Israel's leaders expressed understandable concern when Secretary of State Colin Powell referred to recent Israeli counter-terror measures as "excessive and disproportionate." After all, America's armed forces have repeatedly used massive force against its enemies (sometimes under the direct command of Powell himself, a former head of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff) even when those enemies are thousands of miles from America's shores--unlike Israel, which faces enemies who strike in the heart of Israel's major cities, murdering innocent Jews.

Here is how Powell has described his philosophy of how the United States should respond to its enemies:

* "'The biggest s.o.b. on the block' rule. America should enter fights with every bit of force available or not at all." (Time, April 19, 2001).

* "Go in full force from the beginning rather than escalate yourself into a quagmire. Or don't go in at all." (Slate Magazine, March 27, 1999).

* "Overwhelming U.S. force assures success at minimum risk to Americans in uniform." (Boston Globe, Jan. 19, 2001).

Israel has not used "full force" or "overwhelming force" -- to quote Powell's description of his recommended methods -- even though the murders, injuries, and fears which its citizens have endured from the Palestinian Arabs is far worse than anything Americans have faced. There have been over 7,000 terrorist attacks in the past seven months. Seventy-five Israelis have been murdered, and hundreds more wounded; there are daily shooting and bombing attacks in both Judea-Samaria-Gaza as well as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Netanya, to the point where many Israelis are afraid to ride buses, shop in outdoor marketplaces, or enjoy other aspects of ordinary daily life.

Furthermore, the Palestinian Authority terrorist forces are located just a few hundred yards from major Israeli cities, including Jerusalem. By contrast, the U.S. used overwhelming force in response to incidents that took place thousands of miles from America's shores. Unlike Israel, which is responding to attacks in the heart of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and other major cities.

For example, after an Iraqi attempt on the life of former President Bush (during his 1993 visit to Kuwait), the U.S. fired 23 cruise missiles fired at Iraq's intelligence headquarters in Baghdad, inadvertently hitting a civilian neighborhood as well. Powell defended the action as "Appropriate, proportional and consistent with Article 51 of the UN Charter." (Washington Post, June 28, 1993).

In the Gulf War of 1991, Powell led a force of 540,000 U.S. troops (34% of the Army's total manpower), including 4,000 tanks, 1,800 planes, and 1,700 helicopters, against Iraq because of the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. Powell also brought in nearly 100,000 additional troops from America's allies to join the fighting.

Powell also oversaw the December 1989 invasion of Panama, in which 25,000 troops were sent to capture a minor dictator suspected of drug trafficking. The action cost the lives of 23 American soldiers, as well as 315 Panamanian soldiers and hundreds of Panamanian civilians. In addition, thousands of civilians were injured and 10,000 were made refugees. In his autobiography, Powell said the operation conformed to his doctrine of "Use all the force necessary, and do not apologize for going in big if that's what it takes."

The U.S. has also used massive force in other military operations in recent years, such as its bombings of Libya in 1986, killing dozens of Libyan civilians and damaging foreign embassies (in retaliation for a Libya-sponsored terrorist attack in Europe in which Americans were killed) and its 1983 invasion of Grenada, based on a perceived threat to a hundred American medical students there.

There is nothing "excessive" or "disproportionate" about the actions Israel has taken to defend itself against Palestinian Authority terrorism. Targeting terror leaders, moving troops into areas used as terror launching pads, withholding funds that would be used to finance terrorism. These are all perfectly legitimate aspects of a country's self-defense against mass murderers. And they are child's play compared to the force that America's military, under Colin Powell, has used in far less threatening situations. Can you imgagine how the United States would respond if Mexican government-sponsored terrorists were shelling El Paso and killing American citizens, or if Canadian government-sponsored terrorists were sending suicide bombers into Buffalo every week...?

Morton A. Klein is the National President of the Zionist Organization of America