Israeli and American governments discuss the regional implications of Assad’s chemical weapons attack.

US National Security Advisor Susan Rice hosted a delegation led by Yaakov Amidror, the chairman of Israel’s National Security Council. The meetings were part of a series of regular high-level bilateral consultations and consisted of discussions on Iran’s nuclear program, Egyptian unrest, the Syrian civil war, and other regional security issues. According to the United States, Syria’s use of chemical weapons against her own citizens is now undeniable.

“The president and his team are evaluating options with regards to responses to this specific violation of an international norm – the prohibited use of chemical weapons against civilian populations,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters. The United States claims that a military option is now on the table on equal footing with other options. Nevertheless, the United States will only take action in Syria after consensus is reached in the international community.

Following Syria’s threats to Israel if the US intervenes, Israel has asked the US for advanced notice of any attacks on Syria. The request apparently indicates that Jerusalem sees a US attack on Israel’s northeastern neighbor as an imminent likelihood. A senior Israeli official said the main conclusion from the discussions between American and Israeli officials was that Israel should “keep a low profile” and not let itself be dragged into the Syrian civil war.

However, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz have made it abundantly clear that Israel will respond to any attack on its civilians. “The state of Israel is prepared for every scenario,” Netanyahu said. “We are not part of the civil war in Syria, but if we detect any attempt to hurt us, we will react, and react fiercely.” An anonymous Israeli official said much of the meeting with American officials was devoted to various scenarios of escalation that could develop if America strikes the Assad regime, which could result in Israel being implicated in the Syrian war against its will. Israel is already preparing the home front for a potential war with Syria.

“The defense establishment’s assessment is that the likelihood of a Syrian response against Israel following an American attack is low,” the senior official said. “Nevertheless, when something like this starts, you don’t know how it’s liable to develop, and therefore we need to be ready and set policy in advance.” If and when Washington, together with its allies, launches a military strike on Syria, the move will not only target the Assad regime.

A US military response will challenge the belligerent axis that stands behind Syria, made up of Iran, which is sending weapons and military advisers to Syria, and Hezbollah, which sent thousands of highly trained, heavily armed fighters to help keep the Assad regime alive. This axis, also known as the Shi’ite crescent, operates under Russian diplomatic cover at the UN Security Council and gets military support from Moscow in the form of extensive sales of sophisticated arms.

By Rachel Avraham

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