Israel, AIPAC and the Calculus on Syria

Israel, and by extension AIPAC, has been relatively quiet in the discourse over Syria since 2011.  This past week however, they have reacted more assertively due to their calculation that a defeat in Congress for Obama’s “limited strike” plan would compromise Israel’s future positioning and leverage vis-a-vis Assad’s key sponsor, Iran.

Obama giving a speech at an AIPAC conference in 2012 (Mills/NY TImes)Israeli power circles have calculated throughout the course of the revolution that an empowered, independent & fiercely anti-Zionist Syrian populace, would be more of a threat to Israeli interests than an Assad regime focused not on confronting Israel, but rather on milking and exploiting Syria’s resources.

Afterall, the Assad regime has fired more bullets & shells at Syrian civilians on any day since March 2011, than over the past 30 years against Israel combined. Furthermore, whenever Israel has targeted Assad’s installations, whether recently or in the past, the regime has simply shriveled away, exposing the notion of the Assad regime’s “resistance”.

Of course, these Israeli unilateral actions should not be mistakenly viewed as support for the revolution or even humanitarian in nature – these actions are simply about publicly showcasing Israeli dominance, and deterring any perceived/potential ballistic and chemical weapons proliferation.

Let’s not forget Israel has privately advocated against sending heavy weapons to the Free Syrian Army (FSA), opened floodlights to help regime forces hunt down rebels near the Golan border and even harassed and arrested pro-revolution activists in the Occupied Golan. Furthermore, with the world distracted by the slaughter, reports indicate that earlier this year Israel awarded an energy exploration license in the Occupied Golan, a violation of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention.

The shift from AIPAC over the past week to mobilize their constituencies in support of a limited strike on Assad is more a reflection of dismay with Obama’s continuous inaction in the face of crossed “redlines”, the message that sends regarding “dominance” in the area, and their focus on Iran.

At the end of the day, Israel’s cold calculus today on Syria can be summed up quite simply by this quote from the former Israeli Consul-general in NY, “Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there’s no real threat from Syria.”

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