It is hard to overstate the significance of Israel’s surgical strikes against Syrian military positions over the weekend. The raids targeted missiles bound for Hezbollah in Lebanon while also destroying battery launchers and other delivery systems. Beyond the obvious damage this inflicted on Syrian military capabilities, its real significance lies in the broader political objectives it achieved.
Benjamin Netanyahu made a strategic miscalculation last November when he launched Operation Pillar of Defence against Hamas operatives in Gaza. He failed to inflict any meaningful damage on the group while the Hamas administration secured a number of victories, not least hitting Tel Aviv. The weekend’s air raids therefore go a long way towards restoring Israel’s balance of power in the region by demonstrating their determination and willingness to retain ‘first strike’ capability.
Moreover, Netanyahu has revealed that unlike the President Obama he is prepared to act when Israel’s red lines are crossed. This will send a strong message to Iran with whom the Israelis have been tussling for some years over their plans to acquire nuclear weapons. The Syrian conflict is increasingly becoming a microcosm of all the region’s most pressing concerns – sectarianism, the primacy of confessional identities over civic ones, and authoritarian bargaining. In that context, restating the military supremacy and political will of Israel’s defence establishment could scarcely be more important.