Things have become clearer and there are indications that an Arab-American (Israeli) agreement regarding the Syrian issue has begun to manifest. What is important to us is the focus on the weight of Israel’s security and strategic concerns within this manifesting agreement.
According to what is being proposed in Israel, there are measures that need to be taken in order to quiet national concerns, which include the transformation of the Golan Heights into a launch pad for operations against the country and the use of Syrian chemical weapons and long-range missiles against it in the event of the al-Assad regime’s is overthrown.
If these two scenarios are played out, they would be considered an unprecedented depletion of the Israeli war machine. So much so that the Israeli army’s Chief of General Staff, Benny Gantz, described the Syrian front at such an eventuality, as much more dangerous than the Gaza and Lebanon fronts.
It has become clear that the objective of the four secret meetings between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah II over the past few months, all of which have been confirmed by Israel, was to discuss methods of dealing with the security developments that may result from the fall of the al-Assad regime. Haaretz’s Editor-in-Chief, Aluf Benn, revealed that Jordan and Israel were discussing the possibility of forming a Syrian force in the Golan Heights area to prevent revolutionaries from targeting Israel with missiles after the Al-Assad regime falls. It was noted that the US is considered a main partner in Jordanian – Israeli discussions.
Cloning the South Lebanon Army
Based on the internal Israeli debate, the scenario feared by the military is that the Israeli army would have to invade the Golan Heights and establish a security zone similar to that established in southern Lebanon after the 1982 war. This would be a very difficult experience for Israel because it would involve it in a long, bitter and permanent battle that would not only prolong the duration of the confrontation with a shifting Syrian environment, but would also require bombing other arenas, both near and far.
Moreover, if the “Israeli” army establishes a security zone in Golan Heights, it would mean the depletion of “Israel’s” military force, at a time when it may be required to face challenges on other battlefields (Gaza, Iran, and Lebanon).
What further complicates matters is the fact that it will be impossible for the Israeli military to accumulate deterrence against Syria as a state, as it largely predicts that there will be no clear authority able to impose its will on the various Syrian regions. Furthermore, Israeli military responses in the heart of Syria would only make things more difficult and would be a justification for counter-responses, as the Syrian front has become an open battlefield for anyone wanting to settle a score with Israel without having to start a confrontation on its own battlefield.
This indicates the large and determining role of Jordan in establishing the Syrian force Israel is demanding be sent to the area controlled by Syria in the Golan Heights.
Protection without consequences
The best option for Israel is to find a local Syrian force willing to handle the duty of preserving the borders of the Golan Heights, i.e. to try to find an “advanced” version of the South Lebanon Army in Golan Heights. However, contrary to experiences with the South Lebanon Army, the Syrian force Israel wants to station in the Golan Heights will have no public affiliation with it, and so Israel will not have to take responsibility for any political, military or economic consequences resulting from the force or its actions.
In Israel, the assumption is that if there is a force of revolutionaries willing to play this role, it must be supplied with weapons in order to have an edge over any other forces. However, it also realises the importance of keeping its relations with the force under wraps to allow it to play its part with the least amount of interference from other parties.
Decision-makers in Tel Aviv have grasped the magnitude of complications resulting from developments in Syria which has driven Netanyahu to say that the set of risks threatening Israel are larger than before. They have now realised that the 40 years of peace following the end to the 1973 war are over.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.