Israel Can't Afford to Stay Silent in Face of Syria Crisis

The Israeli government represents a public that wants to hear it express a clear moral stance on the Syrian uprising and even a willingness to provide humanitarian aid.

According to current estimates, more than 8,000 people have been killed in the unrest in Syria. Dozens are being killed every day and hundreds are wounded. Reports by opposition activists tell a shocking story of unmitigated cruelty, executions of entire families, and wounded people bleeding to death in the streets without any recourse to medical care. The hospitals are experiencing major shortages of medication. Even premature babies are dying because the authorities have cut off the electricity.

Despite the horrors, most of the world has responded with little more than indignation. Western countries have harshly condemned Syrian President Bashar Assad, and some have even demanded his resignation. The Arab states have taken practical steps, suspending Syria's membership in the Arab League and even imposing economic sanctions. On the other hand, Russia, China and Iran continue to support the murderous regime in Damascus.

Based on all this, the Syrian people, particularly the opposition movements, can only conclude that the international community does not intend to use force to remove the Assad regime, or at least force the government to halt the killing and let the wounded receive medical care.

The fact that Israel is not one of the countries condemning the events and demanding Assad's removal is both puzzling and outrageous. The current Israeli government, which is always good at assigning blame, suddenly faces an embarrassing strategic conundrum. It is argued that if Jerusalem castigates the Assad regime, it will not only be seen as intervening in Syria's internal affairs, it will be accused by the regime of planning to bring it down.

But one weighty diplomatic argument overshadows a moral stance. Israel, we should remember, hasn't hesitated to act in Syria when it thought the regime posed a danger to us. But when thousands of Syrians are being murdered by the regime, strategic considerations suddenly come into play.

The Israeli government is not entitled to play the role of a pundit wondering if and when Assad will fall from power. The Israeli government represents a public that wants to hear it express a clear moral stance and even a willingness to provide humanitarian aid.