WHY ISRAEL SHOULD BOMB SYRIAAt The New Republic, historian Michael Oren makes a fascinating argument why Israel should attack Syria, drawing on what was, in his view, Israel's biggest mistake in the lead-up to the Six Day War: attacking Yasser Arafat's Fatah in the Jordanian 'West Bank' instead of going after Arafat's Syrian sponsors:
And so, suddenly and unexpectedly, a regional war erupted that the principal combatants--Israel, Egypt, and Jordan--neither desired nor anticipated. The lesson: Local conflicts in the Middle East can quickly spin out of control and spiral into a regional conflagration.
The lesson is especially pertinent to the current crisis. Then, as now, the Syrians have goaded a terrorist organization, Hezbollah, to launch raids against Israel from Lebanon. Then, as now, the rapid rise of terrorist attacks has forced Israel to mount reprisals. If the Soviets in 1967 wanted to divert America's attention from Vietnam, the Iranians--Syria's current sponsors--want to divert American attention from their nuclear-arms program. And once again Israel must decide when to strike back and against whom.
Back in 1966, Israel recoiled from attacking Syria and instead raided Jordan, inadvertently setting off a concatenation of events culminating in war. Israel is once again refraining from an entanglement with Hezbollah's Syrian sponsors, perhaps because it fears a clash with Iran. And just as Israel's failure to punish the patron of terror in 1967 ultimately triggered a far greater crisis, so too today, by hesitating to retaliate against Syria, Israel risks turning what began as a border skirmish into a potentially more devastating confrontation. Israel may hammer Lebanon into submission and it may deal Hezbollah a crushing blow, but as long as Syria remains hors de combat there is no way that Israel can effect a permanent change in Lebanon's political labyrinth and ensure an enduring ceasefire in the north. On the contrary, convinced that Israel is unwilling to confront them, the Syrians may continue to escalate tensions, pressing them toward the crisis point. The result could be an all-out war with Syria as well as Iran and severe political upheaval in Jordan, Egypt, and the Gulf.
The answer lies in delivering an unequivocal blow to Syrian ground forces deployed near the Lebanese border. By eliminating 500 Syrian tanks--tanks that Syrian President Bashar Al Assad needs to preserve his regime--Israel could signal its refusal to return to the status quo in Lebanon. Supporting Hezbollah carries a prohibitive price, the action would say. Of course, Syria could respond with missile attacks against Israeli cities, but given the dilapidated state of Syria's army, the chances are greater that Assad will simply internalize the message. Presented with a choice between saving Hezbollah and staying alive, Syria's dictator will probably choose the latter. And the message of Israel's determination will also be received in Tehran.
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