Netanyahu warns enemies not to test Israel’s strength
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Netanyahu warns enemies not to test Israel’s strength

At cabinet meeting, PM chides ministers who attacked Obama’s decision to turn to Congress ahead of Syria strike

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a meeting with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, August 25, 2013. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a meeting with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, August 25, 2013. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90)

Israel is “calm and confident” in the face of regional turmoil, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday at the weekly cabinet meeting.

Speaking hours after US President Barack Obama delayed a military strike at Syria pending a Congressional vote, Netanyahu declared that “Israel is calm and confident. Our citizens know that we are well prepared for any circumstance.”

He added: “The citizens also should be aware that our enemies have very good reasons not to test our strength and might. They know why.”

Netanyahu also slammed Housing Minister Uri Ariel for attacking Obama’s decision to seek Congressional approval for a military strike at the Assad regime. Personal attacks on Obama, Netanyahu said, “harm Israel’s security interests.”

Uri Ariel (left) with Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset in 2012 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Uri Ariel (left) with Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset in 2012 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Minister of Tourism Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beytenu), asked if he trusted Obama, said, “I trust in our Father in Heaven and in the Jewish nation. The American president has spoken, and we need to return to our normal routine.”

Later Sunday, Netanyahu was meeting with Home Front Command Minister Gilad Erdan for a briefing on the country’s  preparedness for any possible Syrian retaliation against Israel should America strike. Netanyahu and Israel’s security chiefs have said there is a “low probability” of President Bashar Assad striking at Israel, despite repeated threats from Syria and Iran to do precisely that.

Last week, in response to escalating international tensions over Syria’s use of chemical weapons and a potential international response, the IDF initiated a limited, open-ended call-up of reserve forces and declared a state of high alert for the Northern Command and IAF.

Maintaining Israel’s efforts to stay out of the Syrian crisis, most members of the government had stayed silent Saturday night in response to Obama’s decision to seek Congressional authorization for a strike against the Assad regime.

But members of the hardline Jewish Home party responded with criticism of the president. The religious-nationalist party’s Ariel declared that “in Tehran, they’re opening the champagne, and switching into a higher gear en route to nuclear weapons.” Ariel noted the 100,000 corpses in Syria, accused the world of doing nothing, and concluded that, “facing real dangers, no one in the world will stand with us.”

On Sunday, Ariel repeated his criticism, calling Assad a cowardly killer who had indiscriminately killed thousands and who needed to be confronted. “He’s not a lion, he’s a murderous rabbit; take care of him already.”

The Netanyahu cabinet was briefed by the chief of the General Staff, Benny Gantz, and other security chiefs.

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