For some 40 years they told us that peace with the Alawite family ruling Syria will bring us peace with the entire Arab world. Later they told us that such peace deal would restrain Lebanon and Hezbollah. After that they said that a deal would sever the ties between Syria and Iran. And after all that we were told that we didn’t make enough effort to appease Damascus.
All of this was accompanied with a certain degree of romanticism and admiration for the Assad family; the father, the son and the holy spirit.
Yet all of these stories were baseless. Syria, which is isolated within the Arab world, would not have prompted any other Arab state to come on board; not even Lebanon. Instead, we got stability in Lebanon at this time without giving up the Golan Heights. Moreover, the Alawites, whose only allies in the world are Iran’s and Hezbollah’s Shiites, would have never renounced them.
Indeed, the Syrian regime simply toyed with all these people endorsing peace with the Assads all these years and was legitimized by them, without paying a thing.
Now, the bitter truth that we should have known a while ago is being proven: The Assads are a brutal family of dictators that comes from an isolated ethnic minority that lacks legitimacy. The Arab world is distancing from this family, and so do Syria’s citizens; it’s doubtful whether it will be able to cling to power for much longer.
Should Assad wish to stay in power, he will have to fight his own people in a similar way to what Gaddafi is doing in Libya.
Deal would have been worthless
Woe would be us had we finalized an agreement with this family and with this Syrian minority. We would have lost the Golan forever and the Syrian regime would have settled it with a million citizens that would spread “resistance” against Israel.” The deal we would have signed with the Assad tyranny would have been worthless. The Syrian people would have said that this is a peace agreement between Israel and an ethnic minority that lacks legitimacy.
Fortunately, we did not sign a peace deal with Assad, yet stability and deterrence were maintained. We had peace without official “peace” – and that’s a lot. To that end, we did not have to pay heavy prices, in terms of land or legitimacy, and for that reason future options, with a new regime in Damascus, are still relevant.
When he wanted to abuse Israel, Bashar Assad would sarcastically note that the Jewish state is not ready for peace and doesn’t want peace. Now that the brutality of this ethnic rule in Syria is exposed to all in the form of murders of citizens every Friday, we can openly say – indeed, we don’t want an agreement with such murderous regime.
We must wait a few years, until the situation stabilizes. Once it becomes clear who Syria’s new leadership is (it will likely comprise the Sunni majority) we can reexamine the chances for an agreement. Any other behavior would constitute reckless adventurism.
Israel has an interest in living at peace with its neighbors, but we must secure agreements with peoples, not with isolated regimes. Under no circumstances should we sacrifice existential interests in favor of any tyrant, especially as it turns out that they won’t stay there forever.
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