Will Israel Resume Attacks on Syria?

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Israeli soldiers from the Golani Brigade take part in a military exercise in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights near the border with Syria on 26 June 2013. (Photo: AFP - Jack Guez)

By: Yahya Dbouk

Published Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Syrian army’s recent pushback against retreating opposition fighters may make Israel more determined to impose its deterrence equation, since doing so by other means, including pushing toward a victory for the insurgents, has become unlikely, if not impossible.

At the same time, Israeli actions and statements indicate that Tel Aviv does not want and even fears sliding toward direct intervention in the Syrian conflict. Public and official attitudes in Israel view the risks of such a move as outweighing its possible gains. Indeed, the repercussions of such an intervention may be more than Israel could bear.

It is possible to say that Israel is dealing with Syria from two points of departure. One, there is the threat related to the transfer of strategic weaponry to Israel’s foes. Two, there is the civil war in Syria, with its possible fallout and implications. Unfortunately for Tel Aviv, these two components overlap.

Israel has so far refrained from becoming involved in Syria for reasons that have to do with the costs, feasibility, and the odds for achieving significant results. That being said, it remains difficult for Israel to impose red lines on the flow of strategic weapons without being dragged into direct intervention.

In the meantime, Israel is certain that a Syrian response is absolutely inevitable should it launch a new attack in Syrian territory. This factor, among others, is strongly present in the minds of decision-makers in Tel Aviv, and has so far succeeded in deterring the Israelis.

In the past two weeks, several statements from Israel have voiced its determination to continue imposing a red line on the transfer of strategic weaponry from Syria to Lebanon. However, the same statements expressed concern over the future, whether over the aftermath of a new Israeli attack in Syria, or attacks initiated by Israel’s enemies out of Syria or elsewhere.

The repercussions of any new Israeli strike in Syria will not be limited to a Syrian response. To be sure, Israel, before resolving to carry out an attack, will have to factor in a Russian response. One way Russia could respond is to step up its arms supplies to Syria, both in quantity and quality.

At any rate, it is obvious that the pledges by the Syrian president to respond to any new attack are being taken seriously by the military and political leadership in Tel Aviv. So will Israel’s disinclination to carry out strikes in the past weeks continue?

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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