The New York Times reports: For more than two years, Israeli leaders have insisted they had no intention of intervening in the civil war raging in neighboring Syria, but they vowed to stop sophisticated weapons from being transferred to Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia group, and to respond to intentional fire into their territory.
Now, having followed through with a pair of airstrikes on weapons shipments this month and, on Tuesday, the destruction of a Syrian Army position, Israelis are asking what their options are, as if they feel it has become impossible to avoid deeper involvement.
Already, the language has grown more heated on both sides, with Syrian officials declaring they are prepared for a major confrontation with Israel — and Israel’s military chief warning of dire consequences.
“Clearly, a policy that functions successfully for more than two years for Israel, that policy is not working because Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and Russia have all upped the ante,” said Itamar Rabinovich, Israel’s former chief negotiator with Syria, mentioning that Russia continues to send advanced weaponry despite American and Israeli protests. “They created new rules of the game that Israel needs to figure out. It’s a policy in formation; the answers are not definitive.”
Several senior government officials, as well as half a dozen experts on Syria and the Israeli military, said on Wednesday that there was no new policy in Jerusalem, but there was a growing awareness that continuation of the current policy was likely to yield different results.
The next time Israel strikes a weapons convoy, they say, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria is much more likely to retaliate, given the recent statements from Damascus. That could lead to further Israeli reaction, and a spiraling escalation. [Continue reading…]