After watching with trepidation as a popular revolt in Egypt swept away former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, a long-time ally, Israel is now casting a cautious eye to the north, where unrest threatens to engulf Syria.
However, while Mubarak was seen as a bulwark of the peace between Israel and its southern neighbor, it is a different story in hostile Syria, which remains officially in a state of war with the Jewish state.
Israel could benefit from a more democratic government in Syria, officials and analysts say, even if it is one still led by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after he has been forced to make reforms.
The Jewish state’s best hope would be that Syria could be torn away from its alliance with Israel’s arch-foe Iran and the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon.
“If the Syrians understand that their country’s future lies in political openness and peace, and if there comes a regime that will not support Hezbollah and Hamas, I think it’s a big opportunity, a great opportunity, for Israel,” Amos Yadlin, the recently retired head of Israeli military intelligence, told a US think tank last week.
While the border with Syria has been largely quiet in recent years, Israel has repeatedly accused Damascus of acting as a conduit for Iranian weapons to Hezbollah and of hosting Palestinian groups opposed to the existence of the Jewish state.
Yadlin told the Washington Institute for Near East Policy that while Israel instinctively feared the democratic movement sweeping the Arab world because of the chances for instability and uncertainty, ultimately it could benefit.
“Israel cannot remain -indifferent to the values that brought the Egyptian people to Tahrir Square, advancing the values that we believe in — freedom, justice, rule of law, democracy,” he said.
“Even if in the short-term it may be more dangerous, more splits, in the long-run I believe it’s a very, very positive process that we should support,” said Yadlin, who retired in November.
However, analysts said that on the key issue of Israel-Syria peace, there was unlikely to be any change in the near future, no matter who was in power in Damascus.
“There is hardly any connection between who is the ruler in Syria and peace because the Israeli government is the one who refuses to withdraw from the Golan Heights,” said Alon Liel, a former director general of the Israeli foreign ministry and the chairman of the Israel-Syria Peace Society. “Any Syrian ruler would still demand the withdrawal from the Golan Heights.”
Israel captured the strategic plateau in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed it in 1981 in a move never recognized by the international community.
Despite a 1949 armistice agreement, the two neighbors remain technically at a state of war.
Syria has consistently demanded Israel return the Golan as a condition for peace. Several rounds of peace talks between Israel and Syria have broken down without any agreement.
Despite the cautious optimism, Israel was also preparing for much darker scenarios emerging on its northern border.
“If chaos is in Syria, and the missiles and the chemical weapons have gone to some faction or terrorist, it will become a serious issue that we have to look at,” Yadlin said.
An Australian university student who has never visited China and has only a modest social media following would seem an unlikely target for the Chinese government. However, when a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman personally denounced Drew Pavlou at a news conference, it was just the next phase in an extraordinary campaign against the 21-year-old that has fueled concerns over China’s targeting of critics overseas. Pavlou first placed himself in the superpower’s sights when in July last year he organized a small sit-in at the University of Queensland, where he studies, to protest against various Chinese government policies. Since then, the Global
‘ASKED TO MOVE OUT’: Indonesian coast guard personnel argued with a Chinese vessel over territorial claims after it entered the country’s exclusive economic zone An Indonesian patrol ship confronted a Chinese coast guard vessel that spent almost three days in waters where Indonesia claims economic rights and that are near the southernmost part of China’s disputed claims to the South China Sea. The Indonesian Maritime Security Agency on Friday night detected Chinese ship 5204 entering Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in what Indonesia calls the North Natuna Sea. The agency sent a patrol ship that closed within 1km of the Chinese coast guard vessel and they communicated to affirm their position and their nation’s claims to the area, Indonesian Maritime Security Agency head Aan Kurnia said. “We
BEFORE WINTER COMES: Snow cuts off roads into Ladakh for four months or more each year, so the crunch is on to get food, tents and high-altitude equipment to Leh From deploying mules to large transport aircraft, the Indian military has activated its entire logistics network to transport supplies to thousands of troops for a harsh winter along a bitterly disputed Himalayan border with China. In the past few months, one of India’s biggest military logistics exercises in years has brought vast quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food into Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet that India administers as a union territory, officials said. The move was triggered by a border standoff with China in the snow deserts of Ladakh that began in May and escalated in June into hand-to-hand
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”