“If Damascus is attacked, Tel Aviv will burn,” a Syrian higher-up bristled this week. Israel, therefore, cannot watch the escalating cliffhanger with detached equanimity from the sidelines.
There can be no passivity when potent threats are hurled at Israel from a coterie of evil powers in the context of a struggle in which Israel is uninvolved. In a fairer existence, this very fact alone ought to have acutely unsettled the international community. But it’s almost futile to expect a modicum of fair-mindedness where Israel is concerned.
So far the anti-Israel bluster from Damascus, Tehran and Hizbullah 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 remarkable. Moreover, the veiled hints from Moscow about dire repercussions for the entire region in the event of an American attack, might also imply warnings about impending punishment for Israel.
All the while, Israeli commentators strive to outdo each other with educated guesses about whether or not 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 transpires, all Israelis should be deeply troubled by the profound indifference abroad to our lot – blameless as we are in the internecine Syrian strife. The very fact, that a neighboring state could be presumed to be held to ransom for occurrences entirely out of its control, should shock world opinion. But it does not.
Israelis might be forgiven for suspecting that 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.
This is disconcertingly reminiscent of our extremely 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 deadly warheads were aimed directly and unmistakably at civilian population centers.
Saddam Hussein’s raison d’être was that by targeting Israel he was hurting the US. In the view of all too many Mideastern 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 avoided retaliation, 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-Israeli aggression among his sins and treated Israel largely like a mistress whose favors are required but must never be publicly acknowledged.
This might well be the role which the Obama administration now wants Israel to reprise. This is precisely the behavior which Israel must under no circumstances repeat.
This time indeed Israel has made it clear – through pronouncements by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.Gen. Benny Gantz – that this country and its inhabitants will not be pawns in the wars that others wage.
Thus notice had duly been served on friend and foe alike and all shades in between that Israel won’t consent again to humbly become a whipping boy for others. If anything can daunt the Shiite axis that buttresses Assad, along with his more distant supporters in Russia and China, it is such an unequivocal advance cautionary message from Israel.
Some Assad-watchers in Israel maintain that he understands quite well that Israel of 2013 isn’t 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 – rationally that is just so. However, we had likewise heard precisely such learned estimations immediately prior to 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.