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Did Obama Give Israel Go-Ahead With Syria?

2:02 PM, Mar 24, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
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On Friday, President Barack Obama left Israel, after spending a couple days with the leaders of America's closest ally in the region.

Now today, two days later, Israel has acknowledged that it fired at a military position in Syria. "Israel said it fired into Syria on Sunday and destroyed a machinegun position in the Golan Heights from where shots had been fired at Israeli soldiers in a further spillover of the Syrian civil war along a tense front,"  Reuters reports. "It was not immediately clear whether Israel held Syrian troops or rebels responsible for what a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said had been a deliberate attack on Israeli patrols in the occupied territory."

The sequence of events leads one to ask, what did the two leaders, Obama and Netanyahu, discuss regarding Syria when they met multiple times this last week in Jerusalem? And what did they agree to do to deal with the Syria issue?

The answers aren't immediately clear.

But we do know that the two discussed Syria. "Mr. President, we discussed today the situation in Syria," said Netanyahu at a joint press conference with the two leaders. "We share the goal of seeing a stable and peaceful Syria emerge from the carnage that we have witnessed over the last two years. That carnage has already resulted in the deaths of over 70,000 people and the suffering of millions.  We also share a determination to prevent the deadly arsenal of weapons within Syria from falling into the hands of terrorist hands.  And I have no doubt that the best way to do that is to work closely with the United States and other countries in the region to address this challenge.  And that is what we intend to do."

Obama, who was asked at least twice on the trip about allowing the bloodshed to continue in Syria, said, "With respect to Syria, the United States continues to work with allies and friends and the Syrian opposition to hasten the end of Assad’s rule, to stop the violence against the Syrian people, and begin a transition toward a new government that respects the rights of all its people."

He continued, "Assad has lost his legitimacy to lead by attacking the Syrian people with almost every conventional weapon in his arsenal, including Scud missiles.  And we have been clear that the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people would be a serious and tragic mistake.  We also share Israel’s grave concern about the transfer of chemical or other weapon systems to terrorists -- such as Hezbollah -- that might be used against Israel.  The Assad regime must understand that they will be held accountable for the use of chemical weapons or their transfer to terrorists."

And we know that Obama talked with the king of Jordan about Syria, too.

Israel, like all other nations, reserves the right to defend itself when attacked. Just as it appears to have done today, after getting hit by fire coming from Syria. 

But with the situation in Syria appearing to get worse, and considering the very real possibility that chemical weapons were used within Syria last week, it would seem likely the two discussed dealing with Syria more aggressively.

One, then, wonders whether today's retaliation by Israel is a direct outgrowth of Obama's visit last week with Netanyahu.

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