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Israel's Options
Dealing with Assad

A report by an influential Israeli think tank counseled that Jerusalem should consider changing tack in Syria. “Despite the high level of complexity created by Russia’s involvement in Syria—or perhaps, rather, because of it—Israel must engage in active efforts to topple Assad and hand Iran a strategic defeat in Syria”, a policy brief on the website of the Institute for National Security Studies said. More:

Tehran’s drive for regional hegemony is a threat to Israel. This threat is coupled with Iran’s ongoing efforts to arm itself with nuclear bombs, develop its missile program (only recently, the Iranians reported an experiment with a new long range surface-to-surface guided missile, and revealed the existence of an underground tunnel serving as a base for ballistic missiles with a range of 1,700 km), and generate a military presence on Israel’s border with Syria and Lebanon. Despite this, Israel has so far avoided making a move that could have contributed to the effort to topple Assad and thus undermine Iran and Hizbollah’s presence in Syria.

The new energy Russia is injecting into the crisis creates two opportunities for Israel. One lies in strengthening an alliance with the Sunni nations in the region, first and foremost Saudi Arabia and Turkey, under the leadership of the United States. The anger and frustration experienced by these states given Russia’s unilateral move could therefore tag Israel as a strategic asset that can serve as a partner in a system to dramatically weaken the threat of the radical axis from the north. Two, in case of failure in moving the “Western” coalition into concurrent action against Assad and ISIS, Israel should strive to realize the fourth option – an Assad-free Syria – as an arrangement reached in partnership with Russia.

Thus far, the Netanyahu government has appeared content to ensure that Russia and Israel are properly “deconflicted” when operating simultaneously over Syrian airspace—Russia when bombing Assad’s enemies, and Israel when it hits arms shipments clearly intended for Hizballah. But with Assad visiting Moscow yesterday in a very public display of unity, and with Hizballah providing critical ground troops for the joint Russian-Iranian-Syrian assault on Aleppo, it increasingly looks like Israel may not be able to just wait and see how things play out.

One of the authors of the report, former Israeli military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin, is a serious voice in Israeli foreign policy circles. It’s almost certain his writing is being carefully read and considered.

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  • gabrielsyme

    My goodness, this is a terrible idea for Israel. Firstly, while a post-Assad government will not support Hezbollah, given the dominance of Islamist groups in the rebellion, there should be every expectation that such a government will be at least as hostile to the state of Israel, and a good friend to Hamas. Secondly, whenever Israel ventures beyond its borders, it kicks up ill will in the broader Arab world – not only among those sympathetic to those Israel attacks, but to just about all Arabs, who are uneasy and afraid of Jews expressing their power in the region. Thirdly, should the Assad regime survive such an intervention (which cannot be excluded given Russian, Iranian and Iraqi support), Israel will succeed in transforming a rather passive opponent into a blood enemy.

  • Tom

    Mr. Netanyahu, remember what happened the last time your country got involved in an Arab civil war?

  • Fat_Man

    I doubt that Israel will find this idea very appealing for a number of reasons. First, whoever replaces Assad, he will not be a friend of Israel. Second, the Russians are more important to Israel’s health and well being than are the Sunnis. Only, the Russians have a chance of restraining the Iranians. Third, the best end game in Syria for Israel would be a country chopped up into a lot of little mutually hostile pieces. A unified Syria would be a platform for either Iran or ISIS, neither of which would be good for Israel.

    • Ellen

      Probably the best policy for Israel is to keep the Syrian civil war going (which is mainly not in Israel’s power, but it can contribute something to this effort by bolstering each side that appears to be losing) until the country is so destroyed and depopulated that the outcome will be determined. This outcome will be: a Syria carved, as Fat Man says, into 5-6 smaller pieces, none of which is more than 5 million people and completely beholden to an outside power for daily bread and weapons. That would make Israel the indisputable great power of Asia Minor. Asia Minor means the territory south of Turkey, east of Suez, and West of the great Arabian deserts including western Iraq.

      If we look back into the history books, something the Obamoids have never bothered to do, clearly, this little piece of territory is one of the most fought over in history. There has never been a 2-state, 3-state, imperial-state solution in this region that has lasted more than a few centuries. Whoever controls the Holy Land and the areas adjacent controls the hinge point of 3 great continents = Asia, Africa, and Europe. Asia is now emerging as the most important economic region in the world, surpassing both Europe and America. But, there is still much wealth, technology and political power in the so-called West. And Israel can become the physical and intellectual (and even spiritual) gateway for this 2-way relationship. As for the Arabs and the Muslims generally, sadly for them, they are becoming nothing more than roadkill under the heavy treads of other people’s ambitions.

    • Government Drone

      As Tom mentioned above, the last time Israel had a neighboring country chopped up into a lot of little mutually hostile pieces (Lebanon), there wasn’t much in the way of peace on the border except for when Israel occupied half the country or propped up proxies. Another example of a country divided among mutually hostile factions–Afghanistan–turned out to be an excellent base for a major international terrorist movement. For such a country to be harmless, it would have to achieve the dysfunctionality of Somalia, & even that place is dangerous to others (pirates) when not merely very annoying (refugees coming into Kenya & Yemen).

  • זאב ברנזון

    the INSS is very influential in Israel at labor circulars that supported the ill fated Arab spring fantasy
    out of Fukuyama style end of history bullshit position
    the realist nationalists are in power and they have no intention to shed Israeli blood or waste Israeli taxpayer money
    for incoherent adventures with bad risk reward ratio
    we already tried “fixing” the Arab world in Lebanon with full western support and strong indigunce boots on the ground and it still failed

  • ljgude

    Yes, this seems an ill advised idea and I agree with Ellen that the Israel is better off letting the combatants in Syria fight each other to a standstill. Then and only then will it become clear if any intervention is necessary or desirable.

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