The Israelis have apparently decided to defuse the crisis that has been growing along the northern border with Lebanon and are now signaling that they want no confrontation with Syria.
"As long as both sides, Syria and Israel, do not feel they are threatened neither will interfere," a military source said at a briefing held at the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv yesterday.
After a week of watching their Christian allies in southern Lebanon getting mauled by a strong Palestinian counteroffensive, Israeli military analysts are now saying that there is no evidence at all to support reports that the Syrians are directly involved in the fighting.
The Syrians clearly allowed the Palestinians to attack but they did so only to keep the "status quo" after the Christians had gone over to the offensive, the military source said.
The Israelis would apparently like nothing more now than a return to the situation that existed before the recent upsurge of fighting "and as a matter of fact it is our hope that the period of testing is over and that quiet will return in the next few days," the source said.
Press reports from Lebanon has said that the Syrians were directly involved in the southern Lebanon fighting and pressure was building up here to have the government do something to save the Christian forces, which Israel has been supporting.
The Americans, however, had advised the Israelis not to overreact and, unlike previous incidents, there was no bellicose talk here about a red line that the Syrians must not cross.
In fact, the Israeli army's chief of staff, Mordecal Gur, said a few days ago that the war in Lebanon was not yet Israel's war and that the government should not entrap itself by defining red lines.
The recent trouble started, the military source said, when that Christians tried to link up their strong points by attacking hostile Moslem villages. This provoked the Syrians into allowing the Palestinians to mount a strong counter-attack. The counterattack was successful and the Christians began to lose ground.
The Christians still had enough strength and determination to defend their own villages and towns, the source said.
But with something less than 1,000 men it was impossible for them to create a security belt a cross the whole northern border, the source said.
"As long as they are satisfied with defending their own places," he said, "there will be no problem, but they cannot expand their territory . . . With the present ratio of forces bothe sides would be clever to maintain the status quo."
Such remarks could be interpreted as meaning that the Israelis do not want to see the Christians overrun, but on the other hand they are not going to assist any attempts to alter the status quo along the border in the Christians' favor.