Could Syria's civil war could be good for Israel - and America?
That's the view some Israeli commentators have suggested lately. For
them, the thinking goes like this: As long as Israel's neighbors
and enemies are occupied fighting each other, their attention will
be diverted from Israel.
But finding merit for Israel in the continuation of Syria's civil
war is not just morally reprehensible; it also reveals a level of
shortsightedness and misunderstanding of the new regional dynamics.
Stopping the bloodshed and allowing the Syrian people to restore
peace and stability in their country should be seen as a key
interest of all regional actors, including Israel.
When political protests against the Assad regime first erupted in
Syria, the reaction from the Israeli government was overall
On the one hand, pro-status quo analysts argued that Syria's
President Bashar al-Assad was both a predictable and relatively risk-
averse neighbor, and that his triumph over the opposition forces
would be a positive outcome for Israel. A second school of thought
argued that Israel has a strong interest in seeing a change in the
status quo in Syria, as this would deliver a hard blow against two
of Israel's main regional foes, Iran and Hezbollah.
As time passed and the conflict escalated in a bloody and
destructive civil war, the anti-Assad camp gradually gained more
strength and influence both in the political and in the public
debate in Israel.
Lately, a third Israeli view on Syria's conflict has gained some
(limited) traction, voiced by some commentators and among the
general population - that Israel's interests would be served by the
continuation of the civil war. With the once mighty Syrian army
deadlocked in a fight against the rebel forces, and with both Iran
and Hezbollah deeply invested in the conflict, Israel can "sit back
and relax" while its main enemies get weaker by the day.
Applied on a regional level, this theory argues that the rise in
internal divisions and strife in the region should be seen as a
positive development for Israel.
This poorly disguised gloating over the growing level of regional
violence and instability in the Arab world is deeply disturbing in
First and foremost, these statements reveal both a lack of
empathy and a shameful callousness to human suffering. Syria's
conflict has left more than 100,000 dead (with at least 6,500 of
them being children), more than 1.9 million refugees, 4.5 million
internally displaced persons, and more than 7 million people in dire
need of humanitarian assistance. There is just no possible political
or geostrategic interest that could justify arguing in favor of the
continuation of the status quo.
What is more, this type of analysis reveals a deep flaw often
present in mainstream Israeli political thinking on the Middle East:
the misguided notion that Israel is an island capable of completely
isolating itself from the evolving regional dynamics.
This is simply not true: Violence and instability in Syria are
not self-contained. The civil war has already deeply destabilized
Lebanon, and to a lesser extent Jordan. …