A BLOW HAS been dealt to the American policy of trying to separate the Gulf crisis from the Arab-Israeli dispute. This results from the Temple Mount confrontation in which Israeli police killed some 20 Palestinians who were throwing stones at Israeli worshipers. The United States chose to join the international protest -- to strengthen but contain it and to keep the coalition in the Gulf solid. But Israel reacted strongly to the criticism of its police and, even more, to the inference that the inspection mission ordered by the United Nations Security Council challenged its claim to sovereignty over Jerusalem. To this was quickly added an American-Israeli spat over settlement of immigrants in formerly Arab East Jerusalem. Saddam Hussein can only be pleased to see the coalition formed against him diverted by a cascading sequence in Israel that embarrasses the United States.
Israel and the United States both have a responsibility to get things back on track. Israel's part is to climb down from its high defensiveness about the U.N. secretary general's emissary. Israel would be in a far better position to stiff the U.N. if it had not done its share in the last year to sideline American efforts to start up Israeli-Palestinian talks. The General Assembly has been grossly unfair to Israel, but the Security Council has generally been kept honest by its Western presence and in particular by the American veto. Rather than let its Palestinian and Israeli critics monopolize the emissary's ear, the Israeli government ought to make its Temple Mount case -- which, as we have suggested, is not insubstantial. Israelis, who would benefit immensely from its success, can hardly want to be seen spoiling the campaign against Saddam Hussein.
The Iraq crisis happened to burst at a moment when American-Israeli relations had been soured by Israeli resistance to American attempts to energize last year's Israeli peace plan. This makes things awkward now, but the United States, determined to bring about Iraqi compliance with U.N. resolutions on Kuwait, cannot evade an obligation to persuade Israel to comply with the U.N. resolution on Temple Mount. The effort may strain things further for a while, but it is the essential way to deflect Iraq's subversive purpose of subordinating the Kuwait question to the Palestine question. By word, tone and deed, the United States needs to convey that it has its priorities straight in the Middle East -- first Iraq, then the whole Arab-Israeli dispute -- and that it is serious about both of them.