An Assad-Guaranteed “Stability” in Syria Is Worthless

As it seems unlikely if not impossible that Bashar al-Assad will be replaced by Syrian rulers well-disposed to Israel, some have argued that it is in Jerusalem’s interest for him to stay in power. Since the Yom Kippur War, the argument goes, Hafez al-Assad and then his son Bashar have maintained quiet on the Israel-Syria border. The alternative, by contrast, would be a chaotic situation where any number of dangerous, difficult-to-deter groups could gain control of the Syrian Golan Heights and create a more volatile situation. Besides raising the obvious moral objections to this argument, Efraim Inbar challenges it on strategic grounds:

Common sense tells us that weak enemies are preferable because they can do less damage. . . . A Syria embroiled in a civil war has much less energy and fewer means for hurting Israel than a strong Syria. . . . What is left of the Syrian army is busy protecting the regime and trying to expand the territory it holds. It is not capable of challenging the Israeli army in a conventional war, and it will take years for it to rebuild a serious military machine. Nor is the Syria of today able to wage an effective diplomatic and/or military campaign aimed at the return of the Golan, which constitutes a defensible border for Israel in the north.

Above all, the survival of the Assad regime would be a victory for Iran—the main source of trouble in the Middle East and Israel’s archenemy. A restored Syrian state, under Assad, will secure for Iran the Shiite corridor to the Mediterranean. It is not clear that even the Russians, who support Assad, have this goal in mind. An Iranian presence along Israel’s northern border is more threatening than warring Sunni militias.

[Furthermore, it is incoherent to argue] that a strong regime, such as Assad’s before the outbreak of the civil war, is more easily deterred by Israel than would be the non-state organizations that might replace Assad. Deterring non-state organizations is certainly tricky, but the Syrian case study refutes this claim. . . . Assad père, a strong dictator, attacked Israel in 1973 and sent his air force to challenge Israel’s in 1982. He did indeed keep the border with Israel on the Golan Heights quiet after 1974, but [he simultaneously] supported Palestinian and Lebanese militias to bleed Israel from southern Lebanon.

When his son lost much of his control over the Golan Heights to opposition militias during the civil war, Israel did not detect any significant rise in hostile violent activities across the border. . . . Israel’s military superiority was obviously the main factor in assuring quiet along the border with Syria. Moreover, it is not clear that policies pursued in the 1974-2011 period will continue if Assad regains his country. Extrapolations about the future are very problematic, particularly in the Middle East. [But] Israel’s current deterrence, admittedly a somewhat blurry concept, has worked in the Golan Heights [against the various jihadist groups there].

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Bashar al-Assad, Hafez al-Assad, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war

Ordinary Gazans Are Turning against Hamas—and Its Western Sympathizers

In the past few days, difficult-to-confirm reports have emerged of unrest in the Gaza Strip, and of civilians throwing stones at Hamas operatives. A recent video from Al Jazeera showed a Gazan declaring that “God will bring Qatar and Turkey to account” for the suffering of Palestinians in the current war. Being an agent of the Qatari government, the journalist turned away, and then pushed the interviewee with his hand to prevent him from getting near the microphone. Yet this brief exchange contributes much to the ongoing debate about Palestinian support for Hamas, and belies the frequent assertion by experts that the Israeli campaign is only “further radicalizing” the population.

For some time, Joseph Braude has worked with a number of journalists and researchers to interview ordinary Gazans under circumstances where they don’t fear reprisals. He notes that the sorts of opinions they share are rarely heard in Western media, let alone on Al Jazeera or Iran-sponsored outlets:

[A] resident of Khan Younis describes how locals in a bakery spontaneously attacked a Hamas member who had come to buy bread. The incident, hardly imaginable before the present war, reflects a widespread feeling of “disgust,” he says, after Gazan aspirations for “a dignified life and to live in peace” were set back by the Hamas atrocities of October 7.

Fears have grown that this misery will needlessly be prolonged by Westerners who strive, in effect, to perpetuate Hamas rule, according to one Gazan woman. Addressing protesters who have taken to the streets to demand a ceasefire on behalf of Palestinians, she calls on them to make a choice: “Either support the Palestinian people or the Hamas regime that oppresses them.” If protesters harbor a humanitarian motive, she asks, “Why don’t we see them demonstrating against Hamas?”

“Hamas is the destruction of the Palestinian people. We’ve had enough. They need to be wiped out—because if they remain, the people will be wiped out.”

You can watch videos of some of the interviews by clicking the link below.

Read more at Free Press

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian public opinion