(April 7, 2017 / JNS) Israeli leaders welcomed President Donald Trump’s surprise military action late Thursday to strike the airbase where Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was believed to have launched a chemical attack resulting in the deaths of at least 86 Syrians, including 27 children.
“In both word and action, President Trump sent a strong and clear message today that the use and spread of chemical weapons will not be tolerated,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated. “Israel fully supports President Trump’s decision and hopes that this message of resolve in the face of the Assad regime’s horrific actions will resonate not only in Damascus, but in Tehran, Pyongyang and elsewhere.”
Israeli opposition leader Member of Knesset Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) said the strike came at the “right time and in the right place” and sends an “important message to the butcher from Damascus.”
“Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the air field in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched,” Trump said. “It is in this vital national security of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”
Netanyahu’s office said Friday that Vice President Mike Pence called the prime minister “and thanked him—on behalf of U.S. President Donald Trump—for Israel’s strong support for the American action in Syria. The vice president also updated the prime minister on the details of the action and its results.”
The IDF said it had been notified ahead of the U.S. strike, which saw close to 60 Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from two naval destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean strike Syria’s Shayrat Airfield north of Damascus.
“The American update to the IDF and security establishment before the attack in Syria is further proof of the strength of the relationship and depth of the connection between Israel and its largest ally, the United States,” Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said.
Assad’s chemical attack had struck a nerve in Israel, where many saw parallels to the Nazis’ gassing of Jews during the Holocaust.
“We, as a people who survived the greatest of atrocities and rose from the ashes to be a strong and secure nation, we will do all we can to continue to aid the survivors of the horrors in Syria,” President Reuven Rivlin said earlier this week.
Rivlin said Friday that Trump’s actions “constitute a fitting and appropriate response to such unthinkable brutality.”
Avner Shalev, head of Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust remembrance center, noted that in the aftermath of World War II, “the global community enacted universal principles and instituted international organizations with the express purpose of averting future crimes against humanity.” He called on the international community to “act now in order to put a stop to the atrocities and avert further suffering” in Syria.
Daniel Pipes, a historian and the president of the Middle East Forum think tank, gave an alternative perspective on Trump’s military action, arguing that the U.S. should stay out of the “grisly” Syrian Civil War. The previous administration’s non-involvement was justified, according to Pipes, despite the fact that President Barack Obama “made a fool of himself [in 2013] when he declared the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons a ‘red line’ and proceeded not to enforce it.”
“Despite all this, it was right not to intervene because Iranian- and Russian-backed Shi’ite pro-government jihadis are best kept busy fighting Saudi-, Qatar-, and Turkish-backed anti-government Sunni jihadis; because Kurds, however appealing, are not contenders for control of the whole of Syria; and because Americans have no stomach for another Middle Eastern war,” Pipes wrote.
“I see this military action as an error,” he added. “Nothing in the U.S. Constitution requires that American forces fight in every war around the world; this one should be sat out, letting enemies of the United States fight each other to exhaustion.”