For Israel, Winds of War in Syria Are Blowing Aside Other Issues

There's no doubt that Israel is facing a complex reality, with more varied and serious threats than we've seen before.

The endless debate over attacking Iran notwithstanding, in recent days Israel's attention has been primarily focused on what's going on in the northern arena.

Evidence of this is the frequency with which the senior defense brass has been paying visits to the Northern Command divisions. Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz toured the 91st Division on the Lebanon border yesterday, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited the 36th Division on the Golan Heights this past Thursday.

Barak and Gantz are in agreement that the Assad regime's days are numbered; what's uncertain is when it will fall. Israel has publicly declared its concern for what might happen to Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons and missiles when President Bashar Assad loses control.

The second cause for worry is Hezbollah (which would presumably be the primary recipient of arms transferred from Syria ). There is concern the Shi'ite group might try another terror attack at an Israeli target abroad, following the suicide bombing of the tourist bus in Bulgaria. Another "success" by Hezbollah, or even an effort to deter the group from trying again, could spur an Israeli operation against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was criticized last week for first blaming Iran for the bus bombing and then switching the blame to Hezbollah. But when it comes to terror abroad, the two are essentially one. The Quds Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah's terror infrastructure are in close cooperation. Nearly all the 20 attempted attacks that were foiled over the past few years were co-productions.

Less understandable are the declarations by Israeli leaders regarding the events in Syria and Bulgaria. Barak, who spoke yesterday to new recruits at the Israel Defense Forces Induction Center at Tel Hashomer, declared yet again that "the State of Israel cannot accept the transfer of advanced weapons systems from Syria to Lebanon," and added that we were facing "a worldwide campaign of increased terror," led by Hezbollah, inspired by Iran.

Netanyahu, at the start of yesterday's cabinet meeting, promised to "vigorously fight terror." He was interviewed by Fox News and warned that Hezbollah with chemical weapons is akin to Al-Qaida with chemical weapons and swore to "expose those who stand behind terror."

All this raises the question of whether Israeli leaders want to act against the potential threats from its enemies, to deter those from carrying out any of their dastardly plans, or just to talk about doing so. There's no belittling the recent developments in the region. There's no doubt that Israel is facing a complex reality, with more varied and serious threats than we've seen before.

But the question is whom all these public remarks are serving (will Netanyahu and Barak's words really deter Hezbollah from another terror attack?). Or is the main purpose of these comments to keep the eternal flame of security worries burning and distract Israelis from other issues? It's hard to miss, for example, how the storm over the draft of yeshiva students seems to have suddenly dissipated.