‘If Damascus is attacked, Tel Aviv will burn,” a Syrian higher-up bristled this
week. Israel, in light of such statements, cannot regard the escalating
situation up north with the equanimity of a detached observer.
be no passivity when a coterie of evil powers hurls deadly threats at Israel in
the context of a struggle in which it is uninvolved.
In a fairer
existence, this alone ought to have unsettled the international community. But
it is futile to expect fair-mindedness where Israel is concerned.
anti-Israel bluster from Damascus, Tehran and Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon
appear to have disturbed none of the foreign statesmen or opinion-molders, whose
alacrity to condemn Israel for any perceived transgression is nothing short of
Moreover, the veiled hints from Moscow about dire
repercussions for the entire region in the event of an American attack on the
Assad regime might imply warnings of punishment for Israel.
while, Israeli commentators strive to outdo each other with educated guesses
about whether we are vulnerable, whether it would serve Bashar Assad’s interests
to fire at us, whether we should retaliate and how.
Much of the babble is
superfluous. Regardless of what eventually happens, all Israelis should be
deeply troubled by the profound indifference abroad to our lot – blameless as we
are in the Syrian strife. The very fact that a neighboring state could be
presumed to be held to ransom for events entirely outside control should shock
world opinion. But it does not.
Israelis might be forgiven for suspecting
the reaction would be radically different had any other country been similarly
threatened for no fault of its own. Sadly we must come to terms with the
likelihood that different criteria are applied to the Jewish state.
is disconcertingly reminiscent of our traumatic experience during the First Gulf
War. Events then were also played out beyond the Israeli context. Nonetheless,
Israel suffered repeated heavy missile attacks, including 40 Scud hits. The
Iraqi warheads were aimed directly and unmistakably at civilian population
Saddam Hussein’s raison d’être was that by targeting Israel he
was hurting the US. In the view of all too many Middle Eastern despots and
potentates, Israel is nothing but an American underling.
At the time
there was no audible international indignation.
The only American
response was to advocate Israeli restraint. Indeed Israel refrained from
retaliating, thereby compromising its deterrence and underscoring its
vulnerabilities for the sake of American interests.
But there was no
gratitude for Israel’s sacrifices.
Washington only pressured Israel for
territorial concessions, never counted Saddam’s anti-Israel aggression among his
sins and treated Israel largely as a mistress whose favors are required but must
never be publicly acknowledged.
The Obama administration might well want
Israel to reprise this role. It is precisely this behavior that Israel must
under no circumstances repeat.
This time Israel has made it clear –
through pronouncements by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister
Moshe Ya’alon and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz – that this country
and its people will not be pawns in the wars that others wage.
been duly served to friend and foe alike and to all shades in between that
Israel will not again consent to being a whipping boy. If anything can daunt the
Shi’ite axis that buttresses Assad, along with his more distant supporters in
Russia and China, it is such an unequivocal message from Israel.
Assad-watchers in Israel maintain that he understands quite well that the Israel
of 2013 is not the Israel of 1990. They note that it would make no sense for him
to strike out against Israel because he knows that vigorous Israeli retribution
would seal his fate.
The experts are right – in rational terms. We,
however, heard precisely such learned estimations immediately before the first
American invasion of Iraq, and they, too, sounded eminently reasonable... to us.
The problem is that this region does not operate according to our logic.