Photo Credit: Shay Vaknin / TPS

by Andrew Friedman

The Israeli security cabinet discussed the possibility of admitting Syrian civilians into Israel who were wounded in last week’s sarin nerve gas attack in Idlib province.

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Members of both the coalition and parliamentary opposition said the attack was both a red line and an opportunity to reconfigure part of the relationship between Israel and Syria, or at least between Israelis and Syrians.

“Moral values are the backbone of our national power,” said Opposition Leader Yitzhak Herzog (Zionist Union). “Israel must show empathy and offer generous help to the victims of the war crimes of the Butcher of Damascus.”

The American air strike last week in response to the attack “represents a significant change from the previous erroneous U.S. policy of leading from behind. For Israel, this sends an important message.

“We previously did not have any powerful defensive umbrella,” said Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz. Like other government officials, Katz praised the U.S. missile strikes and noted that the bombing represented a clear warning to both Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei not to cross red lines.

“We cannot permit a permanent Iranian presence in Syria to exist and risk allowing the establishment of a northern front against Israel, which will intensify and create a permanent missile threat, and lead us back to the security situation prior to the Syrian peace treaty. This change in policy allows us to make a concerted effort to block this threat,” Katz told Israel Radio.

Katz added that the shift in policy also constituted an opportunity for Israel to gain American recognition its sovereignty in the Golan.

The security cabinet discussion took place following a week of criticism of the Assad regime from across the Israeli political spectrum.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman blasted the “murderous” regime and called on the international community to intervene in the slaughter, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was “shocked and outraged” by the attack. Netanyahu also praised U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to bomb the Sharyat air field, the base that had served as a launching pad for the attack using banned chemical agents.

“In both word and action, President Trump sent a strong and clear message today that the use and spread of chemical weapons will not be tolerated. Israel fully supports President Trump’s decision and hopes that this message of resolve in the face of the Assad regime’s horrific actions will resonate not only in Damascus, but in Tehran, Pyongyang and elsewhere,” Netanyahu said following last week’s U.S. air strike.

Even the Arab Joint List party, which rarely criticizes excesses by the Arab world, called the attack a “war crime.”

“We demand an honest, thorough investigation of this incident and that those responsible be brought to justice,” MK Dov Khenin said in a statement.

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