Is this the start of World War III?
By Sheera Claire Frenkel and Gil Hoffman, The Jerusalem Post, July 18, 2006
Looking to their American counterparts on Monday, Knesset members were surprised at the solidarity and support being shown among key US politicians.
Several top US political figures, including Sen. John McCain (R) Arizona, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Rep.) called the current Middle East crisis the beginning of "World War III" and said they were "gravely concerned" in an interview on CNN's Larry King Live.
"We need to make our European allies understand that this is the most serious challenge we have faced in the Middle East in a long time," McCain said. He added that the US might be forced to take direct action in the crisis. McCain has been widely speculated to run in the next presidential race.
Gingrich, who called the crisis World War III in several interviews over the weekend, said that the US and Israel were acting with much restraint and that the US should shoot down Iranian planes sending supplies to Lebanon.
"I have to say that I'm a bit nervous about what they mean," said MK Danny Yatom (Labor). "To be honest, I'm a bit nervous about the US intervening. Let them send us money, supplies... we can do the rest ourselves."
Many MKs said that while they were happy to hear US politicians taking a strong line in support of Israel, they were concerned about how US intervention would play itself out.
"It is not World War III because there are no armies involved," said Vice Premier Shimon Peres (Kadima). "They must remember that this is an entirely different type of conflict."
"In many ways they are completely disconnected from what is going on here," said MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz). "They might make calls for something that is completely unnecessary."
"They haven't learned anything and they don't understand anything. I hope that they understand more about America than they understand about the Middle East," said MK Colette Avital (Labor).
Not all MKs were so hard on America, however, with one Likud MK remarking that it was better to have the US take the crisis seriously than ignore it entirely.
"They said this because they think it will lead to Iran getting involved, which they believe will set off World War III," said MK Benny Elon (National Union-National Religious Party). "I don't think they are right that WWIII has started but I understand where they are coming from. I have to agree that there could be an escalation, depending on how strongly we act."
Elon said that the comments originated with American evangelist John Hagee, who published a book in 2006 called Jerusalem Countdown, which predicted that World War III would begin in Jerusalem and spread to Western states.
"It is not even a full-scale war yet, but in theory they are right that Hizbullah is the spearhead of the axis of evil, who are cooperating with Hizbullah," said MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud). "In a sense it is part of a global conflict. The US has to deal with Iran and Syria."
Olmert spokesman Assi Shariv downplayed the candidates' remarks, saying, "We just want to bring our boys home."
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