In a rare recent public comment from an Israeli minister on international policy in Syria, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni on Wednesday called on the United Nations to intervene in the war-torn country, and to avoid relying on speeches and rhetoric.
“The UN, whose motto from day one has been ‘never again,’ must intervene,” said Livni, speaking at a convention of the Israel Bar Association in Herzliya. “It’s not enough to make moving speeches. It must fight for the values with deeds as well. The events in Syria must be destroyed while they’re still small.”
Livni, Israel’s chief negotiator with the Palestinians and the head of the Hatnua coalition party, is a relatively moderate, centrist political figure.
Ever since US President Barack Obama declared several weeks ago that he was mulling a military strike in Syria, Israeli ministers have been keeping unusually quiet on the situation there, aside from occasional threats regarding a possible Syrian retaliatory attack on the Jewish state. The decision to stay out of Obama’s way was underpinned by strict instructions from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
When Obama decided to seek lawmakers’ support for a Syria strike, the White House contacted Israel’s leadership, aiming to ensure that there would be no public criticism of the president’s decision by Netanyahu and his ministers, Israel’s Channel 2 reported earlier this month.
Only Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) defied the prime minister’s order, complaining bitterly in an Army Radio interview last week that Assad was a cowardly murderer “who needs to be taken care of, already.” He then earned a slap on the hand by Netanyahu, who told him at the cabinet table that attacking the president of the United States did not serve Israel’s “security interests.”
According to various reports this week, Obama also urged Netanyahu to get personally involved in lobbying Congress and the international community on a Syrian strike. The prime minister reportedly called several members of Congress himself.
The Obama administration is also getting some help from lobbying organization AIPAC, which planned to dispatch 300 of its members to Capitol Hill as part of a broad campaign to press Congress to back Obama’s proposed strike on Syria.
The organization wrote a statement urging Congress to protect America’s national security interests, and to act on Syria, stating, “Simply put, barbarism on a mass scale must not be given a free pass.”
Finally, AIPAC members were also being asked to write their own emails to members of Congress, with the subject line, “Protect America’s National Security: Authorize Use of Force in Syria.”