Yadlin doesn’t see conflict between Israel, Syria

Despite Damascus unrest, former head of IDF intelligence notes there might be change for the better in Syria, as well as other Arab countries.

Amos Yadlin 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Amos Yadlin 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
WASHINGTON – Even if the current unrest in Syria brings a more radical regime to power, the recently departed head of IDF intelligence said he didn’t foresee conflict between Damascus and Jerusalem in the near term.
“Whichever will be the regime in Syria, I don’t see it going to war with Israel,” Amos Yadlin, who finished his five-year term at the end of 2010, told The Washington Institute of Near East Policy on Wednesday.
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He predicted that any new authority in the religiously fractured country would first have to spend significant time consolidating its grip on the levers of government before taking action against a neighbor.
Yadlin also noted that there might be a change for the better in Syria, as well as other Arab countries whose dictators are being pushed out, and urged Israelis to be mindful of the positive opportunities the current turmoil offered.
He assessed that if secular, democratic regimes took over, the peace process could get a boost, and that in any case Israel should be supportive of democratic values taking hold in the region.
“A democratic Middle East is good for Israel. Two democracies hardly go to war,” he argued, “and Israel cannot remain indifferent to the values the brought Egyptians to Tahrir Square.”
As with Syria, he said any new power in Egypt would be interested in maintaining the peace treaty with Israel that has brought stability and money into the economy, though he noted there were many gradations between a deep peace and all-out war.
“I think both countries will make all the effort and continue with this peace even if it might not be in the same format,” he predicted.
Yadlin said it was too early to determine what the orientation of the Muslim Brotherhood there would be – in part because the organization, with its many branches, itself hadn’t decided – but said in any case it was a patriotic group that would not be beholden to Iran.
But he said that whatever happens with the Muslim Brotherhood, the current uprisings represent a strong possibility of breaking the extremist axis now in place from Tehran across Syria down to the Gaza Strip.
In a best-case – though somewhat unlikely – scenario, he said, it could even overturn the regime in Iran.
According to Yadlin “much more can be done” by the US to encourage the Iranian opposition, primarily through “soft” power such as technology and rhetoric. He declined to discuss Israel’s military planning regarding Iran.
Speaking generally of what Israel should do, he stressed that “Israel should not be heard.” He continued that Israel must be particularly careful not to respond to provocations from countries such as Iran that might try to divert attention from their own behavior.
Though there has been increased rocket fire from Gaza and terror activity against Israelis, Yadlin called the attacks “business as usual” and not a sign of an attempt at such distraction for now.
Of all the strategic changes that could result from the current unrest, Yadlin pointed to the opening up of a front along Israel’s long eastern border with Jordan as the most significant. However, he predicted that the monarchies would hold onto power and were least ripe for revolution.
Whatever comes down the road, he said it was already clear that “this is the most significant event that the Middle East has gone through since the ’70s.”
And, he added, “This is only the beginning.”