IDF, government preparing for possible Syrian strike on Golan Heights
Israel seeks to reassure Damascus there will be no attack this summer, prevent Syrian 'miscalculation.'
Israel's political and military leadership has been preparing in recent weeks for the possibility of a Syrian attack on the Golan Heights that will start as a result of a "miscalculation" on the part of the Syrians, who may assume that Israel intends to attack them.
Israel, however, has delivered a calming message, and has no plans to attack its northern neighbor.
According to information Israel received, the Syrians are concerned that the United States will carry out an attack against Iran's nuclear installations in the summer, and in parallel Israel would strike Syria and Lebanon.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who visited IDF forces in the North last week, heard an intelligence assessment and was informed of the dangers of a Syrian "miscalculation."
Following his visit to the forces in the field, a decision was made to publicly address the concerns of a possible deterioration with the Syrians, and to send a message that Israel has no intention of attacking Syria, nor is there any coordinated plan with the U.S. for a joint attack against Iran.
The speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, is scheduled to meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus on Monday, and will deliver a message of calm from Israel.
"We hope the message will be understood," political sources in Israel said Sunday. "The question is whether Assad is looking for an excuse ... so that he can carry out an attack against Israel in the summer, or whether this is a mistaken assessment."
Pelosi visited Israel on Sunday and told her Israeli interlocutors that the country must speak with Assad and that the door should not be closed to Syria, even though she is aware that Syria supports terrorism and continued cooperation with Iran.
The Democratic congresswoman was critical of the Republican administration's policy of boycotting Damascus.
Her statements hinted that if the Democrats regained control of the White House in 2008, they will work toward renewing dialogue with Syria.
The chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Tom Lantos, who accompanied Pelosi, said Assad should be given a final opportunity to disengage from the "axis of evil."
According to Lantos, in a few years, Sunni Muslims and not Iran under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be in control in the region, and it is to the advantage of Damascus to know which side to be on.
In a holiday interview with Haaretz, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also commented on the assessments of a possible "war in the summer."
"The Syrians, according to their statements and those of others recently," Olmert said, "appear to be saying that there is an American plan to attack Iran in the summer, and at the same time, and in coordination with Israel, to also attack Syria and Lebanon."
"I can tell you that there is no such plan that we know about, and in any case, there is no reason for the Syrians to prepare for such an eventuality. There is always concern that when one side prepares for war, and the other side is preparing to counter the other side's preparations, then the first side interprets the preparations of the other side as if it is the manifestation of its fears, and the situation goes into a spin, and control is lost.
"We have no intention to attack the Syrians," Olmert said, "we prefer to make peace with the Syrians, but it is a fact that the army is carrying out very intensive training in all systems, all branches, all units, in all areas, and it will continue doing so as part of its annual plans, and it will be ready for any eventuality - including the possibility of what is called miscalculation ... But we take into account everything, and hope that the things that should not happen, do not happen."
On Sunday, Olmert denied reports of a planned coordinated offensive in which the U.S. would attack Iran and Israel would hit Syria and Lebanon at the same time.
During a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Olmert dismissed the idea of a summer offensive, calling it "a plan we don't know of. It is baseless, and an unfounded rumor with no foundation. I hope no one will operate on the basis of unfounded rumor to create a move that would have no reason to drag us into a conflict."
The prime minister's denial came hours after Yadlin told a cabinet session on Sunday that Israel is closely monitoring preparations by Syria, Iran and Hezbollah for a U.S.-led war this summer.
According to Yadlin, Iran and Syria believe that a war this summer will be initiated by the U.S. and that Israel will be involved. He said that the preparations were defensive, adding that Iran, Syria and Hezbollah were not expected to initiate the war.
"What we are seeing is their preparation for the possibility of war in the summer. My assessment is that they are defensive preparations for war," Yadlin was quoted by a government official as saying, referring to Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.
"We are closely monitoring these preparations because [Iran, Syria and Hezbollah] could misinterpret various moves in the region," Yadlin said, according to the official.
Yadlin noted that, as in the case of the 1967 Six-Day War, military conflict could erupt despite that fact that neither side is interested in war, because of "the involvement of many players."
Regarding Hamas, Yadlin said that Haniyeh has warned that if the international financial embargo on Gaza is not lifted within three months, a third intifada will break out.
Yadlin added that there senior Hamas members that are displeased with the Saudi Arabian initiative, and that the military branch of Hamas has renewed its activity.
Meanwhile, U.S. House members meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad Sunday said they believed there was an opportunity for dialogue with the Syrian leadership.
The U.S. House members, who included Virginia Republican Frank Wolf, Pennsylvania Republican Joe Pitts and Alabama Republican Robert Aderholt, also said they had raised with Syrian officials the issue of stopping the alleged flow of foreign fighters from Syria to Iraq.
In a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, the congressmen said they had talked about ending support for Hezbollah and Hamas, recognizing Israel's right to exist in peace and security, and ceasing interference in Lebanon.
"We came because we believe there is an opportunity for dialogue, the statement said. "We are following in the lead of Ronald Reagan, who reached out to the Soviets during the Cold War," it added.