Given the current global disposition against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime in Syria, a U.S.-led strike seems almost inevitable. Western leaders such as David Cameron, Francois Hollande, Chuck Hagel and others, invested a great deal of effort on Tuesday to build up an atmosphere that will enable the West to launch such an attack without evoking too much antagonism from their publics.
The U.S. has made clear that the looming attack is a "punishment" for Assad's use of chemical weapons, and not an attempt to topple his regime or intervene in the civil war that has been tearing Syria apart for nearly three years. In that case, it is safe to assume that the attack may take a "standoff" shape, most likely a barrage of Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from U.S. battleships against several quality Syrian targets, such as missile depots, air bases and power stations. Chemical weapons depots are unlikely to be targeted, so as not to cause mass collateral damage, especially among civilians. There is also the possibility that hitting WMD sites could render them vulnerable to rebel looting.
It is quite clear that the West is unwilling to jeopardize a single soldier's life in this affair.
The big question is what Assad will do in the event of a strike. Logically, he should take it for what it is, a punishment for having crossed the line, like a slap on the wrist. He can tolerate a symbolic response by the West, minimize his losses and secure his regime. But, as we have painfully witnessed over the last couple of years, logic in the Middle East seems to be on an extended hiatus. There is a serious possibility that since Assad cannot really hit U.S. targets, he will choose to rain his missiles on Israel. Iran, Hezbollah and Assad himself have stated, loudly and clearly, that Israel will pay the price of an American attack on Syria. Though not an original idea -- Saddam Hussein did the same thing in the 1991 Gulf War (and look where it got him) -- it is a threat that Israel should take seriously.
Defensively, Israel is well-equipped and has the Iron Dome system against short-range rockets and missiles, and the Arrow 2 defense system against ballistic missiles. The Patriot PAC-3 also has some limited anti-missile capabilities, but this is not its primary mission.
Unfortunately, the David's Sling system, which is supposed to bridge the gap between short- and long-range threats, and deal with medium-range threats, is not operational at this time, and won't be operational in the foreseeable future. And that is exactly where Assad's forte lies: He has a huge arsenal of heavy, medium-range rockets (M-500 and Iranian built rockets), which threaten the heart of Israel.
What should Israel do? Israel's strength is in offense. The Israel Air Force is far superior to Syria's air force, or any other Arab air force, in sophistication, equipment, experience and sheer strength. This is a formidable might that can literally wipe Assad's army out within a very short span of time. So, this is what Israel should use if the need arises.
If Assad launches a serious attack, conventional or unconventional, Israel should not wait for the second wave. It should strike, and strike hard, at the Syrian missile launching pads, at strategic infrastructures, and at quality military targets. A fierce attack, for which Israel is well-equipped, will also send a very clear message to other parties in the area, who might be contemplating joining the party, to stand down.