Israel and the Syrian challenge

Israeli government officials believe a US-led attack on Syria is imminent (Photo: wikimedia)
Israeli government officials believe a US-led attack on Syria is imminent (Photo: wikimedia)

Even before the UN expert team begins its investigation near Damascus, for Israel it is already “crystal clear” that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons on August 21 in an attack that killed hundreds of people.

Official Israeli spokespersons relate this alleged attack to the need to overcome Iran.  Strategic Affairs and International Relations Minister Yuval Steintz said on Monday that “what happened in Syria should remind us how dangerous it is if Iran is able to complete its military nuclear project and produce atomic bombs.”

Steinitz said that just as the Syrians used chemical weapons against their own people, the Iranians are capable of using nuclear weapons because, like the Syrians, they have “no moral compunctions.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during Sunday’s cabinet meeting that “this must not continue. It is forbidden that the most dangerous regimes in world be in possession of the most dangerous weapons in the world. We expect this to stop. Our hand is on the pulse and the responsible finger is on the trigger. ”

It is important to note that according to Israel’s security doctrine, an unconventional attack on the Israeli home front is a red line; if it occurs, the Israeli army may be instructed to attack in a broad and brutal manner. Such an attack, of course, may lead to a large escalation of hostilities.

Despite contradictory public statements, the hope in Israel is that the Syrian chaos will drag the United States back into the Middle East, something the Obama administration has so far attempted to avoid. Nevertheless, according to the Haaretz newspaper, Israeli officials who work closely with the administration in Washington feel the US is seriously preparing an attack and that the chances for a limited military action in Syria are high.

Quoting the German newspaper Focus, the Israeli press claims that intelligence unit 8200 of the Israeli army recorded the Syrian leadership ordering the aforementioned chemical attack on the outskirts of Damascus.

The Israeli press cites the most likely scenario to be an American attack against Syrian military targets by cruise missiles, possibly backed by warplanes. Such a move could have implications for Israel, as previously threatened by Assad. Israelis, however, speculate that Assad would prefer to avoid direct military confrontation.  Asked if the government is concerned about Syrian retaliation against Israel in case of an American attack, Steinitz said, “I think it will be insane for somebody to try to provoke Israel.”

“Anyone who would attack us will meet a harsh response,” said Deputy Foreign Minister MK Zeev Elkin, referring to tensions with Syria. “Our position on the Syrian issue is clear, bad things are being done there and those should be stopped.”

However, according to Alon Rozen, former director of civil defense at the Defence Ministry, the Israeli civil population is not ready for a major confrontation with Syria.

Speaking to the Hebrew-language news website Walla, Rosen said that Israel is used to wars like the Second Lebanon War and localized operations – like attacks on Gaza such as Operations Cast Lead and Pillar of Defence. Yet in a confrontation with Syria, rockets and missiles would potentially fall in larger amounts.

According to the Israeli army, one-third of Israelis have no protection from rockets and missiles and the civil population is unprepared for a non-conventional confrontation.


* This article was published by the Alternative Informati Center (AIC)



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