Analysis / Silence Works for Israel

The foreign media reports on the Israeli Air Force strike in Syria over the holiday did not cause Israel to break its silence on the affair. Nor are there signs it will do so anytime soon.

Jerusalem decided not to comment on Syria's complaint to the United Nations against Israel for violating its sovereignty. UN members frequently lodge such complaints against each other, and it is not compulsory to comment.

To Israel's credit all the important states have ignored the Syrian complaints. The Europeans, who hasten to denounce Israel for every strike on the Palestinians, ignored the claims of a nocturnal IAF bombing in Syria. So did the Arab states.

This silent backing of Israel shows that governments sometimes find it convenient not to read newspapers and ignore the news.

Israel did not boast, thus preventing the condemnation it usually receives for being a belligerent, law-breaking state. No Israeli public opinion campaign presenting Syria as a member of the "Axis of Evil," a terror supporter and a partner to Iran and North Korea could have achieved as much.

American officials, refraining from commenting on the IAF strike directly, took advantage of the opportunity to expose details of the nuclear cooperation between Syria and North Korea. This cooperation has not been established until today, and some experts doubt its existence.

Glenn Kessler, Washington Post staff writer, who recently wrote a political biography of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, reported that the administration received the information of the nuclear connection between Pyongyang and Damascus some six months ago.

National Security Adviser Steve Hadley saw to it that details of the Syrian nuclear program were hardly reported at all in the news media.

One may assume on the basis of these reports and U.S. officials' statements that Israel and the U.S. are working in close collaboration. One way or the other, Washington appears to have no problem with Syria's complaints against Israel's acts on the Syrian front, and Rice's visit this week will focus on advancing the Israeli-Palestinian peace conference, rather than trying to prevent a security crisis in the North.

Israeli officials said, however, that the reports from Washington about Syria and North Korea were not intended to back Israel vis-a-vis the Syrian complaints but to serve internal American needs.

In the past months the administration has been under the scrutiny of Washington hawks, headed by former UN ambassador John Bolton. They claim that the nuclear disarmament agreement for North Korea is full of holes and problems. One problem regards North Korea's ability to export sensitive nuclear substances to dubious allies. This is not sufficiently covered by the supervision agreement.

The reports about Syria were intended, according to Israeli sources, to lighten the pressure on the administration and show that it is following the North Korean activity in the Middle East closely and not ignoring it.