Should Israel Intervene in the War in Syria?
The right hemisphere of the brain says, "Bury your head in the sand." After all, the second side in the Syrian conflict would be committing the same atrocities if it only could. We are talking about extremely violent people. Furthermore, if they had the opportunity, G-d forbid, both sides would be thrilled to rape, murder and burn us – like they do to each other, at the very least. So let them kill each other and we'll just keep quiet.
The left hemisphere of the brain says, "You can't ignore it." These are people. Innocent children. How could the state of the Jews, who cried out to the conscience of the world just 70 years ago, stand on the sidelines in the face of these horrors? Doesn't the Nation of Israel have a moral message when confronted with this monstrous situation?
Ultimately, the flight from our identity brings about the loss of both our morality and our security. The most logical and natural expectation would have been that from the very beginning of the conflict in Syrian, the strong, modern, local superpower bordering on the site of the atrocities would take responsibility and intervene to prevent the calamity.
Clearly, we do not want to endanger our sons in a war that is not ours. But what would have happened, for example, if at the beginning of the war, Israel would have delineated a safe zone, protected from artillery and bombs, parachuted tents into there, humanitarian aid, opened field hospitals (run by international volunteers) and the like?
What would have happened would have been that the only jets flying through the skies above the Golan Heights would have been Israeli – not Russian, as is the case today. This type of strategy would have positioned Israel in an appropriate ethical stance while preserving its effective strategic position.
Because Israel did not adopt this strategy, the Russian bear entered the vacuum that was created. Israel's air force can no longer fly freely through the skies and when you connect that with the love affair being woven between Putin and Trump – you can understand that the Golan Heights are liable to share the same fate as Amona. (Netanyahu has already agreed in the past to retreat to the Kinneret).
Politicians will always prefer a separatist policy to intervention. Protesting mothers don't go down well with them. Israel has gotten used to the idea that the only time it is legitimate to use force is when the knife is already in the flesh. In Israel, unsure of itself and its identity, only tactical defensive wars merit a shaky consensus. The employment of Israel's strength for a broader strategic purpose is absolutely unthinkable.
This approach always (yes, always) brings about more military intervention, more casualties and more danger for Israel. But nobody blames former PM Ehud Barak, who fled from Lebanon, for the rain of missiles that exploded in northern Israel. Former PM Sharon is not blamed for the missiles shot at Tel Aviv from the ruins of Gush Katif. So why should a prime minister endanger his seat to protect the strategic interests of his country? So what if every significant target in Israel is in the crosshairs of GPS guided missiles in southern Lebanon? Have you heard anybody mention that? Has anybody asked how this happened?
Why didn't Israel intervene now, in what is happening on its northern border with Syria? Is it because we don't care about babies being slaughtered? Or because we don't know how to make strategic calculations?
Israel did not intervene in Syria because on the very deepest level, we don't feel like we belong here. Israel, in flight from its identity, constantly craves legitimacy. It would never dream of conducting itself like a local superpower that has responsibility and yes – interests – beyond its borders.
This lack of identity makes strategic policies impossible. Or as Henry Kissinger once said, "Israel has no foreign policy – just internal policy."
Just as an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities is much more complex and dangerous today than it was if Israel had had a Begin-style leader a decade ago, so, intervention in Syria now, with the Russians already here, would demand a price that, currently, we cannot afford to pay.