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'Obama Blinked': Why Israelis Are Concerned Obama’s Change of Heart on Syria Strike Will Embolden Iran and Other Foes


“In Tehran, they’re opening the champagne...”

President Barack Obama delivers remarks about the crisis in Syria in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013. (Photo: AP/Evan Vucci)

While Israel has said repeatedly it’s not a party to the Syria conflict, Israeli lawmakers and analysts are voicing concern that President Barack Obama’s hesitation in making a decision about a military strike and sticking with it is sending a loud and “dangerous” message to Iran.

Politicians from the right and left in Israel are questioning Obama’s decision-making one day after the president announced that he was deferring to Congress on the question of use of force.

President Barack Obama delivers remarks about the crisis in Syria in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013. (Photo: AP/Evan Vucci)

Housing Minister Uri Ariel of Israel’s right-wing Jewish Home party said, “In Tehran, they’re opening the champagne, and switching into a higher gear en route to nuclear weapons.”

“Facing real dangers, no one in the world will stand with us,” Ariel said according to the Times of Israel, voicing a widely held opinion that Obama’s wavering on Syria will only embolden Iran in its march toward nuclear weapons.

“President Obama blinked, and this is bad. It is bad for the US' interests, it's bad for its allies' interests and it sends an encouraging message to cruel, unrestrained regimes that possess or don't possess weapons of mass destruction,” wrote prominent military analyst Ron Ben-Yishai of the Israeli paper Yedioth Aharonot.

That’s a sentiment the Associated Press appeared to echo, writing: “The stunning reversal also raises questions about the president’s decisiveness and could embolden leaders in Syria, Iran, North Korea and elsewhere, leaving them with the impression of a US president unwilling to back up his words with actions.”

"The international stammering and vacillation over Syria proves, yet again, that Israel can trust in none but itself,” Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said, according to Reuters Jerusalem Correspondent Dan Williams.

In his first public appearance since Obama’s announcement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his the weekly cabinet meeting, without mentioning Syria or referring directly to Obama's statement, “Israel's citizens also need to know that our enemies have very good reasons not to test our strength – and they know why.”

In the case of Iran which is marching toward nuclear “breakout” capability, Ben-Yishai wrote, “When the time comes, such a delay could be fatal from Israel's standpoint and the standpoint of the rest of America's allies…”

Terrorists like Al Qaeda are also watching Obama’s every move, Ben-Yishai explained, writing “They are learning that the US is easy prey and that it cannot be trusted by its allies.”

“The American hesitance, and the rest of the world's hypocrisy confirms the concern that when it comes to maintaining its security, Israel should not trust others and their promises, but must be prepared to protect its own security interests,” said Deputy Education Minister Avi Wortzman according to Ynet News.

Even a member of the left-wing Labor party, Member of Knesset Omer Bar Lev criticized the waffling. "The postponement of U.S. attack bothers me in the context of Obama's promise to Israeli citizens during his visit to Israel that he will not tolerate any use of chemical weapons in Syria or nuclear weapons in Iran. Postponement does not only play into the hands of Assad, but it also sends the wrong message to Iran regarding the U.S.' determination to keep its international announcements."

On his first state visit to Israel in March, Obama said, “We will do what is necessary to prevent Iran from getting the world's worst weapons.”

The Times of Israel quoted reporter Nadav Eyal of Israel’s Channel 10 news who said Obama’s indecisiveness will give Netanyahu “nightmares” about the president’s ability to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

Analyst Zvi Yehezkeli said the lesson Tehran would hear is that Washington is “a paper tiger.”


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