Questions about Syria

Israel Hayom | Questions about Syria.

As Passover starts, there are a number of questions surrounding Syria’s civil war. What did Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have to gain by jumping to the top of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s list of enemies?

There is no explanation other than that Erdoğan saw Assad as an Iranian agent who deserved to have his regime undermined as part of the competition between Turkey and Iran for hegemony over the Middle East. Like many others, Erdoğan couldn’t have imagined that the Syrian civil war would still be going on in early 2013.

Erdoğan became entangled in the Syrian civil war and had no choice but to continue past the point of no return. In terms of the cost-benefit analysis, was it worth it for him to stand so strongly by the side of the rebels?

Israel doesn’t know which of the two options is worse: Assad or the rebels. On one hand, the Assad regime is an Iranian agent which plays an important role in supporting Hezbollah. On the other hand, it has maintained the cease-fire with Israel since June 1974, which is no small thing.

It can be assumed that the Assad regime will fall and those not forced to stand by him will flee his sinking ship.

Essentially, the U.S., Europe, Turkey and Israel have been more alarmed about Assad’s ties with Iran than the nature of the divided rebel forces. With the Obama administration in the midst of withdrawing from the Middle East, the U.S. has no intention of sending its own troops to Syria, except in a worst-case scenario. Therefore, the U.S. is training rebel fighters in northern Jordan.

The shared distress of the U.S., Turkey and Israel over Syria was the basis for the understanding reached between Erdoğan and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week. It would have been better had Israel agreed to apologize two years ago under a deal that Dr. Yossi Ciechanover reached with the Turks. But Netanyahu did not want a quarrel with then Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, so the deal was rejected. However, better to have reached a deal late rather than never, as long as Israel is certain that Erdoğan will honor his commitments and not find a pretext to backtrack.

There are already troubling signs. Erdoğan said that Turkey would only fulfill its part of the deal if Israel took certain steps. According to Erdoğan, Israel must remove or significantly ease its blockade of the Gaza Strip. But on this matter, there is no room for concessions. Israel must insist that its reconciliation deal with Turkey be implemented to the letter of the law. Israel has already paid the full price and it must demand the full return.

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