The fall of President Bashar Assad’s regime, the government’s collapse and the expected chaos in the Syrian state will require Israel to do its best to ensure that the non-conventional arms held by the Syrian military will not end up in the hands of non-state actors.
And if the above requires the use of force in sovereign Syrian territory, so be it. Israel does not have the privilege to expect and hope for the best in this case, or wait patiently to see all this goodness – to paraphrase an Israeli TV commercial – bestowed upon it.
The fact that Israeli officials are monitoring events in Syria with concern – the term favored by the defense establishment – is no secret. Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Naveh made it clear 10 days ago already that Syria holds one of the world’s largest caches of non-conventional weapons, and added that its missile arsenal covers the entire State of Israel.
The trickling of these arms, or even some of them, into the hands of al-Qaeda members currently interfering in the Syrian civil war, or into the hands of Hezbollah men deeply involved in what goes on there, is a risk that Israel cannot afford to take. The United States, which according to recent reports objects to an Israeli strike in Syria, embarked on the Iraq war – thousands of kilometers away from its own capital – based on intelligence information of lesser quality.
A limited confrontation, which has characterized the battlefield of the past decades and pits state entities against organizations, neutralizes the state’s superior capabilities. In all the last confrontations engaged by Israel against the Palestinians, against Lebanon and against Gaza, Israel’s technological capabilities and quantitative superiority were not fully utilized.
This happened for various reasons – some of them can be defended, but what is clear is that this measure of restraint, which at times is indeed required, would mean that Israel would assume a fateful risk in this case.
Initiating military action, crossing the border of a sovereign state and harming it is not pleasant in under such circumstances, yet it would be terrible for Israel to be forced to respond after these awful non-conventional weapons are used - much worse for us, and even worse for our enemies.