Is Israel Rethinking Its Quiet Support of the Assad Regime in Syria?

As the media continues to cover the atrocities in Syria, nowhere in the conversation will you hear an honest discussion of why the U.S. continues to tolerate the bloodbath despite our rather quick military intervention in Libya on humanitarian grounds. I don’t believe in dumbing-down the discussion and claiming that the U.S. should or would intercede militarily in any circumstance where there is a humanitarian crisis- if that were the case we’d be all over the world and not just in oil-rich nations in the Middle East.

That said, Daniel Levy over at the Mideast Channel points out that after Syria refused to stop Palestinian refugees from crossing the illegal border into the Israeli-Occupied Golan, Israel may be reconsidering it’s quiet support of Assad- support which has conveniently gone unreported by the media:

The Israel-Syria border has been quiet since the 1973 war. While a member of the “resistance axis,” Syria under Assad has not itself challenged Israel in any military way. It is also a regime with very few soft-power assets with which to challenge Israel in the regional or international diplomatic arena. Syria under the Assads engaged in frequent peace-partner flirtations with Israel and could be considered the most domesticated of the members of that resistance alliance.

At least until Sunday’s events, Israel’s position on revolution in Syria hued closely to the status-quo conservatism that has so characterized the shared Israeli-Saudi response to the Arab Spring. Both Israel and Saudi had been critical of the “premature” abandonment of the Mubarak regime, especially by the U.S. Unlike Mubarak, of course, Assad is not an ally (for either the Israelis or the Saudis), but he is part of an ancien régime for which Israel had effective management strategies in place.

And Israel is none-too-enamored of the alternatives in Damascus. One alternative to the Assad regime — a democratic Syria with greater soft power diplomatic heft and perhaps with Islamists as part of a governing coalition — is as unappetizing a prospect for an Israel intent on maintaining its belligerent posture to the Palestinians and to the region (including its occupation of the Golan heights), as the Egyptian version of the same is shaping up to be. Another alternative — that of Syria becoming a largely ungoverned chaotic space and forming an arc of fitna (or sectarian strife) with Iraq and Lebanon is also unattractive.

For the peace rejectionist government of Prime Minister Netanyahu, the survival of an embattled, desperate, and thoroughly discredited Assad regime apparently hits that Goldilocks sweet spot — just the right outcome.

Is this a calculation that still makes sense for Israel after Sunday’s clashes on the Golan? Some reports suggest that the Naksa day marches to the Golan were encouraged and perhaps even sponsored by the Assad regime or its allies among the Palestinian factions. Protesters don’t necessarily have to be coerced or bribed into wishing to express solidarity with the Palestinians under occupation or to assert their own claims to former family homes — but what does seem certain on this occasion is that unlike in other countries neighboring Israel, the government in Syria did not prevent the marchers from reaching the Israeli border positions.

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About Stacy

Attorney, Publisher, Foreign Policy wonk

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