Why Israel must not intervene in Syria just yet
Op-ed: With all the grief over the loss of lives, especially of innocent children, Israel should weigh its options carefully and responsibly and ask itself whether its strategic and tactical situation has changed in light of Tuesday’s suspected chemical attack, and whether it requires a ground invasion or ‘noisy’ Air Force strikes against Assad’s army.
Since the devastating images from the battles in the town of Idlib were published Monday, Israel is once again facing a moral dilemma regarding the required action in such a situation. With all the grief over the loss of lives, especially of innocent children, Israel should weigh its options carefully and responsibly and ask itself whether its strategic and tactical situation changed on Tuesday, and whether it requires a ground invasion or “noisy” Air Force strikes against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s army.
Senior Israeli officials are in agreement on the matter. Despite the calls for a military intervention, the defense establishment’s recommendation is different.
But there are other voices too, including that of former Military Intelligence Director Major-General (res.) Amos Yadlin, who believes Israel cannot ignore what has happened.
In his opinion, Israel should avoid a ground operation, but there are several other options in the IDF’s tool box which can send a clear message to the Syrian regime that Israel finds such activity unacceptable, and that whoever carried it out will pay the price.
This approach reconciles Israel’s strategic interest to weaken the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah “axis of evil” with the moral position that employing chemical weapons cannot be tolerated.
Tuesday’s suspected chemical attack—which was likely sanctioned by Russia—is once again indicative of the feeling of self-confidence prevailing in the Syrian army and in Hezbollah as well, following recent successes.
Clearly, this serves as further proof that the Russians’ involvement damaged the delicate strategic balance vis-à-vis Israel. This situation requires Israel to pick the best of the least attractive options on the table: A continuation of the Assad regime, or any other rebel organization that awill replace it.
The axis of evil, which grew weaker in different stages of the civil war, may have reached its strongest level with additional plans to reach the line of contact with Israel in the Golan Heights. While they failed to do so in the past, they may succeed next time with Russian backing, with Iranian Shiite militias and with the initiative and offensiveness of Hezbollah, which can afford to do much more than it did in the past.
The alternatives to Assad seem a lot less terrible today, even if they represent the unknown. Anyone else who replaces him won’t arm Hezbollah with precision missiles and aerial defense systems and won’t allow an Iranian hegemony in Syria.
The way things look now, however, his replacement is nowhere in sight, and there is a need to deal with the new situation. The immediate action that has to be taken is to increase the Israeli humanitarian activity vis-à-vis Syria, while simultaneously engaging in diplomatic activity demanding effective international involvement. Until then, we would do well to put the offensive plans aside rather than sink into the Syrian mud.
(Translated and edited by Sandy Livak-Furmanski)