Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and other top Israeli leaders remained mum a day after President Barack Obama’s surprise announcement he would seek congressional approval for a proposed punitive strike on Syria. But their silence today is not out of disinterest.
The stakes are high for the Jewish state as Congress prepares to debate an act of war, going beyond the immediate Syrian civil war to a possible regional showdown with Iran over its nuclear program.
There was widespread disappointment in Israel at the mixed signal sent by a president who, on the one hand made a strong moral argument for intervention in Syria over chemical weapons usage, and at the same time backed away to place the fate of such a decision in the hands of legislators.
“The Iranians are laughing… and the Syrians are celebrating their triumph,” said one Israeli official, who asked not be named. “It’s impossible for a massacre with weapons of mass destruction to go unpunished. It’s a moral issue. This is something that must be immediately rejected, punished and deterred by the international community. If not, the message to other dictatorships that hold WMD is that you can use them with impunity.”
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