JERUSALEM - Israelis were questioning whether the U.S. is committed to wiping out neighbor Syria's chemical weapons Sunday, a day after President Obama announced he was seeking Congressional approval for military action.
With the U.S. Congress in recess until Sept. 9, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday told the public not to let down its guard.
"Israeli citizens must also know that our enemies have very good reasons not to test our strength - they know why," he said during a cabinet meeting.
While Netanyahu did not explicitly mention Obama's decision during the meeting, he sought to tell Israel's neighbors that "Israel is calm and self-assured" and to assure citizens that "we are prepared for any possible scenario."
The delay in a possible airstrike - an attack was expected as early as this weekend - provides Jewish Israelis hope that the two-day Rosh Hashana holiday, which begins Wednesday at sundown, will not be marred by rocket attacks and the mass call-up of reserve soldiers. However, it also leaves them wondering when, or even if, the Americans will strike.
In Sunday newspapers across Israel, many analysts called the delay a victory for Syria and other Arab countries.
"It may be that this was a necessary step from Obama's point of view. It may be that it was a wise decision politically, in an America traumatized by Iraq and Afghanistan. But the smiles on the faces of decision-makers in Syria, Lebanon and Iran, on hearing Obama's Saturday speech, tell their own story," Times of Israeli political analyst Avi Issachoroff asserted in Sunday's paper.
Even if Congress agrees to a limited military strike, it will be too late, wrote Yoaz Hendel in the daily Yediot Ahronoth. "The chemical weapons depots will be moved. The headquarters will be replaced. The targets that have been chosen will become empty buildings. The achievements of the possible attack will shrink, the bloodbath will remain."
In the meantime, Hendel wrote, Israel must live with an unstable Syria on its northern border and an Iran reportedly close to nuclear capability.
"Netanyahu was right when he sought to act independently. No one else will do the work. Israel needs to ask itself what it wants, not what America will do," he wrote. "Red lines are a matter of national pride; the international community has only flexible lines."