CONTRARY TO THE IMPRESSION one may get from reading U.S. media, Israelis, while calm, are worried about fallout on them from any U.S.-led strike against Syria.
Israel, alas, is used to violent conflict, both within its borders and in the neighboring countries.
Perhaps this is why the entire country is calm: planning for the worst but hoping for the best.
But, privately, there is alarm.
Speaking exclusively to In the (K)now from his Israel home 04:30 GMT today, David Bedein, a former Philadelphia Bulletin columnist who now runs Behind the news in Israel Web site, made the following startling statement.
“Life as we know it in Israel will not be the same one week from now if [President] Obama launches an attack on Syria.
“If he does, there are 100,000 missiles at [Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s] disposal that will rain down on Israel.”
WATCH A VIDEO BELOW THE FOLD
BUREAU CHIEF OF THE Israel Resource News Agency, Bedein has had clients such as the Los Angeles Times and other major U.S. media, who’s reporters he assists in their coverage of the Middle East.
The top story at their web site this hour is America’s Impending Defeat in Syria
with the money quote: “… the Obama administration is bluffing.” (emphasis added)
In our conversation Bedein related the following anecdote: When a father meets a son going off to college at this time of year, the father tells the son, “Remember, you can’t get a girl half pregnant.”
“If you understand that,” he said, “you understand the whole problem with Obama.
“If Obama launches any raid [Assad] will not take it as a warning… he will take it as a violation of his security and sovereignty.”
From outward signs, there is no panic in Israel; more just a resignation that continuation of a 5,000-year-old conflict is inevitable.
As violence spins out of control in Syria and Egypt, the tiny Jewish state surrounded by those who wish to annihilate it, is watching and taking precautions.
That can be gleaned from the Jerusalem Post and a Page One story in the national edition of The New York Times on Thursday.
THE FIRST SENTENCE OF the Jerusalem Post editorial “Threatening Israel ” published Wednesday online is certainly cause for alarm.
“If Damascus is attacked, Tel Aviv will burn,” a Syrian higher-up bristled this week. Israel, in light of such statements, cannot regard the escalating situation up north with the equanimity of a detached observer,” the editorial states.
“There can be no passivity when a coterie of evil powers hurls deadly threats at Israel in the context of a struggle in which it is uninvolved.
“In a fairer existence, this alone ought to have unsettled the international community. But it is futile to expect fair-mindedness where Israel is concerned.”
It is widely believed within Israel that its interests are largely ignored by U.S. policy makers when they weigh how to respond to events in the Arab world. Israelis have good reason to believe this: history has provided much evidence.
The editorial continues:
“This is disconcertingly reminiscent of our traumatic experience during the First Gulf War. Events then were also played out beyond the Israeli context. Nonetheless, Israel suffered repeated heavy missile attacks, including 40 Scud hits. The Iraqi warheads were aimed directly and unmistakably at civilian population centers.”
This calmness in the face of mounting threats was reflected Thursday in the Page One story in the national edition of The New York Times headlined: “Amid chaos, Israelis take a stoic view.
Jodi Rudoren writes from Jerusalem:
“Israel’s leaders have convened emergency cabinet sessions in recent days and ratcheted up home-front preparations, with military reservists being called up and air-defense systems readied on Wednesday. Still, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement, “There is no reason to change daily routines.”
NETANYAHU IS, OF COURSE, absolutely correct, but that doesn’t mean preparations are not being urgently made.
In another Jerusalem post story headlined Peres: We will respond with ‘full force to any Syrian attack the subheadline reads: President says situation in Syria a “crime against humanity”
“Israel will respond with “full force” to any Syrian counter-attack, President Shimon Peres warned Thursday morning, commenting on reports emerging from radical corners of the Arab world that have threatened Israel in retaliation if the West attacks Syria.”
The Post staff -written account reports there was a special meeting at the Jerusalem District Police headquarters.
“Peres stated: “Israel is not and has not been involved in the civil war in Syria, but if they try to hurt us, we will respond with full force.”
“In an effort to calm the nation, the president dismissed violent political rhetoric directed against Israel, saying that such statements were “intended to create panic. Israel is experienced enough [in these situations] so as not to not be drawn into false propaganda.”
The perspective from Jerusalem published in The Times was only slightly different.
Rudoren writes: “With concern growing about Israel’s international isolation after Europe’s recent move to ban the financing of Jewish institutions in the occupied West Bank, some hoped that the brutality and instability in the region might create sympathy abroad for Israel’s geopolitical challenge.”
Israel seems also concerned about its isolation, but is not letting that get in the way of its preparations.
“… [M]ost of those interviewed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday said the events had intensified Israelis’ feelings of isolation. They were critical of the Obama administration’s Middle East policy, and wary of a world they believe demonizes them.
“As for the prospect of Syrian or Iranian attacks on Israel in response to an American strike – like Saddam Hussein’s sending of Scud missiles to Tel Aviv in 1991 – it seemed to generate a kind of pride in resilience.”
Rudoren’s analysis is fully supported by another report in the Jerusalem post.
ON THURSDAY, in As Syria strike looms, Israeli gas mask centers get extended opening hours the Post staff reported:
“The Israel Defense Forces Home Front Command has extended the opening hours for gas mask distribution centers to cope with the massive demand of recent days, Army Radio reported Thursday.
“Anxious Israelis have flooded the centers anticipating an attack on Israel in response to any strike by the US and its allies on Syria over the regime’s probable use of chemical weapons.
“The centers, based in Israel Postal Service offices, will now be open each day from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m., but the number of centers will not increase, the radio said.”
This was a follow up to a story published the previous day. In Postal Service reports four-fold increase in gas mask inquiries among Syria attack talk Ben Hartman reports:
“As talk of a possible US-led attack on the Assad regime picked up over the weekend, the Israel Postal Authority said that on Sunday there was a four-fold increase in the number of Israelis calling to inquire about picking up gas masks over a typical week-day.”
The Israelis are tough, there is no question about that. They have proven their resilience since the post-war struggle began with the establishment of their country in 1948.
But the calculations of U.S. policy makers must take into account the potential of any military strike against Syria to have adverse unintended consequences for the Jewish state.
I hope they are paying as close attention as I am.
WATCH A VIDEO ON SYRIAN REGIME’S USE OF SARIN GAS BELOW.