The head of research for Israeli Military Intelligence stated publicly today that the Syrian government has definitively used chemical weapons– at least once. Beyond that, Brig. Gen. Italic Brun, said at conference of the Institute for National Security Studies that Israel believes the Syrian government has in fact used chemical weapons on other occasions. Both France and Great Britain share the Israeli opinion. The official American positions continue to be that there has been no conclusive proof of the use or chemical weapons. That position seems more and more an attempt to conform reality to a preferred American policy of inaction. However, this policy runs smack into President Obama’s personally stated "red lines"-- that the use of chemical weapons would not be tolerated. Once it is accepted that Syria in fact used the weapons any inaction on the part of the United States will weaken an already weak American deterrence.
The statement by the Israeli General appears to be tied to what everyone seems to think is a coming deadline visa vis Iran. Amos Yadin, the former head of Military Intelligence stated today that he believes the Iranians have already passed the line established by Prime Minister Netanyahu last summer at the UN. Though that line was a little ambiguous, Yadin clearly stated that the key moment will come in June, after the Iranian elections. At that point it will be up to all the players to decide what would be their next act. The sense is that action will have to be taken by the summer by either the United States or Israel.
The political scene here has warmed by some exchanges in the Knesset, between Yair Lapid, the Finance Minister, and Ashkenazi Haredi opposition party members. The exchange began when Knesset member Porush attacked Lapid for his yet UNannounced budget. Porush claimed that under that budget a million children would go hungry. Lapid responded by saying that is was the primary responsibility of parents before they bring children in the world to make sure that they can support them, and not rely on the state. That statement, together with Lapid affirming of his right as a secular Jew to post to his Facebook on Shabbat have caused considerable consternation in the Haredi community, which has not been used to such direct attacks.