The Syrian Salafist rebel group Tahrir al-Sham—which is closely tied to al-Qaeda—carried out a suicide bombing last week in the Syrian Druze village of Hader, located just a few miles from the Israeli side of the Golan Heights. The village’s residents, like most Syrian Druze, have remained loyal to Bashar al-Assad throughout the civil war, and are thus considered enemies by Tahrir al-Sham. In response to pressure from Israeli Druze, the IDF warned Tahrir al-Sham that any attack on Hader will be repulsed forcefully. But protecting Syrian Druze, Yoav Limor explains, poses a dilemma for Jerusalem:
While the covenant between the Israeli Druze and the state of Israel is clear and unquestionable, [and means Israel will defend Druze outside its borders as it would Jews], Hader is an enemy village whose allegiance lies with Assad. In fact, Hizballah cells have been sent from the village to operate against the IDF. Supporting Hader, therefore, would not just support the Druze, but help Assad in the civil war in Syria.
On the other hand, refraining from aiding Hader would not only be a slap in the face of Israeli Druze, some of whom have relatives in Hader, but would also aid the rebels, in this case, al-Qaeda. No one in Israel has any illusions about what will happen if Hader is conquered and terrorists will be a stone’s throw away from Majdal Shams [a Druze village on the Israeli side of the Golan].
The Israeli decision was unambiguous. Just like the last time it was feared the village would be captured, in 2014, Israel made it clear last Friday that it would protect Hader as part of its covenant with the Druze in Israel. This, however, should not be taken to mean that the IDF intends to send ground forces into Syrian territory. Israel dominates Hader topographically and could stop the rebels by an aerial operation and long-range [artillery] fire.
Even though Israel made a clear call, the problem remains. All anyone who wants to drag Israel into the Syrian civil war, or even just to undermine its close ties with the Druze community, needs to do is attack Hader. This does not bode well for Israeli strategy in Syria, as it takes some of the control over events in the area away from Israel and places it in the hands of irresponsible third-parties in the Golan Heights.
Read more on Israel Hayom: http://www.israelhayom.com/opinions/between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place-2/