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Is There a Real Reason Israel Would Get Involved in Syria?

Israeli Tanks Patrol the Golan Heights. (Photo: The New York Times)

As most media outlets are reporting, over the last month several errant mortars have been fired into Israel’s Golan Heights from Syria.  The IDF has determined many of them can be traced back to forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Showing restraint the Jewish state chose not to respond believing that the shells were not intended for Israel, but merely a product of fighting going on close to the border. Israel has now decided, however, intentional or not such attacks cannot go without response. Israel retaliated for the first time on Sunday firing a “warning shot” into Syria after a mortar shell landed near an Israeli military post. On Monday, Israel responded again to more mortar attacks with an Israeli tank firing into Syria. At least two Syrian soldiers were reported injured.

All this is good and well, and the fact that violence from Syria is beginning to spill over into Israel should be of concern. But it shouldn’t be blown out of proportion. Syria’s high command, and even Hezbollah’s, has already implied that it has no desire to get Israel involved in the Syrian struggle. Israel’s top military personnel have shared similar sentiments. It should continue to protect its border, provide violent deterrence when necessary, as it has started to do, and that’s it. Israel isn’t,  and shouldn’t,  get involved in a messy Syrian civil war over a few border skirmishes.

If one does want to play the theory game of what could potentially get Israel involved in the fight, one should start by looking to the Syrian rebels. Several months ago I asked a representative from the Syrian American Council, a U.S.-based delegation of Syrian ex-pats dedicated to helping the rebel movement, if the Syrian rebels would ever consider working with Israel to stop Assad’s bloodshed. The simple answer was no, and he stated that “Syrians do not consider Israel a friend.”

Is it conceivable that Israel could get involved in the Syrian civil war if it thought al-Qaeda’s influence was growing too strong? (Photo: nationalsecuritypolicy.blogspot.com)

Since our talk, there is little reason to believe that answer has changed. It has actually probably grown more pronounced. There have been continuing trends in the style of warfare in Syria that suggest al-Qaeda, and other militants who fought in Iraq, are becoming involved with the Syrian rebels. Roadside bombs, suicide bombers, and car bombs are becoming more common place. That is what people who care about Israel should be concerned about. Who are these people? Assad will fall, whether it’s in five months or five years, it’s inevitable. The question is will the replacements require Israel to get involved? Right now the jury is out. One thing to keep in mind is Syria has the largest stockpile of chemical weapons in the Middle East.

 
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Comments (6)

  1. Kathryn J. Friday - 16 / 11 / 2012 Reply
    I believe that right now, Israel is facing enough of its own problems and will not get completely involved unless given a true reason to. Surely if a rebel group were to take power in the future that threatened Israel's being, the country would have some justification to attack. Since the Civil War has only slighty breeched Israeli's borders as of this point, I think the warning shots are sufficient. In the wake of the assasination of one of Hamas's generals, I think that Israel should focus on the "civil war" going on inside its own country and continue to work towards peace, even if it is very far off in the future. The Israelis don't need one more conflict on their plate unless it directly threatens their national security, which does not constitute a little probably accidental border violence.
  2. AnnMarieC Friday - 16 / 11 / 2012 Reply
    Israel should not be fussing over such a miniscule issue as one overstep of boundary on Syria's part. The shell that reached a region a Israel was most likely meant to remain in Syria as the prolonging civil war continues. As stated by Kathryn, Israel should not attempt to take part in the struggles within Syria. The issues in Syria should be maintained in that country without the intrusion or help of other countries, especially Israel. Rather Israel should continue to find ways to fix its own issues instead of trying to help out with another countries problem. Right now, the main thing Middle Eastern countries need to remember is persistence. They need to continue to focus on their own issues and find solution before trying to lend a "helping hand" to others. Furthermore in the case of Syria and Israel, as stated by a leader in Syria, Israel is not considered a friend. If this is not enough of a reason to help Israel decide on what to do, I do not know what is.
  3. Aditya Mookerjee Friday - 16 / 11 / 2012 Reply
    The reality is, Israel is looking at survival against her neighbours, as the reason why she is existing as a state. Syria is not a neighbour, but it seems, that relations with Syria has a relation to interaction with immediate neighbours, according to Israel. The Israeli state, cannot help the geography of the location of that state. Many small states, professing democracy, but having a majority Muslim population, are seeing that certain material supplies could be better accessed, through Israel, the state, perhaps. Instead, they are not getting these supplies, and Israel is bombing them, with aircraft, also, is what these people see. Israel sees, that these states are supposed to be weaker, or poor, and their mutual belligerence is the cause of misunderstanding with Arabs, in general. Why look at the problem as religious? If these small states could see themselves as not being against their own existence, (and Israel has the same perception), because of neighbours, then there would be no problem. The only thing is, people would then feel, blood was shed pointlessly, and people died for no reason, when this always applied. Perhaps, if these people had died, instead of those they see dead, the others who lived, might have not seen it in the general light. I am for all the small Arab states, and Israel. I cannot say when I look at them all, who is right or wrong. If you see a person not reasonable, the reason in their actions, is the opposite of what is unreasonable, in your view. Both Israel and her neighbours, feel that each is being hateful, when the other is not in any position to face the hatred of the other.
  4. Luke Bakeland Friday - 16 / 11 / 2012 Reply
    I really agree with what Kathryn had to say. Israel does not want a war with Syria, and Syria does not want a war with Israel. Clean and simple. Israel constantly fears Iran and wants to focus all of its attention on Iran and the Palestinian terrorists. It does not want to divide its military on separate fronts. Syria is essentially in the same boat, in that it wants to focus on putting down the rebel opposition rather than getting in fights with Israel and NATO. If either Israel or NATO gets involved, it means the end of the regime which the Syrian regime does not want. The some key factors however, that will cause tension between the two nations are the influx of refugees coming over from Syria and the chemical weapons that Syria possesses If Israel feels threatened in any sort of way because of the chemical stockpile, it will act and the results may be bloody. I really hope we don't get another war in the middle east, because it wouldn't really be beneficial for anyone to fight. A conflict of this magnitude could easily spread to other nations across the globe including ours.
  5. MattIsh123 Friday - 16 / 11 / 2012 Reply
    Though it is true that Israel is currently preoccupied with its conflicts with Iran and Palestine, I would not be surprised to see Israel take a stand against Syria especially if terrorist groups, such as "al-Qaeda's influence grows too strong". Israel has by far the strongest military in the Middle East and there is the possibility that the government would choose to exercise their military strength by serving as a regional police figure. This would likely draw the ire of other Middle Eastern countries, but it would also exhibit the power of Israel and perhaps spark fear in its enemies. Israel is situated in a very tough predicament as it has been surrounded by enemies since the country's establishment in 1949. One thing that is crucial however, is that Israel acts assertively in its foreign policy, because being passive will make it more susceptible to being attacked. If Israel shows that it is tough, its toughness will surely be recognized.
  6. Tothian Friday - 16 / 11 / 2012 Reply
    America must support Israel. It's the holy land.

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Author

Rob Lattin
Rob Lattin

Rob Lattin recently completed his Master's in International Affairs at the City College of New York, where he won the Frank Owarish prize for graduating at the top of his class. His thesis explored Democratic Peace Theory and its applicability to small powers, and used the relationship between Turkey and Israel as its case study. Rob received his B.A. in Near Eastern Studies and Political Science, graduating from the University of Arizona with honors.

Rob has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East and has lived in Haifa, Israel. In addition to blogging for FPB, he is the Foreign Affairs Correspondent for Jspace.com. He currently splits his time between Washington D.C. and New York City.

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