Members of the Druse community watch the funeral of Israeli Druse police officer Zidan Saif in the northern village of Yanuh-Jat on November 19, 2014..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
As a sovereign state, Syria no longer exists.
President Bashar Assad, the Alawites and Iranbacked Shi’ite groups control a checkerboard third of the country; Sunni and Kurd forces combine for another third; and Islamic State controls the rest. Caught in the middle are the Druse; more precisely, they’re caught at Syria’s southernmost point, east and southeast of the Golan Heights – Jabal al-Druse.
Israel should actively aid in the creation of a Druse state.
In the 1920s, when Syria was under a French mandate, the Druse rebelled and won control of an autonomous Jabal Druse state, which lasted until Europe’s prewar colonial chaos. After the war, the British – which had liberated the northern Levant from Vichy control – established the modern state of Syria.
The Druse, being culturally inclined to independence and industry, played an outsized role in Syria’s establishment.
As early as 1945 – a year before independent Syria was formally founded – Syrian president Shukri al-Quwatli called the Druse a “dangerous minority.”
(This should hit a nerve in Israel.) In the ’50s, president Adib al-Shishakli compared his enemies to “a serpent.
The head is Jabal al-Druse… if I crush the head, the serpent will die.” To beat any independent notions out of the Druse, Shishakli shelled Druse villages, occupied their territory, sent his troops pillaging and even went so far as to accuse them of collaborating with Israel.
Meanwhile, in Israel, Druse have proven to be exceptional Israelis. Indeed, in December, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described both Druse and Circassian Israelis as “our very flesh, who fight and fall in defense of our people.”
Druse have helped Jews reestablish a national homeland – and Jews are obligated to return the favor, to say nothing of the fact that Israel would benefit from a friendly neighbor to its northeast.
Vocal support for independence and a promise of Druse state recognition would be a good start. After consultation with whoever can speak for the Syrian Druse, Israel might consider dispatching part of the IDF – perhaps with a Druse commander – to help secure Jabal Druse’s borders. (While they’re there, they might consider a trip northeast through Syria’s empty eastern desert to secure Dura-Europos, presently being sacked by Islamic State. But play it by ear.) Perhaps the Jabal Druse would be interested in annexation to Israel, in which case the IDF could go ahead and annex the desert up to Dura-Europos, and a nearby community of Islamic State-endangered Armenians. The Jewish state shouldn’t stand for the slaughter of Armenians either, if it comes to that; but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Irrespective of the Druse situation, the Syrian civil war, combined with Islamic State running amok, will almost certainly mean the creation of an independent Kurdish state – something else Israel should be (and evidently is) aggressively supporting.
Consider a Middle East under these circumstances: Northeast of Israel is a Druse state; northeast of the Druse is Kurdistan; northeast of Kurdistan is Azerbaijan. Three Muslim countries, all of them open to warm and friendly relations with Israel.
In the general scheme of things, Arab- Muslim hegemony north of the Arabian peninsula is new – surely when compared to, say, Kurdish or Jewish claims. It needn’t be the status quo forever.
Certain important Middle Eastern borders are melting. Israel should be involved in reshaping them; it has a stake in the outcome, and it has a responsibility to help its friends secure the independence that Zion has enjoyed for the past 66 years.
A Middle East that’s Islamic, or Islam- ish, without being Islamist could mean a very bright future for everyone. The writer is a columnist for National Review Online; he has written about international relations and military policy for publications such as The Wall Street Journal and The Weekly Standard.