Originally published at Rubin Reports.
There are some subtle issues coming out of the Syrian civil war for Israel. It is clear that Israel is neutral on the war, that it isn’t going to get dragged into it, and that the longer the war goes on it doesn’t damage Israeli national security.
It should be equally clear, however, that in the end Israel wants the rebels to win. Syria’s regime is supported by Hizballah, Iran, and the Assad government. These are the greater of the two evils. The coup against Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood regime greatly reduced the threat of Sunni Islamism, compared to that of Iran.
Again, it should be underlined, however, that the difference isn’t perceived as huge. Military institutions are generally more favorable to the rebels, given their anti-Iran nuclear weapons’ emphasis. Other agencies remember, however, that a Sunni Islamist Syria will still be a problem.
There are several other aspects, however, of the Syria situation for Israel.
Hamas: With Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood thrown out of office, Hamas poses much less of a threat.
Instead of having Egypt as a patron, Egypt is now a greater enemy than it was under Mubarak. That then breaks up the issue of a Brotherhood Egypt, Hamas, and Syria.
Egypt: And speaking of Egypt, the transformation for Israel’s strategy almost approaches the victory of the 1967 war except this is not a victory over Egypt but a tremendous enhancement of cooperation. The threat of the dissolution of the peace treaty and a potential new war has been replaced by a prospect of deeper peace and more strategic help.
The draining of terrorist resources and energies. Syria is now a target, as well as Iraq, for Sunni terrorists; and now do is Egypt, too.
The Golan Heights: Israel will not come down from the strategic Golan for “forever.” With either Sunni or Shia extremists in charge of Syria, the anti-Israel stance of Syria is going to be strong under any conceivable government. At the same time, that Syrian government will be weaker. The United States is in temporary or permanent eclipse and cannot possibly—and will not—exercise major leverage on Syrian. You can bet that without a utopian transformation of the region Israel will remain on the Golan.
Lebanon: It seems equally clear that Hizballah has very much reduced support from the Lebanese, Syria, Sunni Islamist leaders, and others. Given this situation, Hizballah cannot attack Israel, certainly not while its best troops are tied down in Syria. And if the rebels win in Syria, they will take on Hizballah, also supporting Lebanese Sunni Islamists. Hizballah will be too busy fighting against fellow Arabs to start a war with Israel.
Kurds: This is the best moment for Kurds politically in modern history, with a ceasefire with Turkey and its help in Syria; a de facto state in northern Iraq though it will not be a full-fledged state; and autonomy in Syria. Central and southern Iraq are booming with terrorism but Kurdistan (the Kurdish Regional Government) is booming with prosperity.
The fact is that the Kurds do not share in the Arab blood feud with Israel. In both Iraq and Syria, the Kurds want good relations and commerce with Israel. Whether the dealings would be overt or covert, this new political relationship is going to be a significant factor in the Middle East.
Druze: The Druze have a tougher time since they do not have a strategic boundary with a friendly country as do the Kurds. Nevertheless the Druze are at a historical turning point. They have given their loyalty to the Syrian regime, with the Golani Druze showing special devotion fueled largely by fear and the fate of relatives on the other side of the border.
Now, however, they see the Assad regime in trouble. At this point the loyalty must be questioned. Would a Sunni Islamist regime be so kind to them? On the one hand, the Druze have served not with the rebels but with the regime. Second, when all is said and done the Druze are infidels, even worse former Muslims centuries ago.Of course, the Druze still in Syria will claim their devotion to the Sunni Islamist regime in the hope of not being massacred.
About the Author: Professor Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. See the GLORIA/MERIA site at www.gloria-center.org.
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