a post-Assad Syria

Challenges for Israel

Estimating the specific weight of each day’s events in Assad’s Syria is not simple to do. Those who claim to know how seem to predict, that the fall of Assad will come sometime in the near future. We will make their estimation our working hypothesis.  Thus, we will examine the challenges, opportunities and dangers the post-Assad Syria could pose for Israel. So far Israel keeps relatively silent regarding Syria. Why is that wise?
It’s been quite a long time since Israel and Syria engaged into major hostilities. For a long period, they mostly talked peace and exchanged verbal threats and accusations. During that period Israel maintained Golan Heights under its possession. During that period Assad did not use Syria’s huge quantities of chemical weapons against Israel. Opposing Assad would mean denying that environment for an unknown future one. It would also mean that Israel would be asked to receive refugees from Syria.  Thus, it seems wise to keep silent at this point as Israel does. Nevertheless, it is most likely that things will not be that clear after Assad. The new regime whether intended to be friendly or hostile to Israel, will probably face strong opposition. None will be able to predict how much time the new government will need to stabilize and on whose help will be based to do that. In such a case it will be difficult for Israel to decide, if it should openly declare its position or keep silent and wait. However, Israel is expected to keep relatively silent, wait and see up to the point things are crystal clear to it.
Somehow we will reach the day of a post-Assad Syrian regime with control over Syria, with control on the chemical weapons and its army. This establishment could be friendly to Israel or hostile to it. If there is a friendly to Israel regime after Assad, then it will need at some point proof from Israel that it is a true friend. The price for Israel will be Golan Heights, as the friendly post-Assad Syria, will need to prove that its ruling is beneficial to Syrians. That will occur parallel to the establishment of a new trade line, which will start from Saudi Arabia and reach Syria. So, this is a possible post-Assad case where Israel will have to openly support the new regime of Syria. If the new establishment is hostile to Israel, it is clear that Israel will oppose it verbally, but try to avoid joining the new battles, which will soon follow.
Thus, there is no actual challenge for Israel, other than trying to stay out of it, unless post-Assad Syria turns to be friendly to Israel. It is only then, that real challenges will rise. Those include handing back Golan Heights, helping in the development of a trade line starting from Saudi Arabia to Syria – which will act as a shield on Israel’s eastern borders – and last but not least planning long term for peace. Handing back the Golan Heights will probably face strong opposition internally, but what will resemble to a thorn is planning for long term peace. It will bring up the Palestinian issue and the demand for a final solution to it. Having achieved temporary peace will make it urgent to move towards genuine peace, towards daily effort to understand each other in the wider area. The tangible benefit in the post-Assad era shall result from the gradual speeding down of the arms race and trade revenues distributed to the people relatively equally.
Israel’s wiser strategy seems “sit back and wait”, unless an openly friendly Syria emerges after Assad. Once a friendly Syria appears though, it will be a one shot chance to unlock the procedure towards genuine peace. All the hard decisions will have to be taken one after the other. Giving each other a place to stand on, acting as levers to lift each other, that’s how the Earth can be moved.