A Needless Attack That Will Harm Israel

Postal service employees unload gas mask kits from a truck outside a distribution center in Yerushalayim on Thursday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Postal service employees unload gas mask kits from a truck outside a distribution center in Yerushalayim on Thursday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

 

An Israeli soldier adjusts sights on a tank during a drill in the Golan Heights on Thursday. (REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
An Israeli soldier adjusts sights on a tank during a drill in the Golan Heights on Thursday. (REUTERS/Baz Ratner)

It’s hard to understand Netanyahu and his friends, who pressured Obama to attack Syria. It’s even harder to grasp why the Israelis are excited about what’s going to happen. Has someone looked ahead into the future? About what could happen if Israel will be drawn into a war it has nothing to do with? This is an American conflict and that nation has failed in its handling of the Middle East in general and Syria in particular. It enabled the murder of 120,000 people, and now it is losing its cool over the murder of another 1,300. Had its intentions been to topple Assad and replace him with an opposition member loyal to America, and at the same 

time put its hand on the chemical weapons stockpiles, that would be one thing. But they’ve declared ahead of time that that is not their intention. So what do they want to achieve and what exactly will it give Israel?

 

The war which we are on the verge of  needs second thoughts — and deep ones.

Is this something that will be good for the Jews? For Israel? It’s not at all sure.

It’s hard to understand Binyamin Netanyahu and his friends in the Israeli leadership who desperately urged the Americans to launch a strike against Syria, plans for which are being finalized as these lines are being written. It is even harder to understand the excitement of Israel’s citizens. While they are afraid, tense and scrabbling to obtain gas masks, they are at the same time enthused about what is developing — as though the Americans are coming to save them, to worry about Israel’s interests instead of their own.

Has someone thought a little further ahead into the future? About what could happen if, as the result of an attack on Syria, Israel will be pulled into the war if it is also attacked?

This operation is solely American. It belongs to the biggest superpower in the world, which failed in all its attempts to handle Middle East affairs in general and Syria in particular, since the explosion of Arab Spring, and long before that. The United States senselessly allowed the murder of 120,000 people, and now all of a sudden has decided to act. Over what? The murder of 1,300 people. Where was President Obama until today? The tens of thousands who were murdered and butchered didn’t move him in the least; only the deaths of a few hundred by chemical weapons suddenly changes the reality so significantly?

Had America intended to depose Bashar Assad and replace him with an opposition member who is clearly loyal to the West, and at the same time, put its hands on Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles, that would be one thing. But the Americans have declared clearly that this is not their intention. So what are they trying to achieve? And what exactly will it give to Israel? Nothing.

Had we seen that an American operation in Syria was part of a broad strategic framework that marks a change in the Americans’ approach, and that will result in greater involvement of Washington in the terrible developments in the region over the past few years, we would be calmer. But this is hardly even going to be a punitive slap on the wrist. And in order to issue a minor punishment, is it really necessary to put millions of people on high alert or at risk?

The Americans have been talking a lot the past few days about how Assad must be punished for using chemical weapons. But you don’t have to be a great military strategist to understand that this attack has no real strategy to it. It’s the lowest-level punitive action. There isn’t even an intention to dent Assad’s feeling of security, his confidence in his ability to continue leading Syria, or his motivation. For this America had to enlist an entire armada of armies and countries? To give Assad a little slap? This is what so much energy is being wasted on?

Obama delivered two fiery speeches in the last few years in which he repeatedly declared that he would not allow the Syrian president to use unconventional weapons. If he would, Obama emphasized, that would be the crossing of a red line as far as America was concerned, and he would be obligated to attack Syria.

