Israel keeps its own counsel on Assad as big powers wade into Syria
To avoid accidentally trading fire, Israel has agreed with Russia to coordinate military action over Syria
Israel is no longer taking a public position on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s prospects of staying in power, its defence minister said on Tuesday, citing the opposing goals of the United States and Russia as they intervene in the civil war.
Seeing enemies on all sides of the insurgency that erupted in the neighbouring Arab state in 2011, Israel has been formally neutral but initially called for Assad to be toppled, arguing this would deny its arch-foe Iran a key ally in the Levant.
That view hewed to the strategy of the United States and its Arab partners, which back some Syrian rebels and say Assad has lost legitimacy to lead. But with Assad holding on and now helped by a Russian military intervention, Israel has gone mum.
“What is our policy in Syria? We say: We do not intervene. We have an opinion as to what we would like to be there. But we are not in a position nor do we have the status, for sensitive reasons, to say we are in favour of Assad or against Assad,” Yaalon said in a speech to a farm collective near Jerusalem.
At a rare but inconclusive round of talks in Vienna on Friday that brought together many of the main countries involved in Syria, “the Russians were in favour (of Assad), the Americans were against, the Turks were against, the Saudis were against, the Iranians were in favour”, Yaalon said.
“We are not at that level. We deal with our own interests,” he said, reiterating “red lines” that Israel says will trigger military action by it if crossed - attacks from Syria or attempted transfers to Lebanon’s Hezbollah or other militias of advanced weapons systems or chemical warfare agents.
To avoid accidentally trading fire and becoming entangled in the fighting, Israel has agreed with Russia to coordinate military action over Syria.
Various forces clashing in Syria have at times tried to discredit each other with charges of collaboration with Israel.
Yaalon said Israel had armed no side in the civil war and provided only limited humanitarian aid to villages on the Syrian Golan Heights next to lines it holds on the strategic plateau.
This assistance had been conditioned on the recipients pledging to keep Islamist insurgents away and not to attack Syrian Druze Arabs, whose brethren in Israel have pressed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to help the imperilled community.
“We do not supply weaponry, but humanitarian (aid), yes. On two conditions: You do not allow the jihadis to get to the (Golan) fence, and you do not touch the Druze, who are a sensitive issue for us. And it works - ad hoc agreements on the basis of common interests,” Yaalon said.
Israel quiet over ‘hotline’ with Russia on SyriaIsrael is unusually tight-lipped about the military coordination Middle East
Israel hits back after Golan rockets fired from SyriaThe Golan has been tense, with a growing number of mostly stray rockets and mortar rounds hitting the Israeli side Middle East
Kremlin says too early to speak of possible Putin-Obama meetingThere have been agreements made between Russia and Israel about coordinated military actions over Syria World News
Israel minister wants stray cats and dogs outHe wrote to Environment Minister Avi Gabai proposing that the budget allocated to castration be used 'to deport them' Variety
Palestinian killed after ‘attack on Israeli soldier’The attempted attack took place on the Palestinian side of a crossing between Israel and the occupied West Bank Middle East
New Zealand’s Israel / Palestine initiative disappointsDays after New Zealand began its two-year stint as a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council in January this year, the country’s ... Middle East
What if Israel's assassinated Prime Minister Rabin had lived?Would Israelis and Palestinians now be living in peace with one another if a Jewish extremist had not assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin 20 years ago? Features
Palestinian killed in West Bank after stabbing attemptIsrael’s military rejected any link between its use of tear gas during West Bank clashes and the death of an eight-month-old boy Middle East
Israel legalises hundreds of west bank settler homesThe international community regards all Jewish settlements in the West Bank as illegal Middle East
No war, no peace: The Jordan-Israel peace deal is not a dealOctober 26 marked the 21st anniversary of the Jordanian-Israeli peace deal. From a wider strategic perspective, the 1994 U.S.-sponsored Wadi Araba ... Middle East
U.N. seeks to revive Israeli-Palestinian talksA draft resolution has been circulated calling for a freeze on Jewish settlements and halting moves to prosecute Israel at the International Criminal Court Middle East