Syria is not Libya or Egypt, Prof. Itamar Rabinovich said on Sunday at a Tel
Aviv University conference.
The former president of the university and a
past ambassador to the US was Israel’s chief negotiator with Syria from 1992 to
He noted that Syria is surrounded by many important regional
players such as Israel, Iraq and Turkey, but that it has very little oil. In
addition, he said, Libya is close to Europe, which was worried about the influx
of illegal immigrants entering it by sea, so it had a strong motive to
Rabinovich also said that Syria is not Egypt and put Syria in
historical context, saying that Egypt is a strong country while Syria has been
generally a weak one.
Syria is like the former Republic of Yugoslavia,
which held together various ethnic groups using the power of its
The conference at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern
and African Studies was titled “Syria: A nonstop revolution” and was chaired by
Prof. Uzi Rabi.
In response to a question by The Jerusalem Post, asking
what the policy of the US should be in Syria, Rabinovich said, “Sneakers on the
ground, not boots on the ground.” He explained this by saying US President
Barack Obama is not interested in a full-scale military operation and “his new
defense secretary is not interested” in one either.
He said that by
sneakers, he meant special forces combined with supporting those in the
opposition that most closely reflect US values, and not the
Prof. Eyal Zisser said that Syria is becoming the center for
jihadists, taking the place of Afghanistan and Iraq. President Bashar Assad has
surprised many by his resilience and ability to survive two years of rebellion,
“There is no ‘opposition’ – it is media-made and it has no one
leader or system that represents it,” he said, adding that there are many local
uprisings coming from the periphery and there is chaos in places where the
government has lost control.
The opposition is functioning like a cash
machine and as long as the money keeps coming they can continue, Zisser
In regards to a possible Alawite mini-state, he thinks this is
unrealistic as, unlike Hezbollah, the idea does not have ideological backing