"We're on a collision course with Syria, a high probability of a confrontation with (Syria). We were nearly at that point in the summer of 2006," Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau, said on Tuesday at the annual Herzliya Conference.
Gilad said he believed Israel would have no choice but try to reach an agreement with Syria in the near future. Failing to achieve such a peace would create a far more dangerous front for Israel, which in two years would include a nuclear Iran, Syria's rocket array and a well-equipped Hizbullah. Gilad made the comments during a panel debate of former IDF major generals. "The way to prevent this is to try and achieve peace," he added.
"We're on a collision course – on the one hand there's been quiet since the Yom Kippur War and an almost peace, but on the other hand in the space of two years we can find ourselves facing a hostile entity on our eastern border – from a nuclear Iran through Syria and down to Hizbullah and Hamas. I'm warning now that if we reach a confrontation with Syria, (President Bashar) Assad's regime may fall and then we'll get a Sunni regime that will join other radical regimes in the region and put us in a far more difficult situation."
Gilad said that he believed it was possible to reach an agreement with Damascus. "I say there's a chance to progress towards peace, and during that process to put our problems on the table – like the demand to sever military ties to Iran, which we won't have peace with. That way we can stop the delivery of arms to Hizbullah, that way we can expel the terror headquarters from Damascus, we can weaken the entire hostile coalition in the region. Peace with Syria can greatly decrease the threat to Israel, but we must take into account that somewhere along the way of the process it may falter, and then I believe that in any case we'll still be on a collision course with them (Syria."
Gilad added that whoever the prime minister may be after the coming elections "he or she will see the Syrian track as far more attractive than the Palestinian one, and this is due to the schism between Abu-Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) and Hamastan."
'Sand in our eyes'However Maj. Gen. (res) Giora Eiland, the former head of the National Security Council, rejected Gilad's estimate. Eiland said that without clear security arrangements, an extremely serious situation will be created in the region. He ruled out the possibility of negotiations with Syria, warning that doing so may lead to the outbreak of a third intifada by Palestinians frustrated that their own process is stagnated.
Eiland was joined by Maj. Gen. (res) Yaakov Amidror, former chief of IDF Intelligence. Amidror slammed
The latter's position was also backed by Dr. Dan Shiftan from Haifa University, who said that under no conditions would Syria disengage from the radical axis headed by Iran after 30 years of isolation. In fact, he said, "its wishes appear to be coming true – Iran is becoming nuclear, its relations with France and the United States are improving, the US is growing weaker and Israel is confused."