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November 27, 2014 / 5 Kislev, 5775
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What’s Best for the Jews: Agencies Split Over Assad Vs. Rebels Options

So far, everyone agrees that the ongoing civil war has been a bonanza for Israeli security concerns.
IDF troops on the Lebanese border. Back in 2006, the Lebanese terror group Hezbolla inflicted massive damage on Israeli civilian centers up north. Now it has been weakened by its involvement in Syria.

IDF troops on the Lebanese border. Back in 2006, the Lebanese terror group Hezbolla inflicted massive damage on Israeli civilian centers up north. Now it has been weakened by its involvement in Syria.
Photo Credit: Flash 90

There appear to be sharp disputes among Israel’s intelligence agencies, over the best outcome of the two-year Syrian civil war. Against the background of a public debate about whether the Red Line has been crossed by the Syrian government, which likely attacked its own civilians using chemical weapons, Israel’s government experts are differing in their assessments of whose victory would better serve the Jewish state’s security interests: the Assad regime in Damascus or the rebels.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assembled, for the first time since the start of his current coalition government, the Security Cabinet, to discuss the situation in Syria and the Israeli response to recent developments, Maariv reported.

Israeli intelligence agencies are split on how to act regarding Syria. One organization believes that the focus should be kept on the Iranian nuclear issue, and, therefore, if the Assad regime collapses, the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis would absorb a mortal blow, thus improving Israel’s ability to handle the nuclear threat.

One of the factors delaying an Israeli raid on the Iranian nuclear facilities—certainly not the only one—is the probability that Iran’s clients, Syria and especially Hezbollah, would retaliate, peppering Israel’s civilian centers with the estimated 50 thousand short- and medium-range missiles Hezbollah has in its possession. With Syria turning anti-Iranian—the rebels are Sunni, Iran is Shiite—and with a consequently embattled—also Shiite— Hezbolla, The likelihood of a retaliation would diminish.

But another intelligence agency’s evaluation focuses on the border between Syria and Israel, and away from the Iranian strategic threat. It is estimated that removing Assad would create chaos and the disintegration of the central government, and as rebel groups then settle on the Syrian-Israeli they are highly likely to initiate attacks against Israel. Therefore, this agency recommends, the best course of action is to allow, and whenever possible even encourage the warring parties in Syria to continue to wear each other down over time.

So far, everyone agrees that the ongoing civil war has been a bonanza for Israeli security concerns, especially as it has been drawing Hezbollah fighters into the conflict, and returning scores of them to their homeland in convoys of coffins. As a result, Hezbollah, which has done better against the IDF in the 2006 Lebanon War, may be losing its clout in Lebanese politics, and may even be facing internal strife over its direction. The rumors about the organization’s leader Hasan Nasrallah being stricken with cancer (he’s been denying it) are a good thing, too.

It isn’t clear, according to Maariv, where Netanyahu stands in this debate. At the moment he is most concerned with the possibility that the United States would be pushed by public opinion to supply the rebels with weapons—which it may be doing via clandestine channels already.

But Netanyahu has a different perspective on the Red Line issue regarding President Obama’s decision on becoming involved directly in Syria. A Sunday Times report suggested that when Obama was visiting in Israel, he was given a full and thorough report on the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons. Netanyahu’s concern is not whether or not Obama takes steps to punish Assad on using chemical weapons, but whether or not Obama ever makes good on his word regarding Red Lines.

What will Obama do at one minute before midnight—which is bound to take place this summer—when Netanyahu provides him with irrefutable proof that Iran had crossed its Red Line, and is now capable of producing and launching nuclear weapons?

And so, the competing interests here are the “convenience” of having two kinds of Syrians delivering one another into the embrace of 72 maidens in the hereafter—versus the existential need to force the president of the United States to keep his promise on Israel’s life or death issue.

A component that has not been in discussion until recently is the attitude of Israel’s on-again, off-again Muslim ally in the region, Turkey. The Turks have been feeling the effects of the Syrian civil war in a much more pronounced way that Israel. Their territory has been breached several times by aggression from the other side of the border, while thousands of Syrian refugees are flooding across the same border. Does Turkey want a quick end to the war, and whom do they like better, Assad or the rebels? And is Turkey not equally terrified of a nuclear Iran as are Israel and Iran’s neighbors along the Gulf?

There’s much to be said for President Obama’s reluctance to re-play the Iraq WMD scenario in Syria, not to speak of entering yet another regional war. But if that’s the case, Obama would have to go out of his way to reassure the Israelis that Red Lines are not all alike, and that while he’s skeptical about America’s need to act on Syria’s Red Line, when it comes to Iran it would be an entirely different story.

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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6 Responses to “What’s Best for the Jews: Agencies Split Over Assad Vs. Rebels Options”

  1. Abe Bird says:

    The best thing is not to take part in any outside conflict and to let the Syrian to "decide" whom they prefer to rule them. Israel will be involved Only in cases that one part of the Syrian game players will act against Israel, directly (shoot at Israel) or not-directly (pass missiles and Chemical weapons to Hezbollah).

  2. Abe Bird says:

    The best thing is not to take part in any outside conflict and to let the Syrian to "decide" whom they prefer to rule them. Israel will be involved Only in cases that one part of the Syrian game players will act against Israel, directly (shoot at Israel) or not-directly (pass missiles and Chemical weapons to Hezbollah).

  3. Arie's Pragmatic Politics says:

    al qaeda allegedly rebels. assad and hezbollah in the regime. What's best? For Israel to stand by and let the terrorists on both sides exterminate each other.

    Someone pass the Israeli Golan wine. It is turning out to be a very good vintage.

  4. Steve Brown says:

    Sadly, it may be best to let them (keep) them fighting. When Muslims are killing each other, they're not killing anyone else. How's that for a sad commentary?

  5. Ethan Perks says:

    It's obvious that at least in the short term the Ba'athist Assad regime was a safe, predictable neighbor. The rebels seem to be primarily composed of radical Islamists who would as soon attack Israel than bring down Assad. Long term, there seems to be no up side. The Muslim world, the Arabs in particular, seems to be going up in flames. This will get much worse before it gets better.

  6. This has the look of something that is coming to a head. A critical point of decision, a crossroads. Will the west get involved militarily? I noticed how familiar the situation in the middle east looks compared to what the Bible states will happen in Isaiah 17. Did you know that Damascus Syria has historically remained inhabited from the time of it’s founding until today? Despite military losses it has always been populated. Yet Isaiah 17 states that God will take it away from being a city. That has not happened as of yet. If God chooses to use mans weapons of mass destruction as one of the tools to bring that about then today’s news concerning Assad should get you interested enough to take a longer look at that short chapter. In addition Iran continues determined in it’s march in the development of nuclear weapons. Current intelligence seems uncertain of when Iran will get the bomb and Israel cannot afford to gamble with this. Yet here we are with the clock ticking. In July of 2012 I wrote a small book that lists some of what the Bible says will happen in the end times as well as what will happen during the period known as the seven (360 day) year tribulation and other soon to take place events. I don’t accept donations and it’s free. It’s about 6 or 7 pages, so it’s a short read. I encourage you to have a look: http://www.booksie.com/religion_and_spirituality/book/richard_b_barnes/after-the-rapture-whats-next.

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