As a result of decades of conflict and hostility, anti-Zionism became central to, and embedded within modern Syrian society and politics. Despite this longstanding animosity, some Israelis still prefer Assad's government to the Islamist alternatives, as former IDF Sergeant Zach Huff told Sputnik below.
"The informed Israeli public generally recognizes that there are no perfect options in Syria, neither for the Syrian people nor for Israeli security. A few follow the populist rallying cries to 'remove Assad,' but anyone who thinks through the fact that the rebels are inseparable from Islamist, al-Qaeda-related groups won't hold this view. America only found a few dozen fighters worth sponsoring; they promptly surrendered their arms to the Islamists. Even America's defense and intelligence establishment can't seem to figure it out, as when CIA-backed militants fought the Pentagon-backed Kurds," Zach Huff, a political consultant and former sergeant in the Israeli Defense Forces, told Sputnik.
Syria's seemingly endless nationwide conflict, which has plagued the country since early 2011, saw Iran's influence initially increase, peaking in around 2014, with Hezbollah troops and IRGC advisers actively assisting the Syrian government in its fight against a consortium of Islamist groups. With its economy dwindling due to sanctions, and the destruction of its main economic hub, Aleppo city, Syria became increasingly dependent on Iran for financial and economic support.
Since then, Russia expanded its role in Syria, with its air force starting military operations in September 2015. Russia has also provided non-military aid, while also facilitating and mediating many key reconciliation deals with opposition groups across Syria.
Unlike Iran, the Russian Federation isn't inherently hostile to the state of Israel and actually maintains good working relations to Tel Aviv. Furthermore, its willingness and ability to negotiate and close deals with Assad's foes has been proven over the course of the Syrian civil war, and there's no reason Moscow won't use its diplomatic prowess in Syria-Israel peace negotiations.
This is at least a step in the right direction towards easing Syrian-Israeli tensions.
"It's easier for the West to endorse toppling a secular leader, leaving the consequences to the people and the region — a la Iraq and Libya — whereas the stakes involving regime change anywhere can be much higher for Israel. One tragedy is that Israel was able to negotiate with the Assad government before the uprising. Some preferred a 'weakened Assad' from the civil conflict. Yet the erosion of Syrian sovereignty through increased dependence on radical Hezbollah and Iran, further dampens near-term prospects for rapprochement as Israel reacts to minimize exposure to these elements along its borders," Mr. Huff added, highlighting the need for Hezbollah's presence in Syria to decrease.
Hassan Rouhani's recent re-election as President of Iran should also be met with optimism, as he is viewed as being more moderate and progressive than his main rival.
Although Iran has significantly developed its defense industry and military capabilities, it is unlikely that an alliance of Iranian, Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian forces would be able to defeat Israel, especially when Israel's nuclear capabilities are considered.
Even if such a victory was possible, it would cause several issues and tragedies, with the inevitable persecution and massacring of Israelis — perhaps something akin to what we have seen Islamist militants do in Syria. Therefore, even as a Syrian, I would be obliged to support Israel in such a war.
The normalization of relations between Israel and Syria would also present opportunities for economic and counterterrorism collaboration, while ultimately, also benefiting Palestine, as all stakeholders could work towards a common objective — building a stable and secure Palestine, to coexist alongside Israel.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.