How long can Israel’s luck hold out? How many more times can it attack Syria without Assad or Hezbollah hitting back?
People in this country have been worried that the fighting in Syria is going to “spill over the border,” and now Israel, unprovoked, unattacked, has gone and bombed Syria twice in the last 72 hours. Is anyone in this vibrant democracy protesting? I haven’t heard it.
That’s because the missiles from Syria and/or Hezbollah haven’t started falling here. So far so good, people figure. As long as we get away with it, hooray. If, however, our neighbors to the north start retaliating with some of their tens of thousands of rockets and missiles on the Israeli home front or other targets, maybe then people here will wonder why we decided now of all times to punch Syria and Hezbollah in the nose.
What was the Air Force trying to do – stop Assad’s chemical weapons from falling into the hands of global jihadists, the same ones who supposedly can’t be deterred because they have no address? No. Both times, the Air Force reportedly hit not chemical weapons but caches of long-range, accurate, conventional missiles that came from Iran and were meant not for “undeterrable” global jihadists without an address, but for Hezbollah, which has an address and is being deterred very nicely by Israel – so far.
Why did Israel take out these missiles? The Israeli official quoted after Friday morning’s attack said it was to prevent Hezbollah from obtaining “game-changing” weapons. Which game was in danger of being changed? The game of Israeli military superiority, of the Israeli “qualitative edge.” The rules of this game are that Israel continually flies spy planes over Lebanon, bombs Syria now, and may bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities later, secure in its belief that the targets can’t do much in return – like bring down Israeli spy planes over Lebanon with anti-aircraft missiles (which were hit in January), or terrorize the home front with long-range, accurate missiles (which were hit Friday and yesterday).
In other words, Israel’s air strikes in Syria were meant to maintain its ability to carry out continued acts of aggression against its enemies without fear of challenge. This is the game, and this is what Israel doesn’t want anyone to change.
The strange thing, though, is that Hezbollah and Syria, as noted, already have tens of thousands of rockets and missiles, some of which can hit anywhere in Israel. How much of a difference would these Fateh-110 missiles that Israel destroyed in the last couple of days have made in Hezbollah’s hands? It doesn’t seem there was anything so urgent about bombing them; it seems Israel did it because it believes there was no real risk involved, as former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin told Army Radio, as quoted in Haaretz.
Yadlin said that he doesn’t expect Syria to retaliate. “A confrontation with Israel would bring more danger, not responding would let Assad maintain the upper hand in the fight against the rebels.”
So far, there are no reports of people being killed in the Israeli attacks, although there are reports of injuries from last night’s strike on a military research center. But how long can Israel’s luck hold out? How many more times can it attack Syria without Syria or Hezbollah hitting back?
(UPDATE: The New York Times on Monday quotes a doctor at Syria’s military Tishreen hospital saying at least 100 soldiers were killed and dozens of people were injured. It also quotes a senior military official saying dozens of elite troops were killed.)
Could that be what Israel wants? Could Israel also be trying to draw Iran into the fray and give it an excuse to hit Tehran? At any rate, is the possibility of a regional war something that doesn’t scare Israel, so it sees no risk in taking out a few batches of advanced weapons before Hezbollah gets them?
One thing is sure – Israel is provoking a war. (Imagine what this country would do if some enemy attacked its weapons sites.) Meanwhile, the Obama administration is backing Netanyahu and the generals 100 percent. As for this country, there isn’t a word of protest from anyone, certainly no one who matters. Israel may or may not be at war in the very near future, but if it isn’t, it won’t be for lack of trying.
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