ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | The Syrian Mirage

The Syrian Mirage

8 August 2006

By Yisrael Ne’eman

As is in vogue with the Israeli media, there appears to be a visceral need to get a debate going over the necessity of the present Hezbollah War. At the outset extremist Jewish voices and Israeli Arab/Palestinians demanded a halt to the fighting while accusing Israel of being the aggressor. They covered their tracks by claiming they “wanted to avoid casualties on all sides” but were exposed by the Israeli mainstream as the anti-Israel hypocrites they are. Seeking out a palatable anti-war response after four weeks of battles against the Hezbollah the media has tapped the Zionist Left and peace camp for their perspective.

In unity with everyone else, they supported the initial military offensives. There is no organized movement to refuse to serve in Lebanon. However the well meaning Zionist Left intellectuals and cultural icons are gearing up for the “inevitable” peace talks and many such as authors AB Yehoshua, David Grossman and Amos Oz are calling for an end of hostilities because “Israel has made her point and enough damage has been done.” Many concur with Prof. Galia Golan that solving the crisis can only be done through negotiations with the Syrians, the next door neighbor patrons of the Hezbollah.

They claim that if Israel would cede the Golan Heights, the Syrians could be decoupled from the Hezbollah and Iran. Considering that the Syrian Ba’ath Party ideology speaks of a Greater Syria (including the Land of Israel), hosts terrorists such as Hamas leader Khalid Mashal and encourages massive pro-Hezbollah demonstrations any “agreement” would at best be temporary, but most likely those signing it would face insurrection and overthrow. Even if Bashar Assad & Co. remained in power after regaining the Golan Heights, why should Syria break with Iran and the Hezbollah? What is in it for the dictatorial Ba’ath leadership? Democracy? Free elections?

There is no peace camp in Syria that has softened up the populace for accepting Israel as a legitimate neighbor. Although secular Arab nationalists, the hard line Ba’ath position sees Israel’s destruction as coming about in stages.

Worse yet, as Dr. Guy Bachor points out, Syria could very well fragment within the next few years, due to its many ethnic groups and social/political pressures. Should that happen, a negotiated, bi-lateral agreement will be useless and anarchy will reign, similar to the Palestinian Authority, only the different Syrian factions will have more lethal weapons.

As much as the West hails the inviolability of the all sacred unified nation state, Syria may very well be the second Arab country to break down on religious and sectarian lines. Iraq appears well on its way to the gold medal with a three way break between Sunnis, Shi’ites and Kurds despite the Anglo-American presence. Following such a precedent, the temptation facing local sectarian leaders in Syria to take fate into their own hands may prove just too much and a partial or even complete collapse into chaos is far from a delusion.

Syria’s present “stable” reality is extremely brittle. As mentioned previously in these columns, a resurgent extremist Moslem Brotherhood is certainly in the cards, and they for sure will not honor agreements with Israel. One only need examine the Palestinian Hamas rejection of the Oslo Accords. When radical Islamic movements replace secular regimes they do not consider themselves a continuation of the same secular nation state apparatus but rather define their success within a newly formed Islamic entity, thereby nullifying “unacceptable” agreements and obligations signed by their predecessors.

The point here is to reframe and not be caught in too small of a context. Israel’s conflict with the Hezbollah is Shi’ite Islamic (not just Iranian but also Iraqi). Their impact on radical Sunnis is contagious and will spread, especially after popular pro-Hezbollah demonstrations were encouraged by the Syrian government and the radical Sunni Hamas continues to be honored guests in Damascus.

No doubt, as pointed out by all, Syria is a key player in the game, at least for the moment. However, attempted conflict resolution with Damascus should not be considered. The strategic significance of the Golan Heights is far too crucial to relinquish, even for the illusion of a bilateral signed agreement. We are not speaking of the US – Canadian border, but the volatile Middle East.

The Zionist Left may have all the best intentions in the world but they refuse to face the reality of the advent of a non-compromising, militant Islamic tsunami arising on Israel’s northeastern frontier. Returning the Golan Heights for “peace” with Syria is a dangerous mirage.