Last summer President Obama warned that the use of chemical weapons by Syria in its civil war would cross “a red line” and could result in a military response.
“That would change my calculus,” said the president, who has been caught between the desire to bring down the murderous Syrian President Bashir Assad and supporting the rebels, many of whom are affiliated with al Qaeda and other terror groups.
While the U.S. has stepped up its support for the rebels, providing them with more non-weapon equipment and seeking pledges of fealty to humanitarian principles, Israel has now gone public in asserting that Assad is using chemical weapons, believed to be nerve gas.
“To the best of our professional understanding, the regime used lethal chemical weapons against the militants in a series of incidents over the past months,” a senior Israel military intelligence official announced at a security conference in Israel on Tuesday.
Is this not the kind of “game changer” information the president was waiting for? Will he act now?
Another kind of line was crossed — this one diplomatic — when Secretary of State Kerry spoke at a press conference this week on Israel-Turkey relations. In response to a question he seemed to equate the death of militants on board the Turkish flotilla seeking to break the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip in 2010 with the tragedy suffered by runners and bystanders at last week’s Boston Marathon.
Kerry said Turkey was “working in very good faith” toward a rapprochement with Israel, adding: “I know it’s an emotional issue with some people. I particularly say to the families of people who were lost in the [flotilla] incident we understand these tragedies completely and we sympathize with them.” He went on: “I have just been through the week of Boston and I have deep feelings for what happens when you have violence and something happens and you lose people that are near and dear to you. It affects a community, it affects a country. We’re very sensitive to that.”
Is the secretary of state so sensitive to lives lost that he compares the death of innocent bystanders at a sports event to those on a mission seeking violent confrontation and who attacked Israeli Navy Seals with knives and iron bars?
These questions come from a concern that the U.S. is so resistant to confronting hard choices in the Mideast — amplified by its decision not to include in its new arms deal with Israel the powerful bunker-busting bombs capable of destroying Iran’s nuclear enrichment center — that the administration is, however unintentional, undermining Israel’s position. We await U.S. action that would allay our fears.