And once again the question arises: The murder of 120,000 people with conventional weapons was not enough of a reason to tell Assad that he had long ago crossed a red line, and only now, when a fraction of that number is killed with chemical weapons, this becomes a justification for an attack? It doesn’t make sense.
The Americans sat until now with their arms folded, observing the murders and pretending that all the horrific images of the carnage coming from Syria had nothing to do with them. They radiated the attitude that they are part of the United Nations and their role is merely to mediate between enemies in a conflict. The American president didn’t take one side; he remained sitting on the fence. America’s power of deterrence was severely damaged as a result of this inaction. The lack of an American response to date encouraged Assad to continue in his ways. When he saw that after killing more than 100,000 people, and using chemical weapons twice, no one did a thing, he realized that he had a green light to proceed and expand his use of unconventional weapons.

The distance that Obama and his people maintained strengthened the Iranian involvement in Syria and served as a tailwind for Hizbullah and other armed groups to join. This weakness displayed by the Americans had a serious effect on the moderate elements within Syria. They were pushed aside and, slowly, were taken out of the game entirely. The Russians interpreted the American approach as a lack of interest in what is happening in the region, and placed themselves in the vacuum as the dominant player there. World Jihad groups also understood that the American passivity was actually an invitation, albeit a direct one, by the Americans for them to come and get involved. And they did so quickly.

Washington lost Syria over the past two and a half years that it sat on the fence and did nothing to install western loyalists into office there. By doing this, the Americans repeated their colossal failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, in Kosovo and in the Horn of Africa, in Egypt, Yemen and other places.

There are some among us who think that President Obama’s decision to attack in Syria is good for Israel because it will restore the American deterrence and credibility in the face of Iran, and will strengthen the stability and the American alliances in the Middle East. But the truth is just the opposite. In Tehran, they see America’s inaction for the past three years, its deliberations and hesitations before this attack, and the decision to act in a very limited fashion without toppling Assad, and they say to themselves: Are we supposed to be afraid of them? If the Americans are afraid to deal Assad a stinging blow, then they will surely be even more afraid of us, Iran.

The bottom line is that America’s stability in the Middle East will not return to its previous levels as a result of this operation, and its losses will certainly exceed its achievements.

Israel is liable to pay a heavy price, because if it will be attacked and will be forced to retaliate, who knows to what level the situation will deteriorate? This may all be worth it to Israel if it knew that at the end of the operation it would emerge with achievements: Assad goes home. The “axis of evil” is dismantled. Hizbullah is severely damaged. But none of these things is going to happen.

Do you know of any location where the Americans have intervened and ultimately power was taken by someone who was better than the dictator they helped topple? In Iran, the Americans helped depose the Shah, and put Khomeini in power in his place. In Egypt, they helped the Muslim Brotherhood come to power instead of Mubarak, America’s best friend in that part of the world. In Libya, they brought about the liquidation of Gadhafi, and in his place, they installed a jihadist regime where murderers of American ambassadors are homegrown. The same is true in Yemen and Tunisia. In Iraq, they toppled Saddam Hussein and brought anarchy onto the country, with tens of thousands of deaths and utter chaos that exists to this day. In Gaza, the Americans did not accept the Israeli position and enthusiastically helped Hamas defeat Fatah and come to power there.

So why are we so enthusiastic about the forthcoming attack?

Whoever will come to power in place of Assad will be worse for Israel and the Americans. There will be a dictatorship that will bring about anarchy and more bloodshed. The attack in Syria will advance the radical Islamists and will push away the moderates. Israel’s northern border will become a jihadist terror border, something it hasn’t been in 45 years. Iran will increase the production of nuclear weapons — and we’re not even talking about the potential damage to property in Israel, or to its economy.

They tell us that there’s only a small chance Assad will attack Israel. That’s a laughable thing to say in the Middle East. It is a region where all logical considerations are not part and parcel of the way the leaders think, certainly not those who were made up of stuff like Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gadhafi and Bashar Assad.

As our Sages taught us, think about the end before you begin. Here, in this needless attack, if it happens, it does not look like there was sufficient forethought, and at the same time, we can’t see what the outcome will be, either.