The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

September 2, 2013

With eye on Iran, Israelis seek U.S. action in Syria

(Continued)

Israeli lawmaker Nachman Shai said American credibility was on the line since Obama long ago said that Syria's use of chemical weapons was a "red line" that could not be crossed. Similarly, Obama has promised Israel that he will never allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.

"We are watching America carefully. We rely on America on all fields of life, especially now when it comes to Iran," said Shai, a former chief military spokesman who now sits on parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. "We need to know that on D-Day we have America next to us."

Shai, a member of the opposition Labor Party, nonetheless praised Netanyahu's handling of the crisis so far. While Israel has a clear interest in how America responds in Syria, he said it is essential Israel avoid any perception of interfering in American decision-making.

Israel has not taken sides in the Syrian conflict, and Shai said it has no interest in doing so now. He said any American attack should deliver a "strong message" to Assad but should not seek to change the course of the fighting or oust the Syrian leader.

If Israel could be guaranteed that Assad would be replaced by a stable government that controlled the entire territory and the myriad of groups operating within it, it may be inclined to wish for his ouster, Eran said. But even though Syria and Israel are bitter enemies, the Assad family has kept the Israel front quiet for nearly all of the past 40 years — and many Israelis view Assad, a known quantity, as preferable to the Islamist factions, some of which are affiliated with al-Qaida, trying to oust him.

"It's hard to identify who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. Probably they are all bad guys," Shai said. "The interest of Israel is that no one will attack Israel and we will not be involved in any way."

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