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Netanyahu says U.S. should topple Saddam

Former Israeli P.M. warns terror states will soon get nuclear weapons

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

By Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last night called on the United States to strike Iraq, topple Saddam Hussein and install what he said would be the first democratic government in the Arab world.

Benjamin Netanyahu Sept. 11 was "a wake-up call from hell" (Steve Mellon, Post-Gazette)

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This story was written and reported by Post-Gazette writers Steve Levin, Dennis B. Roddy, Bill Schackner and Nate Guidry.

With 200 protesters chanting across the street from Heinz Hall, Netanyahu said the United States should act against terrorist organizations and roughly one dozen states he says have sponsored and harbored them.

Netanyahu said it was "just a question of time" before a terrorist state acquires nuclear weapons "and they will use them because they have no limits."

"I think the United States should act," he said. "If the U.N. wants to join, that's fine. I happen to think most of the world will join -- later."

Netanyahu's talk, the first of a speaker series sponsored by Robert Morris University, took place without incident. During his 50-minute talk and the half-hour question-and-answer session that followed, Netanyahu abandoned the lectern and paced the stage, speaking extemporaneously while two security guards shadowed him.

Outside Heinz Hall's front doors, a phalanx of Pittsburgh police officers stood with 3-foot wooden riot batons at their sides watching the protesters on the opposite sidewalk across Sixth Street. Additional police patrolled a nearby parking garage, and an eight-member mounted unit was stationed on Penn Avenue.

No incidents were reported, although there were several occasions when protesters and ticket holders for Netanyahu's talk exchanged taunts.

Netanyahu's appearance at Heinz Hall climaxed a day that began with a speech at Robert Morris University at 3 p.m. and included dinner at the Duquesne Club prior to his Heinz Hall appearance.

Earlier in the day, speaking at Robert Morris, Netanyahu hinted broadly that he will run again for Israeli prime minister. Under Israeli law, an election must be called sometime next year but could come earlier if prime minister and fellow Likud Party member Ariel Sharon calls for early elections.

In addition to the anti-Netanyahu protest, his visit also prompted a pro-Israel gathering at Market Square.

The anti-Netanyahu protesters wore T-shirts reading "We are all Palestinians" and waved various signs that read: "End Israeli Occupation of Palestine" and "End Israeli Apartheid." They marched single-file for two blocks from Agnes Katz Plaza to Heinz Hall, some of them carrying a banner bearing names of Palestinians who have died during the intifada, or "uprising," since it began two years ago.

Several well-known peace activists were part of the Netanyahu protest, including Dennis Brutus, professor emeritus of African literature at the University of Pittsburgh. He said he was marching with the protesters because Israel is "in illegal occupation of Palestinian lands in defiance of all U.N. resolutions."

"The U.S. must end its support of racism and apartheid in Israel," he said.

Singer-songwriter Anne Feeney said she had "a lifelong commitment to issues of peace and social justice. I feel we're on the brink of global war."

Edith Bell, 78, of Highland Park, who said she was a Holocaust survivor, told the protesters that "only by give and take and by compromise can there be peace."

"I feel strongly that the policy of the current Israeli government will not help create peace," she said.

At one point, city Councilman Bob O'Connor briskly walked by the protesters after greeting acquaintances who were attending Netanyahu's talk. One of the protesters called out for O'Connor to address the crowd, adding, "We're the good guys."

Without stopping, O'Connor quickly referred to Palestinian suicide bombings of Israeli civilians, saying, "I don't think so. Stop blowing up the kids and you would be."

Although Netanyahu's speech at Robert Morris University began at 3 p.m., the building was locked down by 2 p.m. Half-a-dozen county SWAT team members outside Massey Hall were the most obvious security force as Netanyahu's motorcade approached from Pittsburgh International Airport, where he had arrived from Washington, D.C.

No protesters were visible on the campus. By 2:30 p.m., the first of 268 people who had scooped up free tickets were ushered into an auditorium past plainclothes police and a metal detector.

"Everybody should study history," Netanyahu told the audience of mostly students, launching into a comparison of the world's inaction against Nazi Germany in the 1930s with the modern-day dilemma posed by Iraq's nuclear ambitions.

He said Israel's preemptive strike on Iraq in 1981, though roundly criticized then, "purchased 20 years of nuclear peace for the world from a deadly regime."

Netanyahu said Sept. 11 was "a wake-up call from hell" and that the world's future is at stake. If al-Qaida possessed enough nuclear material a year ago, Netanyahu said, "New York and Washington would not exist today."

He said America and Israel have surprised the terrorists with their resolve, and he called that critical to the fight.

"The force that defeats terrorism is courage," he said.

His 12-minute speech, roundly applauded, was followed by slightly more than 30 minutes of questions and answers.

He likened Yasser Arafat to Saddam Hussein and said the Palestinian leader must go for the Arab-Israeli conflict to be resolved, telling the crowd at one point: "What Arafat wants is not a state next to Israel. He wants a state instead of Israel.

"And the root cause of the enduring conflict between us and the Palestinians and a good portion, unfortunately, of the Arab world, is a persistent Arab refusal to accept Israel in any size, in any border, in any configuration."

About 300 people gathered at Market Square for a candlelight vigil to express solidarity and support for Israel.

"We are here to show support for Israel, but we are here to commemorate all the victims of terrorism," said Karen Shapira, former chairwoman of the United Jewish Federation.

The vigil, which began at 6:30 p.m., was organized by Jewish student organizations at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, and the United Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh, with the assistance of synagogues, Jewish community organizations and agencies.

Addressing the crowd, Mayor Tom Murphy spoke about changes that have occurred in Pittsburgh since Sept. 11, 2001. He also talked about the restraint Israel has demonstrated in spite of all of the terrorist attacks. He asked residents to be more vigilant for democracy.

Allegheny County Chief Executive Jim Roddey spoke of Israel's courage and endurance and said Israel is America's only friend in the Middle East.

Steve Levin can be reached at slevin@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1919. Dennis Roddy can be reached at droddy@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1965. Bill Schackner can be reached at bschackner@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1977. Nate Guidry can be reached at nguidry@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3865.

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