Israel condemned Iraq's invasion of Kuwait as a "naked act of aggression" Thursday and warned that if Iraqi troops entered Jordan, Israel would consider it an act of war and react accordingly.
But otherwise, Israeli leaders took a serious but measured view of the latest round of war in the Middle East. And the nation remained calm.
Yitzhak Rabin, who is a Labor Party member of Parliament, a former prime minister and former head of the armed forces, gave voice to a widespread feeling when he declared: "This means a real increase in Iraq's power and hence their ability to dictate certain steps in the Arab world--and is a potential threat to Israel. Not an immediate threat, but a potential threat."
Members of the Knesset (Parliament) as well as government officials warned against Iraqi troops entering Jordan, a neighbor and ally of Baghdad that shares a border with Israel.
Knesset members said that Israel would be justified in launching what member Yossi Sarid called a "preventive" attack, if Baghdad's troops moved into Jordan.
In castigating Iraq's "aggression," Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir's office declared that Israel believes "peace in the Middle East will only be achieved when the Arab world realizes it has to desert the idea of solving problems through wars."
Several members of the rightist government argued that Iraq's invasion of tiny Kuwait showed that Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein--not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict--is the real danger to lasting peace in the Middle East.
Although most specialists said that few observers in Israel had believed Iraq would actually invade Kuwait, Defense Minister Moshe Arens declared: "We are not surprised. Not that we had exact information, but we have had enough time to get to know Saddam Hussein and his behavior. . . ."
"It is not a surprise," said Agriculture Minister Rafael Eitan, a former army general. "Oil is one of their only sources of income and it is therefore clear--(Hussein) will do what he wants and no Arab state or coalition of Arab states will stop him. We must be very alert, because from there, his only direction is west."
Several leading Israelis denounced Hussein as a "madman," and opposition Labor Party leader Shimon Peres declared, "We are dealing with someone who is crazy."
For his part, Housing Minister Ariel Sharon, a former army general and defense minister, declared: "I wouldn't call him crazy. We are speaking about a man who stood as head of a state which was engaged in a harsh war (with Iran) for 8 1/2 years.
"This shows, in the main, that the problem in the Middle East is not Israel and the Palestinians."
Former Defense Minister Rabin said: "The absurd thing is that the Iraqi military power was built with money received from Saudi Arabia, Libya, Dubai and other 'oil princes.' Today it has boomeranged on these states."
Meanwhile, Middle East experts agreed that there was little possibility for outside nations to push Iraq out of Kuwait by military, diplomatic or economic means.
Specialists familiar with the area conclude that no regional countries have the power or inclination to threaten Hussein with force to pull out his troops. Nor, they say, would the superpowers intervene to bail out the oil-wealthy emirate.
"The major military powers in the area--Turkey and Iran--have no wish to get into a war with Iraq," said Joseph Alpher, deputy director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, in an interview. "The Arab countries, even Syria which hates the Iraqi regime, are unlikely to initiate hostilities against the powerful million-man Iraqi army."
As for Israel, Jerusalem has no intention of getting involved at this time, according to politicians, and military specialists.
As Alpher put it: "Nobody has asked us. Nobody would thank us. And there's no way really to do it. Besides, there's no immediate threat to Israel."