As time passed and the conflict escalated in a bloody and destructive civil war, the anti-Assad camp gradually gained more strength and influence both in the political and in the public debate in Israel.
Lately, a third Israeli view on Syria’s conflict has gained some (limited) traction, voiced by some commentators and among the general population – that Israel’s interests would be served by the continuation of the civil war. With the once mighty Syrian army deadlocked in a fight against the rebel forces, and with both Iran and Hezbollah deeply invested in the conflict, Israel can “sit back and relax” while its main enemies get weaker by the day.
Applied on a regional level, this theory argues that the rise in internal divisions and strife in the region should be seen as a positive development for Israel.
This poorly disguised gloating over the growing level of regional violence and instability in the Arab world is deeply disturbing in several ways.
First and foremost, these statements reveal both a lack of empathy and a shameful callousness to human suffering. Syria’s conflict has left more than 100,000 dead (with at least 6,500 of them being children), more than 1.9 million refugees, 4.5 million internally displaced persons, and more than 7 million people in dire need of humanitarian assistance. There is just no possible political or geostrategic interest that could justify arguing in favor of the continuation of the status quo.
What is more, this type of analysis reveals a deep flaw often present in mainstream Israeli political thinking on the Middle East: the misguided notion that Israel is an island capable of completely isolating itself from the evolving regional dynamics.