Why the attack on Syria suits Netanyahu

If Lapid comes and insists on nonsense such as a maximum of 18 ministers in the cabinet or “sharing the burden” of military service, it’ll be easier to blow him off.

Netanyahu370 (2013) (photo credit: Pool/ Emil Salman)
Netanyahu370 (2013)
(photo credit: Pool/ Emil Salman)
On the calendar, a little more than five years separate the attack on the Syrian nuclear reactor in July 2007 and the strike on Syria this week (according to foreign reporters, of course). In reality, the two episodes are light years away.
At the time of that first attack, there was complete quiet here.
Syria was calm, too, Israel was licking its wounds from the Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah was in his bunker, the borders were quiet.
You could hear a pin drop, if it dropped.
In a situation like this, dispatching eight F-16s to knock out a nuclear plant was an unusual and conspicuous act. It was like breaking into a stranger’s house and leaving burning coals on the decorative carpet in the living room.
This week, the situation is exactly the opposite. The living room is going up in flames, everything is exploding, Syria is breaking up, tens of thousands have been killed, Hezbollah fighters have been sucked into the chaos, and then there’s the Revolutionary Guards, global jihad, al-Qaida and the rest of the world.
No one is supposed to notice that several jets destroyed a military installation or a weapons convoy going from A to B. There is no shortage of demolished buildings in Syria at the moment.
Yet still, it’s not simple. In our region, Arabs are allowed to attack each other and kill each other as much as they like. When we join the party, it’s something else entirely.
If he had responded in 2007, Syrian President Bashar Assad could have lost his whole world.
Today, he doesn’t have much to lose. His whole world is being destroyed in a live broadcast.
On the contrary, as when a fire erupts in an oil well, sometimes the only way to extinguish the flames is through a large explosion.
Confronting the IDF, missiles on Tel Aviv, drawing Iran into the chaos, might all suddenly create alternative energies that somehow extend the desperate Syrian ruler’s lifespan.
With Hezbollah, the situation is different. It acts according to the instructions of Tehran. And there, in Tehran, they know that the moment of truth hasn’t come, not yet.
They were enraged by the previous round of fighting, in which Nasrallah pulled himself into the Second Lebanon War and, at the wrong time, wasted a significant portion of the arsenal that Iran was collecting with him.
Hezbollah was meant to be waiting to attack us if we attacked Iran, and not a moment earlier.
That was the deterrence that Iran had on our northern border. To take it out on us now, because of some convoy of missiles or a factory manufacturing chemical weapons, or both, would be stupid, and the Iranians are trying not to make the same stupid mistake twice.
As it appears now, when we hardly know anything about what happened, Israel’s conduct has been measured and correct.
Intensive contacts with the world, coordination with the US, public warnings, action, vagueness.
I suppose that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu closely studied the Syrian affair in 2007 before he acted this time.
Luckily for him, former prime minister Ehud Olmert didn’t rush to the television studios to take credit for this attack, as Netanyahu did back in 2007.
Bibi took a calculated risk, but in this crazy region, there is no calculation that can’t suddenly go wrong and turn into a huge mess.
Unlike last time, Syria admitted it had been attacked, Hezbollah began cursing and the Russians, who never miss an opportunity for hypocrisy, issued a condemnation.
So everything is brought out into the open, the vagueness lingers and we’re all running around on a combination of eggshells and burning coals.
Netanyahu, a prime minister who is much more cautious than his predecessor, hates gambles and is afraid of entanglements, faces a weekend of perspiration.
Still, it is nice to see that he drew a red line and acted when it was crossed. By the way, it also suits his current agenda.
Netanyahu has a clear political interest to establish as broad a coalition as possible.
There’s nothing he hates more than to be dependent on a doubtful political partner.
Yair Lapid is the political partner Netanyahu wants, but this doesn’t make him less questionable.
For Netanyahu, we’re all questionable except for himself.
Lapid’s declaration in a television interview this week that next time, he will stand for prime minister and win, fed Netanyahu’s paranoia. Now he won’t trust Lapid for a second.
Therefore, given the current situation, there is nothing that will expedite the establishment of a broad emergency government more than a flare-up on the borders.
No, Netanyahu didn’t ask for this situation, but it’s possible that he rushed to exploit it. That’s legitimate. He exhibited control, initiative and a kind of cool-headedness, at least on the outside.
And now, if Lapid comes and insists on nonsense such as a maximum of 18 ministers in the cabinet or “sharing the burden” of military service, it’ll be easier to blow him off. That’s what Netanyahu is planning to do.