Originally created 12/04/01

Israeli doctor talks terror response



If the United States is serious about its war on terrorism, it should not be critical of Israel for a swift response to suicide bombings that killed 26 people there, said a former top Israeli health official.

The recent attacks by the militant Islamic Resistance Movement, also called Hamas, may have finally shown that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yassar Arafat is incapable of bringing about peace, said Theo Dov Golan, former director-general of the Israeli Ministry of Health.

Dr. Golan, whose former position is equivalent to that of U.S. surgeon general, spoke Monday at the Medical College of Georgia about disaster medicine, about which Israel has much to teach the United States.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has declared "a war on terrorism" and Israel should be allowed to pursue it just as the United States is pursuing its war on terrorism in Afghanistan, Dr. Golan said.

"If President Bush is really sticking to his policy to eradicate terror, we agree with him 100 percent," Dr. Golan said. "(The United States) should not call our response excessive force."

The White House said Monday that Israel has a right to respond to the attacks. That response may include sending in the Israeli army to cordon off Palestinian villages and search house to house for the terrorists, if necessary, Dr. Golan said.

"We won't attack and we won't carry out a massacre of the Palestinian people," Dr. Golan said. But hopes are fading that the Palestinian leaders will be able to bring about a peaceful resolution to the longstanding conflict.

"Many of us do not believe anymore that Arafat can be a responsible leader who will be able to deliver the goods of a peaceful resolution," Dr. Golan said.

If nothing else, the longstanding conflict has taught Israel to prepare and drill for the worst, including the chemical and biological weapons that some of its neighbors, including Iraq, have already used, Dr. Golan said. In fact, Dr. Golan said that while the anthrax letters might have been mailed by someone within the United States, the source is a much more "sophisticated" program and Iraq in his opinion is a prime suspect.

Israel could provide a good model for the United States in terms of preparation and approach, said MCG infectious disease physician David Haburchak.

"We've got a lot to learn from not only them but a lot of other people in the world in terms of preparing for natural and man-made disasters," Dr. Haburchak said.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tomc@augustachronicle.com.