Jerusalem, Sept. 2: Since reports surfaced of an apparent chemical attack outside Damascus, Israeli leaders have called for an American response, both on moral grounds and as a warning to Iran over its nuclear programme.
But yesterday, after President Obama said he would delay a military strike to obtain Congressional approval, a new message emerged from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government: Do not say anything.
Israel’s ministers of defence and international affairs, who spoke out repeatedly last week, stayed silent yesterday. Another member of Israel’s security cabinet cancelled a news briefing scheduled for today.
Netanyahu himself issued a brief, bland statement saying Israel was “calm”, “self-assured” and “prepared for any scenario” before moving on to innocuous matters like wishing the world’s Jews a “good and blessed year”.
Behind closed doors, Netanyahu told his cabinet yesterday that the situation was “evolving”, with “delicate matters” that he was managing “with discretion and responsibility”, and warned: “There is no room for private statements.”
“I ask that you not act without consideration and irresponsibly towards our ally in order to capture a moment of glory,” Netanyahu said, according to someone who was there and spoke on the condition of anonymity. “These statements do not serve the citizens of Israel.”