For as long as the northern border remained quiet, it was in Israel's interests somewhat to see Syrian President Bashar Assad remain in power. A weakened dictator who makes a concerted effort to keep the border quiet is better than the chaotic terror of the Islamic State gangs. Israel is better off with a familiar, albeit crazy, neighbor who plays by the rules along the border than new neighbors who are no less crazy but don't who abide by any rules at all.
This held true for as long as the rules were observed. But now that the Golan Heights border is starting to become a terror border, now that the situation has been reversed and the Lebanon border is relatively quiet while the Syrian border has seen an increase in terrorist activity on the part of Hezbollah, under the cover of the general chaos in Syria, we need to rethink what is good for Israel.
The fall of Assad's regime would bring Islamic State to our borders – and that's a problem. But it would also be a fatal blow for Hezbollah. Without the Assad regime and the Hezbollah-Syria-Iran axis, the threat from Lebanon would fade significantly. It won't happen overnight, but it will happen for sure.
To a certain extent, the quiet on the Golan Heights served as a guarantee of sorts for the survival of the Assad regime. Under the cover of this quiet, we encountered an increased threat from Lebanon in the form of a militia armed and trained by Iran – Hezbollah, which poses a far greater threat to Israel than Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Things aren't quiet now, and thus Assad's guarantee should expire. If the Golan Heights aren't peaceful in any event, Israel then has no interest in the survival of the Syrian tyrant. Islamic State – unlike Assad and unlike Hezbollah – is the enemy of an international coalition that is fighting the organization; thus Israel wouldn't have to face this new threat alone.
There would be no international pressure for Israel to give back the Golan Heights either – and that’s a very good thing. The Golan will remain an important part of Israel forever.
This is not to say that we would welcome the presence of the Islamic State lunatics on our border; but it's certainly no worse, and may even be better, than the presence there of Hezbollah, which is the Lebanese proxy of the Iranian regime.
The people behind Hezbollah's activities don't pay the price for the organization's aggression, and the decisions to launch attacks on Israel are taken far away in Tehran and are linked to Iran's global aspirations rather than regional issues.
Furthermore, the means and capabilities that a large and strong country like Iran places at the disposal of Hezbollah are far more extensive and dangerous than the means at the disposal of the Islamic State forces. If there is going to be chaos on our border with Syria in any case, then at least we should be able to enjoy less of a threat on the Lebanon border.
So who needs Assad? This is not a call for direct intervention in the civil war in Syria, but it's good to know what's good for Israel. Sometimes when you want something, it somehow happens all by itself.