Would Israel be better off if Putin keeps Syria’s Assad in power?

The one advantage of a dictatorship is that there is someone there — someone you can threaten, someone with whom you can negotiate and even make peace.

Moshe_Arens_cropped-150x150By Moshe Arens

To the bewildering number of participants in the bloodbath taking place in Syria has now been added another — Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Is this one going to make a difference? Can he shore up Bashar Assad and restore him to absolute rule over Syria and thus also put an end to the bloodletting? Putin is bringing along some of the necessary resources — planes, helicopters, missiles, warships and logistics — but will they be enough? Will it also take “boots on the ground” to finish the job, and is he prepared for this additional step? All this will presumably become clear in the next few weeks. What is already clear is that he is intent on making a difference in this seemingly endless war.

Putin may be seeking a diversion from his Ukrainian imbroglio or wanting to prove that his Russia is a great power, just as the Soviet Union was in its day, but his stated objective is to return Assad to full control over Syria. Allied with Iran, he may yet be able to bring this off.

Looking at the hundreds of thousands of Syrians who have lost their lives during the past few years, and the stream of Syrian refugees attempting to reach Europe, one almost comes to the conclusion that anything would be better than the present situation. Even Assad’s dictatorial rule. Here is a moral dilemma. And look at Iraq. Were the people there better off under the dictatorial rule of Saddam Hussein, even though he committed atrocities and used poison gas against the Iraqi Kurds, and invaded Kuwait, and fired missiles into Israel? Considering the bloodletting that has been going on there since the Americans brought him down, and the daily slaughter that is still going on, one wonders. For people who have no tradition of democracy and where there are no institutions that have legitimacy in the eyes of the majority on which democratic governance can be built, is there really no alternative to ruthless dictatorships?

These questions are also relevant for Israel in its relationships with its neighbors. Israel has made peace with Egypt and Jordan, both of which are governed by nondemocratic regimes. The maintenance of peace with these countries may depend on the survival of these regimes. Israel came close to making peace with Syria under the rule of Assad’s father, Hafez Assad. Considering recent events in Syria it does not seem that peace, if it had been reached, would have survived the present turmoil there.

The one advantage of a dictatorship is that there is someone there — someone you can threaten, someone with whom you can negotiate and even make peace. The same cannot be said for the anarchy that comes in their stead.

So would Israel be better off if Putin succeeds in Syria? Would the Syrian people be better off? These are questions that face Israel and democracies around the world.

These are also questions that need to be addressed by Israel’s Arab citizens, who have the advantage of living in a democracy in which the rule of law prevails.

Just look at the unholy alliance of communists and Islamists, marching hand in hand in Nazareth carrying Palestinian flags. They ignore the tragedy in Syria, next door, and demonstrate their support for the terrorists, who are knifing people in the street in the belief that Israel is about to destroy Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, a lie spread by the Islamic Movement in Israel. They are lending their support to terrorism, which is far more damaging to the Palestinians than it is to the citizens of Israel. If they believe that they can ride the coattails of these acts of terror to the establishment of a Palestinian state, they will find out that they are badly mistaken.

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