“Syria has the world’s largest arsenal of chemical weapons, along with rockets and missiles that can reach all of Israel,” Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh said last night at an event marking 30 years since the Battle of Sultan Yacoub during the first Lebanon war.
“They also cooperate with the terrorist organization Hezbollah and Iran,” said General Naveh.
But Palestinian officials criticized the amplified Israeli criticism on Sunday as a tactic to deflect attention from Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and the moribund peace process.
“So now, suddenly, they are verbally attacking the regime in Syria, as if this uprising started yesterday and as if Israel has suddenly become a protector of human rights in the region and over Syria,” Fatah official Nabil Shaath told Al Bawaba.
He compared Israel criticism of Syria to Israeli leaders’ recent warnings about Iran’s nuclear weapons program, saying both were a ruse to divert world attention away from Israel’s clogged negotiations for peace with the Palestinians.
Speaking about the strategic situation in the Middle East, General Naveh said, “Thirty years after that battle and the Middle East still has the same players. Unfortunately, we are slowly returning to the reality of an existential war, a ritual that has spanned generations.”
Given the current state of affairs in Syria, Naveh stated that “those Syrians who do that to their own people will do the same thing to us if they get the chance. Therefore, it is clear to us how they will treat out sons and how they will act against us.”
“The IDF must prepare for a third cycle of existential threats to Israel’s existence, with an unclear reality on the western border with Egypt, and with the Sinai’s evolution into a terror zone in a demilitarized area between two nations who have a peace treaty between them,” Naveh added.
According to Naveh, there is a serious parallel between the regional situation thirty years ago and the one Israel is facing today. “The reality is that the neighborhood has not changed. We had hoped for 40 years of quiet, but we were obviously wrong,” Naveh said.
But despite Maj. Gen. Naveh’s call to vigilance, on Tuesday Arab news sources concluded that the IDF is not in a hurry to invade Syrian territory, at least not in the short run, despite its obvious concern that those staggering stockpile of chemical and other weapons stay out of Hezbollah’s hands.
Palestinian analyst Daoud Kuttab told Al Bawaba that Israel’s leaders’ recent statements on Syria suggested Israel had been “reassured” by the US and, possibly, opposition elements inside Syria.
“It seems to me that they’ve been reassured that what replaces Assad will be less anti-Israeli than the current regime, which explains the change,” he said.