Dont scapegoat Israel over bin Laden

Not surprisingly, Israel is finding itself smack in the middle of the conflict between the United States and Osama bin Laden's terror network.

Some political pundits have suggested the U.S.-Israel relationship is what provoked terror attacks on American embassies. Others say the stalled Mideast peace process is to blame.

In fact, though bin Laden spouts anti-Zionist rhetoric, he has never been particularly interested in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Instead, he focuses on undermining the United States and the government in his native Saudi Arabia and on creating pure Islamic regimes throughout the region.

But public perceptions are public perceptions. And the perceived association between Israel and bin Laden's terror may lead some to pressure Washington to toughen its stance toward Israel.

American Jews must make it clear to the Clinton administration that Israel's security remains of the utmost importance. And Jews must be prepared for the possibility that Americans could turn against Israel if the costs of the battle with bin Laden become high.

Given bin Laden's wealth, and the sophistication of his organization, the cost, pundits say, could be high indeed.

What if he resorts to chemical or biological weapons? What if his terror infiltrates our borders, as some believe occurred with the World Trade Center bombing. The possibilities are frightening.

One thing is certain, though. The embassy bombings and America's strikes in Afghanistan and Sudan should call attention to the important cause of fighting terrorism.

Jewish groups, familiar with the suffering terror has wrought on Israeli lives, have long represented one of the primary constituencies calling for tough action on terror — diplomatic pressure and sanctions against countries harboring terrorists, in addition to military action against terrorist targets.

Now that the costs of terror are hitting home, let's hope that tough stance becomes more widely accepted.