Israeli soldiers stand atop tanks in the Golan Heights near Israel's border with Syria.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
One of the senior Druse figures in Israel, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Imad Fares, who served in a number of roles during his IDF career, said Tuesday that the defense establishment will not, and should not, intervene in the fighting in Syria to help the country’s embattled Druse community.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post’s sister publication Maariv, Fares, from the village of Hurfeish on the Golan Heights, sought to calm recent tensions, voiced his support for the defense establishment and vowed that the Druse community would remain loyal.
His comments came as the Druse community in Syria is under threat amid advances by Islamic State and the Nusra Front, al-Qaida’s affiliate in Syria. On Monday, a mob of Druse men ambushed an IDF ambulance and killed a wounded Syrian being transported for medical treatment in Israel. The mob attacked the ambulance, believing that the wounded Syrians were members of the Nusra Front, a claim Israel has denied.
Fares, who began his IDF career in the elite General Staff Reconnaissance Unit, was promoted to the command of the Givati Brigade and at the height of his career served as the commander of the 80th Division and the 91st Division.
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He said Tuesday that the demands of the Druse community for the State of Israel to intervene to help Druse in another country are not realistic.
“It cannot be demanded and we cannot influence policy,” Fares said. “If we can be mature and accept this point, it will be easier for us to understand the complicated nature of the situation.”
According to Fares, “It is not a correct or realistic request, and I think that intervention must be coordinated with the side receiving the support, and therefore intervention with an Israeli stamp of approval is unacceptable, will not happen, and there is no mutual interest, making it useless to think about.”
Fares, who knows the leaders of the Druse community in Syria well, said that “the Druse in Syria also won’t want Israel to intervene on their behalf. The Syrian Druse, let’s be honest, identify with the Assad regime. Their continued survival is also dependent on other alliances which won’t necessarily be helped by joining with Israel.”
Fares also addressed claims that Lebanese Druse terrorist Samir Kuntar, who was incarcerated for 29 years in Israel for murder and then released in a prisoner swap with Hezbollah in 2008, is responsible for whipping up violence among Druse on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights.
“I am unable to speak about this specific name, but in order to incite people, you don’t need Kuntar or anyone else.
It’s enough that he sends an article from there on a disrespectful act or attack on a religious leader, and that already incites the people and sends them out to the streets.”
“With Kuntar, we don’t need to give power to those without teeth. Soon we’ll be making him a regional leader,” he said sarcastically. “There is the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and Military Intelligence, and I expect them to do the work and handle it.”
Fares said that the Druse IDF soldiers would remain loyal to the army if faced with having to stop masses of Syrian Druse refugees trying to cross the border fence into Israel.
“I served my whole life in the IDF. I commanded the Givati Brigade and I led many missions, for most of which I was on the front lines. I never looked at myself as a Druse.
My soldiers did not look at me as a Druse either but, rather, as a uniform-wearing fighter.
The minute you put on the uniform, that disappears. I fought in places where I could have fought against Druse.
I fought in places that I did things that I didn’t like, but my obligation, dedication to the mission and the values of the IDF sent me forward always without hesitation.
That is what characterizes the Druse community and its obligation to the state. This has been tested many times and we don’t need to constantly justify ourselves.”
Addressing the attack against the IDF ambulance, Fares said, “I’ve seen good, Zionist, responsible Jews attack IDF forces in all types of situations, and they are still good Jews who are loyal to the state. They did what they did because they believed in it at that moment. Let’s not take this to the wrong place. Those who attacked the ambulance must be condemned, but they first and foremost hurt the Druse community, as well as the state and those they attacked.
We have not forgotten our values and we must not jump to conclusions over this event.
Our loyalty is stronger than any one event, as severe as it may be.”