Israelis Change Tack on Syria Policy

Many Openly Advocate Intervention To Topple Assad

Devastation: As Syria’s civil war continues, a resident takes photos of destruction caused by aerial bombardment in city of Aleppo.
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Devastation: As Syria’s civil war continues, a resident takes photos of destruction caused by aerial bombardment in city of Aleppo.

By Ben Lynfield

Published September 22, 2012, issue of September 28, 2012.
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But near the end of his article, he added that taking action could also “weaken if not break the nexus between Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Palestinian terror organizations, and therefore likely contain Iranian influence in the Levant.”

Shlomo Brom, senior analyst at INSS and former director of the strategic planning division of the Israeli army’s general staff, is also unabashedly calling for military intervention to break the current stalemate between the regime and the Syrian rebels. “The present situation is the worst of all worlds, because there are all kinds of actors helping the rebels in their battle against the regime, but the assistance is not of the nature that can be decisive and cause the regime to fall,” Brom told the Forward. ”[This] can continue for a very long time, with all the resulting harm to civilians on both sides.”

Brom advocates establishment of no-fly zones that would prevent Syrian planes from bombing areas controlled by the rebels and, if necessary, prevent selective bombing.

Not everyone in the security establishment backs this view. The former head of Israel’s National Security Council, Giora Eiland, believes that the status quo of stalemate between the regime and the rebels is not unfavorable to Israel.

“Looking at it in a political and cynical way, as long as the regime in Damascus is fighting for survival internally and for legitimacy in the international arena, and as long as Syria is weakened economically and militarily, it is not a bad situation for Israel.” he said.

Moreover, what follows the Assad regime could be negative from Israel’s viewpoint, Eiland said. A new regime could be dominated by the Moslem Brotherhood and be extremely militant against Israel, he warned, while groups inspired by Al Qaeda could gain control of border areas. Even if a stable, pro-Western government arises, the first thing it will want is to discuss the return of the Golan Heights. “I’m not sure that is good for Israel,” Eiland said.

Israeli calls for Western military intervention would also strengthen Assad’s bid to delegitimize his opponents, by painting them as tools of the Zionist enemy, Eiland predicted.

In fact, however, the regime is already depicting the insurrection as part of a Western and Zionist conspiracy against Syria. State television and newspapers report finding Israeli-made weapons among those captured from “terrorists,” the government’s designation for rebels.

Nevertheless, David Lesch, a specialist on Syria at Trinity University, in San Antonio, Texas, rejected the notion that Assad’s opponents would suffer at this late stage from Israel’s shift to advocating Western military intervention.

Earlier in the uprising, “it may have had more of an impact in terms of helping the regime and hurting the opposition’s cause,” said Lesch, author of the newly published book “Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad.” “But Israel was prudently cautious in the first months of the uprising.

“Now, with the conflict having become so existential and militarized on both sides, what any Israelis are saying at this point doesn’t really matter that much. If anything, opposition elements may be hopeful that Israeli countenance of military intervention might help push the U.S. into action, something they are desperately clamoring for.”

Contact Ben Lynfield at feedback@forward.com


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