The United States asked Israel to “keep a low profile” about Iraq for fear that statements by senior Israeli officials could sabotage its efforts to obtain international support in the coming war.

The Americans said that the many statements that have been made in Israel concerning Iraq are sabotaging its efforts to convince western countries, and some Arab countries, to support the attack on Iraq. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has decided to accede to the American request. President Bush congratulated Foreign Minister Peres that Israel stands forth as a loyal soldier in the war on terror. The two spoke at a luncheon given by the secretary general of the United Nations yesterday.

Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Haim Ramon said yesterday that Israel does not need to establish red lines in a response to an Iraqi missile attack. “If a missile falls in the Negev and causes no damage, then of course we will not have to respond. If a non-conventional missile falls on a populated area and causes heavy losses, of course our response will be otherwise. Therefore I suggest that we not set red lines for ourselves,” Ramon said.

The Knesset Audit Committee will hold a special discussion on the home front’s preparedness for an Iraqi chemical or biological missile attack, committee chairman MK Ran Cohen has decided.

“I am anxious and worried that at a time when every child is aware of the possibility of a confrontation with Iraq, our defense systems are broadcasting complacency and unpreparedness, and Israel’s citizens are exposed to danger,” MK Cohen said. He announced that he will invite officers in the Home Front Command, the police and local authorities to the committee discussion, which State Comptroller Judge Eliezer Goldberg will attend. The committee will ask them for an accounting of the condition and availability of protective kits, bomb shelters and sealed rooms, and the state of preparedness of rescue and medical teams.

Ma’ariv checked and found that in the Upper Galilee and the Golan Heights, there are no stations for updating protective kits. Tens of thousands of residents in those areas must travel for at least an hour to reach a distribution station. It also found that there are only four such stations in the entire northern area. The IDF Spokesperson’s Office commented: “The Home Front Command is working according to an annual work plan and according to need. The location of distribution stations changes from time to time to respond to the needs of all citizens.”

But the Ramat Gan municipality has decided that if the city should fall under missile attack, residents will be evacuated to the Angel Forest near Beit Guvrin. The municipality will arrange for toilets, showers and shade, but not tents, and said that it has not yet received confirmation from the Home Front Command and that no preparations have been made there yet.

This piece ran in Maariv on September 15, 2002