Refusing to be drawn into a public screaming match with Syria and Iran, Israel’s leaders on Thursday ignored apocalyptic threats and repeated the mantra voiced continually since Sunday: Israel is not involved in the Syrian crisis but will respond fiercely if attacked.
Before holding another round of security cabinet consultations in Tel Aviv about the situation in Syria, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on camera and in his own voice what his office has been saying in his name throughout the week.
“At present there is no need to change daily routines,” he said. “Despite the low assessment regarding Israel’s involvement in what is going on in Syria, we decided to deploy Iron Dome batteries as well as our other intercept systems. We are not involved in the civil war in Syria. But I would like to reiterate, if anyone tries to harm Israel’s citizens, the IDF will respond with great strength.”
His carefully crafted words, the only remarks voiced by any government minister on Thursday about Syria, were designed to send two messages: one to the Israeli public, and one to Syria, Iran and Hezbollah.
Netanyahu’s remarks came a few hours after Maj.-Gen. Muhammed Ali Jafari, the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, said a US strike on Syria would lead to the “imminent destruction” of Israel.
The theme of Netanyahu’s comments were expanded upon later in remarks IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz made at a ceremony for the fallen sailors of the Israeli navy.
Addressing the growing regional tensions, Gantz said, “The IDF is at the start of challenging days. We have no part in the events taking place nearby to us. But in the event that fire is directed in Israel’s direction, it’s clear to every leader in our region and in the whole world that the price [for the attacker] will be heavy and the losses of the enemy will be stinging and difficult.”
“We’ve analyzed the various implications from every possible development... and we are prepared for every scenario,” he said. “Our capabilities to gather [intelligence] and to attack are most advanced, and our defenses – in the air, sea and land – are ready and staffed by the best of our soldiers and commanders, conscripts and reserves.”
Gantz told the Israeli public that it can continue to live securely in its daily routine and prepare for the High Holy Days, “with the knowledge that the IDF is there to protect them – determined, strong and ready as always. When the waves around us are stormy, IDF soldiers and their commanders are all the stable anchor on which we can trust, even in the most intense of storms.”
President Shimon Peres, speaking at a meeting at the Jerusalem District Police headquarters, dismissed the threats that leaders of Syria, Iran and Hezbollah are directing toward Israel. These threats, he said, were “intended to create panic.
Israel is experienced enough [in these situations] so as not to not be drawn into false propaganda.”
Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report.