An uneasy Israel (ISRAEL HAYOM OP-ED) Dan Margalit 07/22/12)
Israel Hayom Articles-Index-Top
In a routine article for journalists published on Saturday, former
Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Professor Itamar Rabinovich focused on
Winston Churchill´s famous distinction between “the end of the
beginning” and “the beginning of the end.” Bashar al-Assad is on the
seamline between the two situations. But even the world-renowned
professor of Middle Eastern history was cautious about predicting how
long the president would continue to fight the rebels and under what
terms he would surrender.
Various experts have been monitoring the massacre in Syria that
started in March 2011 and can already see the end, but the conditions
for that end are still unclear. Does Assad fully understand the
impact of the breakup of his government? The force of the desertions?
The fact that he is promised a place in the history as the
perpetrator of the biggest-ever massacre against his own people? And
will he save only his own skin and his family´s, or at the very least
will he try to secure some sort of assurances for his allies from the
Alawite and Druze sects?
The fighting has now reached the suburbs of Damascus. Some 30,000
residents fled the Syrian capital over the weekend into Lebanon. The
betrayal by his guards has reached the innermost circles, and yet he
keeps going, fighting like a lion, living up to his name.
Israel has not played an active role in the Syrian civil war, even
though the fall of Assad would be a massive blow to its biggest
enemy, Iran. A shift is now afoot. Not only because there are real
fears for the future of the calm that has prevailed on the Golan
Heights since 1974, as Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Aviv
Kochavi explained recently, but because of the future of the chemical
weapons and missiles that Syria has stockpiled.
Several well-respected Internet sites have been producing
considerable information on the location of Syria´s chemical weapons
and the quantities the regime has stockpiled. This is apparently what
Damascus considered necessary to maintain the balance of power with
Israel. Syria has advanced chemical weapons in large quantities, as
well as long-range missiles given it by Iran. There are two concerns:
that these weapons will be transferred to Hezbollah, and what will be
done with these weapons further down the line, if the next regime in
Damascus is even more violent and extreme than Assad´s.
Currently, the world is solely focused on the immediate danger of the
weapons getting into Hezbollah´s hands. The Americans have experience
in this from dealing with signs of Islamization in Pakistan. They
would like to repeat what they did then, and ensure that if the chaos
continues to grow, there is at least an agreement to transfer the
chemical weapons to a suitable custodian. They may even be able to
recruit the Russians for this.
Israeli experts believe that the rebels´ announcement that they have
already set up a team of specialists to deal with any chemical
weapons that fall into their hands is in response to the American
efforts. A reassuring announcement. But Israel isn´t reassured.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak appeared simultaneously on the two major
Friday evening news shows, and his remarks point to a casus belli,
without calling it that, and hint at an Israeli strike, without
committing to one. Israel will not allow the weapons to get to
Hezbollah. Assad knew this and did not dare think about it, but what
happens in the expected chaos when there is a change of regime?
Even if Israel has the opportunity to block the transfer of chemical
weapons to Hezbollah, the threat will become clear only once the
character of the next regime is known.
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