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Will Syria Attack Israel? (And Other Questions)

by Shmuel Rosner

August 28, 2013 | 7:53 am

Launch of SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles during drill by Syrian
army. Photo by Reuters

1. Will Syria attack Israel?

If you know the answer to the question presented in the headline, you are either a fool or a prophet – or simply someone who doesn't learn: if the last two years of Middle Eastern strife have taught us anything, it is that projections don't last very long, and certainties can turn into farces before we even notice. Will Assad attack Israel following an American attack? All I know is what Israeli officials believe – that it's unlikely – and what Syria says: "The war effort lead by the United States and their allies will serve the interests of Israel and secondly Al-Nusra Front". Israeli officials believed many things that didn't quite materialize as predicted in recent years, and asking one to believe what the Assad regime says is much too much. So the bottom line is that we don't know, and have to prepare as if a Syrian response is likely.

2. Why are Israelis rushing to get gas masks?

Because they have the good sense of understanding that predictions aside, Assad doesn't always follow the script written for him by "senior security sources". (See the answer to question number 1 above.)

3. Is the Aliya from Ethiopia really over?

If you haven't been following the recent news on immigration to Israel:

Israel’s 30-year campaign of organized immigration from Ethiopia will draw to a close on Wednesday afternoon when 450 of the last Falashmura arrive at Ben Gurion International Airport on two flights chartered by the Jewish Agency.

So you see: it takes time, but the Israeli government is capable of making decisions and sticking to them until they are implemented.

4. Israelis and Palestinians- still talking?

It's hard to believe, but in fact they are. The Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations continue as if there's no Syria. Maybe this is a reason to take a look at an article I wrote last week about the 20 year anniversary of the Oslo Accords. I write for Al-Monitor in Hebrew, but a translation is available here. And here's a paragraph:

The Oslo agreement is not the only diplomatic act Israelis have difficulty interpreting, even such a long time after it was supposedly decided. Was the [May 2000] withdrawal from Lebanon a success? As a tactical maneuver, it occurred without causalities, but as a strategic measure, it may be that it provided a tailwind for the second intifada [which began in Sept. 2002], and sowed the seeds for the [2006] Second Lebanon War. Was the Lebanon war a failure? Certainly it felt like one to the public now, but in its wake quiet has been maintained for quite a few years, and those who conducted it are convinced that history will judge them favorably. Was the  [2005] disengagement from Gaza a success? Settlements were evacuated with no bloodshed, and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are no longer bleeding at the Philadelphi route [buffer zone between Gaza and Egypt]. Hamas, however, brought the Qassam regime to Gaza, so the south [of Israel] is not quiet.



5. Are we losing connection?

The Times of Israel, a newspaper that I generally like, reported yesterday – and this was a headline – that a "Poll shows young American Jews losing connection to Israel". That is false. It misrepresents the poll and its results, and hypes an alarmist trend that isn't healthy to Israel-Diaspora relations.

6. Do you want me to write more about the Kotel compromise?

I'm getting ten phone calls a day on this issue, and I have a lot of new material to share. But it seems a little overblown to spend my whole time on this issue while the Middle East is burning. In fact, one of the most disturbing aspects of dealing with the Western Wall debate is its tendency to overshadow other important issues, to overshadow much more important issues.

About a year ago, visiting and speaking at an American educational institution, I was puzzled that I got half an hour of questions about the Kotel and less than ten minutes about Iran and the boiling Middle East. Yes, the Wall problem is worthy of attention, and it is good that Israel can no longer postpone giving it attention by claiming that more urgent matters don't leave time or room for the less-urgent ones. However, that we have to deal with it doesn't mean that we should be blind to its secondary nature on the list of current Israeli priorities (that's of course, one of the reasons for the huge gap between the attention this issue gets in American communities and the attention it gets from the Israeli public).

I promise to share some more thoughts (and information) about the Kotel next week, if time allows.

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