Published 02:39 16.05.11
Latest update 02:39 16.05.11
The Arab Revolution is knocking at Israel's door
For Israel, the risk that Syria President Bashar Assad would
undermine calm of northern border less threatening than prospect
of him toppled; Israel blames Assad and Iran for border
infiltration on Nakba Day.
By Aluf Benn
Haaretz Daily News
The Arab revolution knocked on Israel's door yesterday, in Nakba
Day demonstrations carried out by Palestinians from Syria and
Lebanon in Majdal Shams and in Marour al-Ras. The demonstrators
entering the Druze village in the foothills of Mount Hermon
shattered the illusion that Israel can live comfortably, a "villa
in the jungle," cut off entirely from the dramatic events
More than the revolution in any other Arab country, the uprising
against the Assad regime in Syria had threatened to spill over
into Israel. President Bashar Assad hoped that his position as the
leader of the "opposition" to Israel would save him from the fate
of his counterparts in Tunisia and Egypt. When his seat became
unstable, there was concern that Assad, or whoever replaces him,
would try to escalate the conflict with Israel in order to regain
legitimacy among the Syrian public and the Arab world at large.
Television stills capture protests in Majdal Shams, after hundreds
reportedly infiltrated from Syria on Nakba Day, May 15, 2011.
But the risk that Assad would undermine the calm and stability on
the northern border was seen by Israel as less threatening than
the prospect that he would be toppled. For that reason, Israel
refrained from intervening in support of the uprising against him.
The IDF could have deployed a large force on the Golan Heights out
of "fear of escalation," and thereby divert the Syrian army to the
other side of the border, away from the protesters in Daraa and
Homs. But instead, Israel adopted a policy of sitting still and
letting Assad suppress the uprising in the hope hope that
deterrence and stability would be preserved.
This calm was disturbed yesterday and the nightmare scenario
Israel has feared since its inception became real - that
Palestinian refugees would simply start walking from their camps
toward the border and would try to exercise their "right of
return." Israel prepared for demonstrations of Nakba Day in the
West Bank, East Jerusalem, in the Galilee and the Triangle, but
instead it was the Palestinian diaspora that tried to climb its
fences. More than an intelligence lapse, the situation highlighted
the limits of power. It is impossible to control all fronts and
disperse forces everywhere. There will always be a spot that is
less protected and the enemy will exploit it.
Israel was quick to blame Assad and, as usual, also Iran, for
dispatching "Syrian and Lebanese rabble-rousers," according to the
IDF spokesman, "in order to divert attention from the crushing of
demonstrations in Syria."
But it is hard to imagine that Israeli policy in the north will
change and that it will try to heat up the border in response in
order to assist in toppling Assad and replacing him with a more
comfortable regime. Israel will try to ensure this remain an
isolated incident and to restore calm in the area.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to use the incident up
north to strengthen his public relations campaign in Washington.
As far as he's concerned, this is further proof that Israel is
confronted by forces bent on its destruction.
"This is not a struggle over the 1967 borders," Netanyahu said in
response to the incident on the Golan border, "but a challenge to
the existence of the State of Israel, which they describe as a
catastrophe, and which must be redeemed."
Netanyahu scored another little victory yesterday after President
Barack Obama announced he would address the AIPAC Conference.
Obama will not appear before the stronghold of Israel's supporters
in America in order to attack the settlements and the occupation.
His decision to appear there, rather than sending his vice
president, suggests that Obama does not intend to clash with
Netanyahu in their upcoming meeting.