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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Did France support an Israeli invasion of Syria?

Some of you may recall that three months ago, I published an item that indicated that the Bush administration expected an Israeli strike on Syria during last summer's war, and would have supported it if it had occurred.
"No one would have stopped you. It was an American interest. They would have applauded you. Think why you received so much time and space to operate. Rice was in the region and Israel embarrassed her with Qana, and still Israel got more time. Why aren't they reading the map correctly in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem?"
This morning there is a claim that another - less likely - source also would have supported an attack on Syria: France. Former Israeli ambassador to France Nissim Zvili, who was chairman of the Labor party in an earlier incarnation, told Army Radio in an interview this morning that French President Jacques Chirac urged Israel to invade Damascus and topple Bashar Assad's regime. In exchange, Chirac promised Israel full French support for the war.

According to Zvili, Chirac saw Syria as directly responsible for the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri and directly responsible for arming Hezbullah, and he saw Syria as the one giving Hezbullah orders on how to operate." Ariel Sharon (who was already in a coma during last summer's war) disagreed and saw Iran as responsible for Hezbullah's actions. You may recall that I argued last summer that both were responsible.

Zvili also claims that the reason that France backed off leading the revamped UNIFIL was out of fear that due to its poor relations with Syria, French soldiers would be targeted if they led UNIFIL.

I have my doubts about Zvili's entire interview. First, I think it's politically motivated. Zvili was chairman of the party under Yitzchak Rabin and has declared his support for Ami Ayalon in the Labor party primary on May 28. Saying that France would have supported an Israeli invasion of Syria makes current 'defense' Minister Amir Comrade Peretz look bad. And Zvili backed Shimon Peres for Labor party leader against Comrade Peretz two years ago - another possible indicator of bad blood between Zvili and Peretz.

Second, I find it hard to believe that Chirac - much as he may have adored Hariri and much as he pushed to have Syrian troops withdrawn from Lebanon - would have wanted Israel to attack Syria. After all, it was Chirac's government that threatened to shoot down Israeli reconaisance planes in Lebanon a few months ago.

The one part of Zvili's interview that I do find credible is his claim that France was afraid of having its troops targeted by Hezbullah if it led UNIFIL. Chirac's close relationship with Hariri (see links above) would have incensed Hezbullah enough to risk the international angst that would have resulted from their targeting French troops.

There is no doubt that last summer's war was a massive lost opportunity for Israel, but I don't think French backing to attack Syria was part of it.


At 7:29 PM, Blogger M. Simon said...

As you well know I based my whole analysis of the war on Israel getting the hint and at least challenging Syria in the Bekka.

I was saying that by mid war because it was so obvious, and the way Israel had set it up its forces, hard to counter.

I never counted on Olmert's IQ being so far below his body temperature in deg F.

At 8:10 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

Amazing, isn't it?


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