Israel has psychological trauma leftover from the Lebanon War.
The short version is that Israel went into Lebanon to stop the PLO attacks on Israel following their breach of the ceasefire. The IDF succeeded in driving off the PLO, but in the process, Israel got itself involved in regime change and found itself dragged into Lebanon’s sectarian violence, staying in southern Lebanon for years. After Israel pulled out, Israel again found itself dragged into yet another Lebanon war.
Since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War, Israel has publicly kept its nose out of Syria. Israel treats Syrian wounded who more or less make it to the Israeli border; Israel has made some limited retaliatory attacks against Syrian forces when they occassionally attack Israel; Israel has hit some strategic positions that potentially endangered Israel.
But at least publicly, that’s all Israel has done.
There is a unique opportunity to help reshape the Middle East as it falls apart.
Syria is breaking up into mini-states, each based on different ethnic, tribal and ideological identities, and some of those ethnic groups don’t hate Israel, or at least, don’t need to hate Israel.
Israel has the opportunity to reshape a small part of the Middle East, perhaps putting some friendly neighbors on the border and in the region, a new Middle East–but it’s not without risk.
The Druze in Syria are looking for allies and support. The already pro-Israel Kurds are looking for support. The secular Syrians are looking for support.
While there’s no guarantee that once the lines are drawn and the mini-states are formed they’ll all support Israel, but a positive role by Israel along the way certainly increases those chances.
But the risks are great too.
Israel’s over-interference could shift the war away from each other and redirect it against Israel, dragging us in to a war we mustn’t be a part of.
Israel could also end up supporting a group that could turn into our next great enemy (I’m thinking al-Nusra along our border).
As I mentioned, Israel has trauma from Lebanon.
Israel may be afraid to take the necessary steps, frozen by fear that anything more will drag us into the Syrian Civil War, and thus playing too cautious a role.
Israel must not let our potential current and future allies and neighbors be wiped out or taken over by ISIS, Hezbollah, or Iran.
It’s a fine line, and I hope our leaders can move past the national trauma and find the right balance.