Fears that Syria’s civil war would spread into neighboring countries is an academic concern for much of the world, but an existential crisis in Israel. Whether the threat is from Syrian government forces seeking to draw Israel into the conflict and create a distraction from its own fratricidal intentions, or from terrorist groups gaining control of unsecured weapons, Israel understands its need to defend itself. Two sets of air strikes on successive days, attributed to Israel and targeting weapons caches in the suburbs of Damascus destined for Hizbullah, were not acts of aggression, but defensive measures.
International critics of the air strikes suggest Israel’s intentions were not just self-defense, but an effort to influence the civil war, or send a message to Iran — and the Obama administration — about its capabilities and willingness to reach beyond its borders to defend itself. “As the strongest military power in the region, [Israel] has a responsibility to show restraint,” lectured The Independent. Imagine the editorial they would write were Hizbullah to get its hands on new advanced weaponry, and were Israel forced to root them out in the civilian neighborhoods where its militants operate.
Sometimes the most just war is the war that is avoided.
Happily, the White House gets this. Said President Obama: “What I have said in the past and I continue to believe is that the Israelis justifiably have to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organizations like Hizbullah. We coordinate closely with the Israelis recognizing they are very close to Syria, they are very close to Lebanon,” he said. And closer to America by the day.