Benjamin Netanyahu Finds a "Secret Ally" in Bashar Assad's Syria

What comes next could be worse for Israel


or something worse than assad, or something in between
Maggie Osama/

What a difference a few years can make. Five years ago, Israel had a (US-paid-for) ally to the south in Egypt and a nuisance to the north in Bashar Assad's Syria. No longer. As editor-in-chief Aluf Benn writes in an op-ed in Haaretz, Benjamin Netanyahu has become "Assad's secret ally":

With the Syrian regime becoming destabilized, its borders breached and the struggle for its future rupturing the region, Israel had the back of the tyrant from Damascus. It made no deterrent military moves, did not openly support the Syrian opposition and did not even use the horrors in Syria for obligatory propaganda like "Arabs murder Arabs and the hypocritical world does not care, and we are criticized for much less." Netanyahu made do with general statements about the "breakup" of Syria and warnings against chemical weapons and missiles falling into the hands of terrorists.

Alliances between states do not require meetings between leaders, exchanges of ambassadors and declarations of support and affection. Mutual interests that the parties understand and act upon are sufficient.

Benn provides four driving factors in Netanyahu's shift toward Assad: trying to create a division between Syria and Iran, which Netanyahu considers an existential threat to Israel, Israel's troubles with the previously more friendly countries of Turkey and Egypt, weakening Hezbollah, and preventing Al-Qaeda from gaining a stronghold to the north of Israel. Worth mentioning too is that some Syrian rebel leaders have signaled Israel would remain an enemy in any new order in Syria. Read Benn's op-ed here.

Parting question: if Barack Obama's support for borders based on the pre-1967 map of Israel (something also supported in principle by Bill Clinton at the 2000 Camp David summit, and by George W. Bush, the first president to openly support  a two-state solution) was enough to brand him as anti-Israel by some on the right, what would they brand neoconservatives like John McCain and Lindsay Graham who are itching to intervene in Syria on behalf of rebels with potential ties to Al-Qaeda, some of whom have openly expressed hostility to Israel?