Israel Could Benefit From Syrian Civil War as Hamas and Hezbollah Face Setbacks

Sworn Enemies of Jewish State Suffer in Spreading Chaos

Pain and Gain: It’s hard to see a silver lining in the destruction and chaos of the Syrian civil war. But some analysts see advantages for Israel, at least in the short term.
getty images
Pain and Gain: It’s hard to see a silver lining in the destruction and chaos of the Syrian civil war. But some analysts see advantages for Israel, at least in the short term.

By Nathan Guttman

Published June 09, 2013, issue of June 14, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

In the world of realpolitik, one country’s devastation is, at times, the other’s advantage. And the Syrian civil war, with tens of thousands of casualties and millions of refugees, is no different.

For Israel, its neighbor in the South, the disintegration of the Syrian state entails some suprising short-term national security benefits. Analysts looking at the region see some of Israel’s key opponents there losing support, and the focus shifting away from Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians and toward the burning issue of Syria.

“Compared to others, it makes Israel look less bad in the region,” said Bob Freedman, a visiting professor at Johns Hopkins University. He noted that early on in the Syrian civil war, Sunni leaders accused the regime of President Bashar al-Assad of being “worse than Israel.”

But while experts see in Syria’s chaos some short-term benefits for Israel as a byproduct, all agree that the long run promises more perils than opportunities. The greatest risk of all, they say, will be the need to face a fractured Syrian entity lacking central control and awash with extremists who may have access to advanced weapons systems.

In the meantime, however, recent developments have, among other things, degraded the standing of Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based, anti-Israel Shiite militia, which is fighting alongside Assad loyalists in Syria. The group has deployed thousands of fighters from their positions in Southern Lebanon into the Syrian battle theater, serving at times as the front force against the toughest opposition strongholds.

For Israel, this is a welcome distraction of Hezbollah’s attention. The group had been Israel’s greatest threat and has proved its ability to hit all of northern Israel with its rockets and missiles. “There is no doubt that Hezbollah is being degraded,” said Shai Feldman, director of the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University. The organization, he added, is not only losing men and weapons in the Syrian combat, it is also coming under increasing attacks from political rivals in Lebanon and in the broader Arab world, which views the organization as taking the wrong side in the Syrian conflict. “For the short term,” Feldman said, “this means Israel is safer, because Hezbollah’s focus is in a completely different direction.”

Looking south, Israel has seen another rival take a hit because of the Syrian civil war. Hamas, the Sunni organization close to the Muslim Brotherhood, has been in charge of Gaza and was behind numerous rocket attacks on Israel’s Negev region in recent years. Now, because of its backing of opposition groups fighting Assad, Iran, which backs the Syrian president, has cut millions of dollars in funding it used to provide to Hamas. A cash-strapped Hamas would lose some of its capabilities of launching attacks on Israel.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.