Ya'alon: Assad's fall could break 'axis of evil'

Vice premier believes Syrian leader's ouster could weaken Iranian influence in region, does not envision Islamist take-over if Assad falls, says open Israeli support of opposition forces would be harmful.

yaalon office 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
yaalon office 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Vice Premier Moshe Ya'alon on Sunday rejected the notion that Israel supports the continuation of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime, saying that the autocratic leader's fall could "break the axis of evil with Iran and Hezbollah."
Ya'alon said in an interview with Army Radio he did not believe an Islamist regime would take power in Syria in the event of Assad's demise.
"There is a big difference between Egypt and Syria," Ya'alon stated, saying that the Muslim Brotherhood was much weaker in Syria than in Egypt. The strategic affairs minister added that he envisions a government led by intellectuals and generals taking control of the country eventually.
Ya'alon said the UN Security Council's failure over the weekend to pass a resolution calling for Assad's ouster demonstrated Russia and China's "hypocrisy" and the priority they give their own interests.
The vice premier refused to comment on whether or not the government was in contact with members of the Syrian opposition, saying that announcing such contacts would hurt the opposition by painting it as "backed by Zionists."
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.
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Labor MK Isaac Herzog called on Netanyahu to buck this trend by opening Sunday's cabinet meeting with a statement saying he identifies with the Syrian people's pain and condemns the bloodshed.
Herzog told Army Radio that he is personally in contact with Syria's opposition, which he characterized as "largely secular."
The Labor MK said he does not fear revenge against Syria's Alawite minority, to which Assad belongs, in the event of his ouster. According to Herzog, an increasing number of Alawites are joining the opposition, and the people's qualms are against Assad himself, and not against all Alawites.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.