Student Union opens ‘hasbara’ room in effort to fill public diplomacy vacuum.
JERUSALEM – With Israel’s media recounting the decisions made by high-ranking Israeli generals and then-Prime Minister Golda Meir on the eve of the Yom Kippur War 40 years ago this week, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to reassure Israelis that the country would not be caught unprepared again amid threats from Syria, Hizbullah and Iran.
Netanyahu has urged members of his government not to offer their opinions to local and international media outlets regarding President Obama’s dilemmas regarding a military strike on Syria’s chemical weapons depots. Israeli TV and newspaper commentators, meanwhile, have harshly criticized the American leader for creating a “plunter” (mess).
Writing in the daily Israel Hayom, noted Israeli journalist Dan Margalit said, “Syria in 2013 is Spain in 1936-39. The victory of Fascism in Madrid and Barcelona paved the way to World War II. A significant achievement for Bashar Assad in the brutal civil war that he is waging in his country will pave the way to Iran taking over the Middle East. Whoever does not want to pay the price for stopping Assad now will need to do so with compound interest in innocent blood in the next rounds.”
Though Netanyahu has not commented publicly about Obama’s repeated vacillations vis-à-vis a promised military response against Syria, the Israeli leader continues to quietly prepare the home front for a possible surprise missile attack by Syria, Hizbullah or Iran. Israel is deploying Iron Dome missile batteries in central and northern Israeli cities (including Jerusalem earlier this week), conducting advanced anti-ballistic missile tests, as well as carrying out UAV (drone) and spy satellite reconnaissance missions in Lebanon and Syria.
There are fears among Israeli military leaders that if Obama caves in to pressure from the Russians, EU and UN to forego a strike on Syria in favor of international monitoring of chemical weapons caches, Assad will clandestinely move parts of his unconventional arsenal to Hizbullah in Lebanon. According to a report issued by the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT), located at the Interdisciplinary Center IDC), Herzliya earlier this week, Assad has one of the world’s largest caches of mustard gas, sarin and the lethal nerve gas VX and would not hesitate to transfer chemical weapons to Hizbullah.
The ICT report said that even if an American attack on the chemical stockpiles took place, and even if such an attack would topple Assad’s regime, the danger that such weapons would reach the wrong hands was very real. The report’s authors said that “Hizbullah could use the arsenal under Syrian or Iranian instruction and, under certain conditions, Assad could decide to provide the arms to Palestinian organizations with whom he is associated, specifically with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command, headed by Ahmed Jibril. A scenario in which these arms reach rebel organizations, or worse, radical Islamist jihadist organizations is Israel’s worst nightmare.”
During the ICT’s counterterrorism conference this week, noted Pakistani-born, anti-Islamist author and physician Qanta Ahmed ridiculed the Western allies, the Arab world and Obama in particular for reacting “tragically late” on Syria’s growing chemical warfare threats. Ahmed, who lives in New York, also said that unless radical Islam was vigorously confronted by the West, the Arab world and Israel, the Middle East was destined to contain unstable “pseudo democracies.”
Netanyahu also instructed the IDF’s growing cyberwarfare units to prepare a response to potential attacks against government websites in lieu of threats issued by the jihadist anti-Israel hacker group known as AnonGhost. The group has boasted that it will “celebrate” the anniversary of 9/11 by wreaking havoc upon a host of government and non-governmental Israeli websites.
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