Russia and China’s veto at the UN Security Council blocking a resolution condemning Syrian President Bashar Assad reaffirms Israel’s belief that the UN cannot be relied on to prevent war and make peace, a Foreign Ministry official said on Saturday night.
The vote also reconfirmed for Israel that “old alliances die hard,” he said.
The official’s comments came even as Israel issued no formal statement either on the UN vote, or on Friday’s violence in Homs that killed more than 200 people.
Except for an occasional generic comment by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu or Defense Minister Ehud Barak condemning the violence in Syria or speculating about how long Assad would be able to hang on to power, Israel’s policy has been to keep a low profile on Syria so as not to play into anyone’s hands.
At the same time, the Foreign Ministry official said, Israel is watching what is happening in Syria with a great deal of concern.
“We have no reason to hope that Assad stays, nor any reason to support anyone who wants to replace him,” the official said.
“This is not a case of ‘better the devil you know than the one you don’t,’ because the one we know is pretty bad,” he said, referring to Syria’s alliance with Iran, and material, financial, logistical and military help for Hezbollah and Hamas.
But whoever follows Assad could be as bad, and there is no way for Israel to ascertain at this point if the successor would be better or worse, the official added.
One way the situation could get worse, he said, is if Syria slipped into a Somalia-like anarchy, unleashing a violence that – directly or indirectly – could spill over into Israel.
Regarding the UN vote, Russia has “never been suspected” of doing something proactive for peace and democracy, and is now taking sides with a dictator who is massacring his own people, the official said.
The reason for this position, he said, is that Assad is Russia’s only true ally in the region, someone that – unlike the leaders of Saudi Arabia or Egypt – has remained faithful, allowing the Russians to have a military port of call on the Mediterranean at Tartus, and is a reliable customer for Russian arms.
“Moscow has no one else like Assad in the Middle East,” the official said. He added that the Russians were also sending a message that they will “not be played as anyone’s suckers.”
Russia voted for the no-fly zone in Libya last year, and felt swindled when NATO expanded that and began bombing, he said. “They are not falling for it another time, and are saying to NATO, ‘You cheated us one time too many, now we do not trust you.’” Regarding China, the official said Beijing’s veto was simply reflective of its overall foreign policy: “Don’t do anything about anybody, keep still, let the trade flow, and honor and respect international boundaries.”