According to Israeli officials, Israel may launch a pre-emptive strike in attempts to stop Syria's chemical weapons from reaching Lebanon's Hezbollah or al-Qaeda-inspired groups — the Associated Press has reported on Sunday.
As Syrian President Bashar Assad clings to power in the midst of a deadly 22-month long civil war, Israel has expressed concern that the leader may lose control over his chemical weapons.
Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom believes that the transfer of weapons to particularly violent groups such as the Lebanese Hezbollah, which incidentally is backed by another one of Israel's greatest causes of concern, Iran, could be extremely dangerous for the country and undoubtedly a game changer.
"It would be crossing a line that would demand a different approach, including even action," he told the Army Radio, according to the AP. When asked whether this could possibly lead to a pre-emptive attack, he said: "We will have to make the decisions."
Although Israel has largely kept out of the Syrian civil war that has resulted in over 60,000 deaths with no end or solution in sight, yet another cause of grief for Israel is that the violence could spill over into the Israel from its northern border.
Syria, however, has rarely acknowledged possessing chemical weapons.
At a cabinet meeting on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu referred to threats from Syria and Iran – both who are each other's main regional allies" – saying, "we must look around us, at what is happening in Iran and its proxies and at what is happening in other areas, with the deadly weapons in Syria, which is increasingly coming apart."
Meanwhile, Israel's departing defense minister, Ehud Barak, said that the Pentagon had prepared blueprints for an operation to set back Iran's nuclear program in the case that the U.S. would plan to attack, the New York Times has reported. This could be an indication that Israel no longer plans a unilateral strike.
In an interview conducted by The Daily Beast, Barak made it clear that although they don't intent to strike at the moment, they certainly are not allowing Iran to obtain nuclear weapon capability.
"What we basically say is that if worse comes to worst, there should be a readiness and an ability to launch a surgical operation that will delay them by a significant time frame and probably convince them that it won't work because the world is determined to block them."
Many also believe that Israel has also now realized that it mostly likely cannot afford a fight with Iran on its own, and is now relying on the U.S.'s "scalpels," as Barak has said, for aid in a multi-lateral attack, if necessary.
In other words, as the Israeli attention shifts towards Syria and the potential threat it poses to Israel, the nation has taken a step back from Iran – changing its stance from possibly going in on a unilateral strike into Iran to now once again depending on the U.S. for assistance.