think it's more a matter of reality being persuasive. It became clear that if the attack on Iraq were to wait for peace in the Middle East, and there were no consequences for Arafat's heating up the situation, then the U.S. was in a bind and the war on terrorism would be stymied."

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As told to Tracy Wilkinson

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