Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel and Iran are drawing respective lessons from the international community’s failure to halt ongoing atrocities in Syria.
For Iran, the Israeli premier said Syria has become a testing ground for assessing how, if at all, the world responds to the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) against civilians.
“Iran is closely watching whether and how the world responds to the atrocities committed by Iran’s client state Syria and by Iran’s proxy Hezbollah against innocent civilians in Syria,” Netanyahu said Aug. 22
As for Israel, Netanyahu said a key lesson is that Israel cannot wait for others to intervene on its behalf.
At an Aug. 25 Cabinet meeting, a day after the White House announced it was still “gathering facts” about a suspected chemical weapons attack near the Syrian capital on Aug. 21, Netanyahu said Israel is drawing three conclusions from the “terrible tragedy and awful crime” involving WMD:
“One: this situation must not be allowed to continue. Two, the most dangerous regimes in the world must not be allowed to possess the most dangerous weapons in the world,” Netanyahu said.
As for the third conclusion, Netanyahu urged ministers to heed the words of Israel’s sages: “If we are not for ourselves, who will be for us?”
Offering a contemporary, Syria-related interpretation of the ancient proverb, Netanyahu said: “That is to say, our finger must always be on the pulse. Ours is a responsible finger and, if necessary, it will also be on the trigger.”
He said, “We will always know to defend our people and our state against whoever attacks us, tries to attack us or has attacked us. This is the principle that has consistently, constantly and responsibly guided this government, and thus it will continue.”
In an Aug. 25 meeting with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon reaffirmed Israeli assertions that forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad had used chemical weapons against Syrian civilians.
“It’s not the first time that the Syrian regime, supported by Iran and Hizbollah, has used nonconventional weapons,” Ya’alon said.
The Israeli defense minister said use of “nonconventional weapons by a nonconventional regime” has become almost a matter of routine. “The State of Israel is not involved in the Syrian civil war, but we do have our red lines, and we stand by them.”
Ya’alon specified that Israel would not permit the transfer of “quality” weapons from Syria to Hezbollah or other terror groups; would not allow the transfer of chemical weaponry and would continue to respond to any infraction of Israeli sovereignty.
Echoing Netanyahu’s key lesson from the ongoing stalemate on Syria, Ya’alon told Fabius, “We maintain that at the end of the day, we must defend ourselves by ourselves, and to do so with responsibility and sound judgment. We do not expect foreign forces to do so on our behalf.”