The policy choices available for dealing with Syria “are between bad, bad, and
worse,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told a three-member bipartisan
Congressional delegation on Monday, amid heightened concern over the fate of
Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons.
The first problem in looking at
Syria, Netanyahu told the congressmen from the House Armed Services Committee,
is the issue of chemical weapons, which he said was foremost on everyone’s
The larger issues, he said, were what will happen to the regime,
what sort of regime will follow and whether Syria will develop into another
At the outset of the meeting with the delegation, led by
Rob Wittman (R-Virginia), Netanyahu praised the close cooperation between Israel
and the US on all matters, “including the developing matters in
He spoke of “very close cooperation between our two governments,”
and said this was “important for the stability of the region” as well as “for
the security of Israel.”
The other two congressmen in the delegation were
Ted Poe (R-Texas), and Hank Johnson (D-Georgia).
about the tight US-Israel cooperation regarding Syria were echoed by US
Ambassador Dan Shapiro, who said in an Israel Radio interview that there was
continuous dialogue and coordination between the two countries, at the highest
levels, to deal with the region’s security challenges.
“There are two
dangerous possibilities regarding Syria,” Shapiro said. “Either the regime will
use chemical weapons against the Syrian people, or will transfer the chemical
weapons to Hezbollah or other extreme organizations. We want to prevent either
of those possibilities from taking place, and we are watching the situation
Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter, who characterized
Syria as a chemical weapons superpower, said Israel was monitoring the situation
to understand with as much specificity as possible what was happening to the
country’s chemical weapons arsenal. He said Israel was not alone in this, and
that there were many countries worried about the situation, though Israel was
“one of the leading worried countries because of its proximity.”
said the unpredictability now in Syria was making the situation more
complicated, as was the lack of clarity regarding who was in control, and even
whether loyalists of President Bashar Assad would listen to him, or perhaps take a more extreme view than he does.
In a related development,
Ma’ariv reported on Monday that Netanyahu had dispatched his national security
advisor Yaakov Amidror to Moscow for meetings there on the chemical weapons
issue. The Prime Minister’s Office would not verify the report, saying it does
not comment on Amidror’s travels.
Amidror was making his way to the
country as Russia held its largest ever naval maneuvers in the eastern
Mediterranean, off the coasts of Syria, in what is seen as a clear message to
Western powers that it would not tolerate a forceful intervention by NATO in the
In an interview with The New Republic published on Monday, US
President Barack Obama spoke about his struggle over how to respond to the
ongoing violence in Syria.
“I am more mindful probably than most of not
only our incredible strengths and capabilities, but also our limitations,” Obama
noted. “In a situation like Syria, I have to ask, can we make a difference in
that situation?” He went on to pose a question about whether such intervention
would have an impact in that country, but also on the US ability to support
troops in Afghanistan and whether American action would trigger even worse
violence or the use of chemical weapons.
Obama also asked, “How do I
weigh tens of thousands who’ve been killed in Syria versus the tens of thousands
who are currently being killed in the Congo?” Obama continued by pointing out
these were not simple questions with easy answers.
“You make the
decisions you think balance all these equities, and you hope that, at the end of
your presidency, you can look back and say, I made more right calls than not and
that I saved lives where I could.”
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