Former Israeli PM Netanyahu says he exchanged messages with Saddam in 1998

Published September 11th, 2002 - 02:00 GMT

Israel's former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Wednesday morning he exchanged secret messages with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. According to Netanyahu, in 1998, it was thought that Saddam might launch a missile attack on Israel, as he had done during the 1991 Gulf War. Netanyahu told Army Radio the Iraqi leader sent a secret message assuring Israel that he had no such intention.  


"I sent him a message and told him that this was a very wise decision on his part, so that he could understand what the significance would be if he acted against us," Netanyahu disclosed.  


In the Gulf War, Iraq fired 39 Scud missiles at Israeli cities, causing extensive damage but few casualties. Yitzhak Shamir, who was then prime minister, refrained from retaliating, bowing to strong pressure from Bush Administartion.  


Netanyahu, who was prime minister from 1996-99, said the decision was understandable, but that Israel had paid a heavy price for it. Failure to respond to an Arab missile attack severely eroded Israel's deterrent power, he said.  


"In the psychological climate of the Middle East it was perceived as an invitation to new attacks," he said. This was why Iraq, Iran and other Mideast states have been acquiring missiles on a large scale in the 10 years since the Gulf War, Netanyahu aired. Netanyahu, who has aspirations to be re-elected said he would never tolerate a missile attack without responding. "The response has to come," he said. (

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