Netanyahu: Israel is ‘calm and self assured’ as Obama waits on Syria strike

JERUSALEM (JTA) — “Israel is calm and self assured,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in his first public remarks following President Obama’s announcement that he will go to Congress before launching a military strike on Syria.

“Israeli citizens know very well that we are prepared for any possible scenario. Israeli citizens must also know that our enemies have very good reasons not to test our strength – they know why,” Netanyahu said Sunday morning at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting.

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On Saturday afternoon, Obama announced in a statement from the Rose Garden at the White House that American intelligence showed that Syrian troops under orders from President Bashar Assad launched a chemical weapons attack on his own citizens.

“This attack is an assault on human dignity.  It also presents a serious danger to our national security.  It risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons.  It endangers our friends and our partners along Syria’s borders, including Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq.  It could lead to escalating use of chemical weapons, or their proliferation to terrorist groups who would do our people harm,” Obama said.

He also announced that he will seek authorization from Congress for the use of force against Syria. “I’m ready to act in the face of this outrage.  Today I’m asking Congress to send a message to the world that we are ready to move forward together as one nation,” Obama concluded.

Obama’s decision comes days after the British Parliament turned down Prime Minister David Cameron’s request for similar authorization.

Congress is set to reconvene on Sept. 9, meaning that a debate and vote on the authorization could come as early as Sept. 10.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Home Front Command on Sunday opened four new distribution centers for gas mask kits for Israeli citizens, following hours-long waits at the existing distribution points and at post offices.