"We are stuck in an impossible situation," a senior Israeli official has told CNN in relation to U.S. President Barack Obama's decision to seek congressional approval for a strike on Syria. "If we endorse Obama's message or publicly encourage him to act we are seen as weak or trying to drag America into a war it doesn't need for Israel's sake.
"If we stay on the sidelines, we are not seen as being supportive enough in calling for action. We totally do believe the international community, led by the United States, should do something because not acting is a signal to like-minded dictators that they can act with impunity. But we want them to do it because it is a moral imperative for the world, not for our sake. We have always said we don't rely on anyone for our security and can take care of ourselves," the senior official said.
Israeli officials told CNN that the delay in acting against Syria is raising questions about Obama's stated commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
"The psychological barrier has been broken, these weapons are being used on a periodic basis," another senior Israeli official told CNN. "So what does President Obama do when the information comes that the Iranians are making a breakout? This is what is on people's minds. Next time President Obama meets Netanyahu and he says 'I have your back,' how can you trust what he is saying?"
Meanwhile, the New York Times reported Monday that administration officials said the influential pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC was already at work pressing for military action against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, fearing that if Syria escapes American retribution for its use of chemical weapons, Iran might be emboldened in the future to attack Israel. In the House, the majority leader, Eric Cantor of Virginia, one of the few Jewish Republicans in Congress, has long worked to challenge Democrats' traditional base among Jews.
One administration official, who, like others, declined to be identified discussing White House strategy, called AIPAC "the 800-pound gorilla in the room," and said its allies in Congress had to be saying, "If the White House is not capable of enforcing this red line" against the catastrophic use of chemical weapons, "we're in trouble."
It appears that officials in the White House are well aware of concerns in the Prime Minister's Office that U.S. President Barack Obama's actions regarding a military operation in Syria point to how he will act toward Iran when the moment of truth arrives. Channel 2 news reported on Monday that Obama made it clear to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a telephone conversation last Saturday that his conduct with Iran will be nothing like his conduct with Syria.
While Netanyahu ordered his ministers to refrain from commenting on the subject in public, Obama's decision to seek support from Congress for a military strike in Syria received support Monday from President Shimon Peres. "I don't think sound judgment is indecisiveness," he told Army Radio. "I think it's permitted to carefully consider a decision beforehand rather than after, and I trust him on anything connected to Israel."
"I have full faith in President Obama's moral and operational stance. I recommend patience," Peres continued. "I am confident that the United States will respond in the right way to Syria. I don't have a global view like he does. The world is not faltering, it is changing. There are huge problems and he must consider them.
According to Peres, it is "better for Obama to go to war with the approval of Congress than without. I assume he has a basis for thinking he will receive support. He is reserved and level-headed and he is doing the math."
Regarding Iran's nuclear program, Peres said he does not believe Obama's reticence to decide on a military strike in Syria detracts from his credibility. "Dealing with Iran is a global interest. Obama will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon, and I think the Russians also do not want this," Peres said. In my opinion, we will not need to be alone in this campaign, because it is a crucial global and American interest, which threatens the world and not just Israel." Further, he said, "Israel can't do it."
One minister who ignored Netanyahu's order to remain silent on the Syria affair was Housing Minister Uri Ariel, who wrote on his Facebook page after Obama's speech on Saturday: "They are opening the Champagne in Iran and probably switching to higher gear on their way to nuclear weapons. With the world silent toward the atrocities in Syria, toward 100,000 testimonies buried in the ground, and after the clear use of weapons of mass destruction, we learn that when the day comes when we face real danger, no one in the world will stand at our side, and we can only defend ourselves."