The gist of the Israeli message in its recent talks with United States Defense Secretary Robert Gates is that Syria is preparing for a military confrontation with Israel.

The U.S. message to Israel on Syria, in contrast, remained unchanged: Israel should at present avoid diplomatic talks with Damascus because President Bashar Assad plans on using such talks to extricate Syria from its isolation. Israeli talks with Damascus would be a knife in the back of the government of Fouad Siniora in Lebanon.

No tangible evidence exists, Israel told the U.S., that Damascus is planning an all-out war with Israel. But it is believed that Damascus has concluded that Israel might respond to various Syrian actions and that would be the cause of a full-blown confrontation.

Such an Israeli response might come following Syrian assistance to Hezbollah or Palestinian terror organizations like Islamic Jihad. Damascus would have no choice but to respond with a more extensive operation.

Such evaluations have been made before and proven mistaken. However, facts on the ground show the Syrian army is increasing its battle readiness, munitions production (especially of rockets and missiles), emergency stores and is acquiring more weapons systems from Iran. It has purchased a large number of advanced anti-tank missiles from the Russians, with whom it also negotiating the purchase of Russia's latest anti-aircraft missiles.

The Syrians have deployed Iranian naval missiles (originally Chinese), the C. 802. The destructive power and range of Syria's rockets and missiles has clearly grown in recent years. Israel does not rule out a possible Syrian grab for the Golan, assuming that if Israel counter-attacks the Syrian lines it will incur heavy losses. Thus, the IDF's power has also increased, especially that of the Israel Air Force.

Like the Syrians, the Israelis are upgrading the training of their units and providing them with the latest equipment.

The difference is that Israel is not threatening war on Syria, while Syrian leaders, including Assad, have frequently said recently that if they do not get the Golan Heights back, Syria will turn to "resistance." In other words, it will go to war.