Rather hypocritically, Syrian “rebel forces” are urging Israel to strike government targets in Syria.
This position replicates the stance of the Iraqi Shia government which requires American help in order to destroy the Sunnis of ISIS in Iraq. The difference is that in Iraq it’s Shia which require the help of Americans; whereas in Syria it’s Sunnis who requires the help of Israel.
In both cases, the Sunnis in Syria and the Shia in Iraq are otherwise completely against, respectively, Israel and America. Still, in war, anything goes. If Israel can help the Syrian “rebels”, or the jihadists, destroy the Shia government in Syria, then why not call on Israel’s help? Similarly, if the Shia can’t destroy ISIS in Iraq, then why not call for American help?
Of course, the Sunnis in Syria and the Shia in Iraq are sworn enemies of both America and Israel. So what’s going on here? Realpolitik and military strategy. In fact in may even be the case that the Israeli military, as well as some Israeli politicians, may see it as a good thing to destroy Bashar Assad’s regime. It’s hard to say.
The thing is, Israel has already launched an air strike on Syrian government forces after a mortar attack from Syria killed an young Israeli boy in the Golan Heights.
Despite all the above, it can be argued that a Sunni Syrian state will be more of a threat to Israel than Bashar Assad’s Alawite (Shia) regime. Sure, there has been decades of conflict between Syria and Israel. However, if the jihadists gain power in Syria (or even if they only have control of large parts of the country), worse will follow.
Bashar Assad always kept his anti-Israel actions and rhetoric under (at least some) control. On the other hand, if Sunni jihadists take over in Syria, then there would be nothing to stop them going all the way (as it were).
In addition, Hamas, rather than Hezbollah, would then have a base in Syria. Now, for Israel, surely increased Hamas/Muslim Brotherhood power in Syria will be worse than the threat from Hezbollah.
A Sunni-controlled Syria could coordinate more of an anti-Israel front than Assad has ever previously managed with (parts of) Lebanon and Iran. A new anti-Israel Sunni front could include all the Arab Gulf states, the Sunnis in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, the Sunnis of Iraq, Sunni states beyond the Middle East and so on.
In the Sunni-Shia war, it’s best to side with the underdog – which is the Shia. Of course, strategically, all this will depend on circumstances. For Israel’s politicians and its military, it won’t be an exact science.
However, better the devil you know. And Israel knows Assad’s regime pretty well by now.
There is of course one further rather large complication to all this: Iran and its support of Assad’s Syria.