The newspaper Israel Hayom conducted a public opinion survey according to which Israel was the only country in which a possible U.S. military strike against Syria is supported by the majority of the population. While in America and Europe 90% of the population is against the operation, in Israel 66% of the population supports it. 73% of Israelis believe that a strike against the el-Asad regime will be made, and only 13% are concerned that it will lead to a regional war.
This attitude among Israelis toward the military operations planned against Syria is the result of active state propaganda. Netanyahu's government has cast aside all concerns that if the ruling regime in the neighboring country is overthrown, even fiercer opponents of Israel may come to power, and it is advocating as powerful a strike as possible against Syria. Behind the missile launches held by the Israeli navy in conjunction with the Americans in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea on September 3 stand geopolitical reckonings connected mainly with the future of the Syrian Golan Heights, occupied in 1967; it is no accident that the question of their ownership has remained in the shadow of the discussion on Syria…
Usually people speak of the strategic importance of the Golan as a natural barrier which divides feuding Israel and Syria; however, the significance of this territory with respect to the economy and population are also exceptionally great. The Golan Heights, seized from Syria, are a geographic diamond in Israel's crown. They consist of a flat mountain plateau (about 1150 km², with a length of 60 km and an average width of 25 km) covered with fertile soil. The greater part of them are at an altitude of 1000 meters above sea level, thanks to which they have a particularly favorable climate. The Golan Heights are rich in water sources (which is rare in the Middle East) which flow into the Sea of Galilee. It is here that the legendary Jordan originates. Up to a third of the water used in Israel comes from the Golan Heights. Due to its disputed status, the territory remains practically undeveloped. Only tourism and agriculture are being developed, that is, things which can be quickly abandoned if necessary. For example, about one fourth of all Israeli wines are produced in the Golan Heights (including 40% of those for export) and 30-50% of certain fruits and vegetables.
The Syrian population of the Golan Heights before the territory was seized by the Israeli army was around 116,000 people. Today only about 40,000 people live in the Golan Heights, about 20,000 of which are Syrian Druzes who remained in the area, and another 20,000 are Jewish settlers in kibbutzim and moshavs. Economists and demographers calculated long ago that if it were somehow possible to permanently establish the Golan Heights as part of Israel, it would be possible to settle up to 1 million people there in much better conditions than anywhere else in the country. In particular, unlike with the program for settling the Negev Desert, it would be quite realistic to attract well-off Jewish settlers from Western countries, who remain the last reserve for a large «aliyah». This would provide an additional enormous jump in the development of Israel and would radically change the «unfavorable» demographic balance in the country's northern regions (in Lower and Upper Galilee), where Arab citizens of Israel (1.7 million people) already make up at least half the population.
Over the years the leadership of Israel has considered various options for resolving the problems of the Golan Heights, from returning them to Syria «in exchange for peace» to attempting to legalize their full incorporation into Israel. In the late 1970s the government announced its willingness to grant Israeli citizenship to Syrian citizens living in the Heights. The majority of Druzes declined the offer. In November 1981 Israel officially annexed the Golan Heights, extending its jurisdiction over them. However, the world did not recognize the annexation. UN Security Council Resolution 497 from December 17, 1981 declares this region to be Syrian territory occupied by Israel. In 2008 the annexation was also condemned by the UN General Assembly.
It seems that in the process of the development of the Syrian crisis, Netanyahu's government, having weighed all the risks, has decided that the danger to Israel from the destabilization of Syria is less than the gain from the opportunity to finally resolve the problem of the Golan Heights in its own favor.
The director of the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies, Major General Amos Yadlin, openly states that «the civil war [in Syria] provides a strategic opportunity» to create in its place a state to which Israel will not have «to pay an immediate price in territory. «This could either be a friendly, pro-Western state or a regime with a «strong Jihadi presence», with regard to which Israel's policy would be to «ensure that the terrorist threat remains a local and not a strategic threat».
At one time in the U.S., a policy in favor of the attrition of both sides in the conflict was prevalent. For example, this was advocated by former White House advisor and author of books on military strategy and the technology of coups d’état Edward Luttwak, who sympathizes with Israel. He asserted that a victory for el-Asad would pose «a direct threat both to the Sunni Arab states and to Israel,» while «Israel could not expect tranquility on its northern border if the jihadis were to triumph in Syria». In his opinion, a stalemate with no definite result would be the only favorable outcome for the United States. «By tying down Mr. Assad’s army and its Iranian and Hezbollah allies in a war against Al Qaeda-aligned extremist fighters, four of Washington’s enemies will be engaged in war among themselves and prevented from attacking Americans or America’s allies».
The president of Macrostrategy LLC, David Goldman, disagrees with Luttwak, stating that the goal of the war should be not a draw, but «Yugoslav-style partition» of Syria into three states: an Alawite state along the coast, a «Sunni protectorate» in the center and a Kurdish entity in the northeast. It is worth noting that the punitive strike against Syria is also being planned according to the «Yugoslav model». In this case a new international law reality will be created in which it is unlikely that any one of the new pseudostate subjects will be acknowledged as the sole successor of Syria. In that case there could be a legal basis for the self-determination of the Golan Heights. Essentially, the holders of sovereignty in this territory would be its indigenous inhabitants, the 20,000 Druzes remaining there who have maintained their loyalty to secular Syria for 50 years, but who are unlikely to want to merge with the neighboring new political entity formed by the Sunni Islamists, who are extremely hostile toward the religion of the Druzes. The only chance for the Druzes would then be to agree to integration into Israel. Preparations among this group of Israel's population are already being made. As «Al-Qaedastan» in Central Syria will most likely be an international outcast, such a revamping of the borders could gain the approval of the main world powers.
As for the security threat posed to Israel by such an «Al-Qaedastan», the Israelis prepared for that ahead of time. There are still a large number of minefields on the Golan Heights. Electronic reconnaissance stations on Mount Hermon (60 km from Damascus) and on Mount Hermonit, Tel Fares, Mount Avital and Booster Ridge operate on both air and ground objects. In early 2011 divisions of TZAHAL began laying new minefields on the Golan Heights. Furthermore, by the end of 2012 Israel had built a reinforced concrete dividing wall there over 5 meters tall and around 250 kilometers long, complete with watchtowers and all necessary preventative and defensive equipment. Now Israel may believe that the foundation for a «final resolution» of the Syrian issue is in place.
Of course, it is unlikely that the fundamentalist entity in central Syria will last long. Cut off from the sea by the Alawites, without sufficient natural resources and surrounded on all sides by hostile neighbors, sooner or later it will apparently become a protectorate of pro-West Jordan, in complete accordance with the plans for revamping the borders in the «Greater Middle East» and the recommendations of David Goldman.
Of course, one must note that the dependence of the United States' Middle Eastern policy on Israel's interests meets with some criticism. For example, American radio host, publicist and commentator Michael Savage (Michael Alan Weiner), whose programs are listened to by millions of Americans, asserts that Israel «is pulling the strings of American policy» in order to rid themselves by the Americans' hands of the Syrian air force threatening Israelis. «Israel prefers not to have the regular Syrian army on its northern border, but al-Qaeda, which has only light weapons».
Michael Savage says, «Now we [America. – D.M.] are participating in the second act of the drama for Israel's sake. For Israel we removed Saddam Hussein from power, and now Israel wants to get rid of Asad. Who's next?»
Savage explains that he «has always supported Israel, but doesn't support its current government». Savage urged the American administration not to blindly trust the information provided by Israeli intelligence.
Some field commanders in the ranks of the Syrian militant opposition are also speculating about what strikes against Syria could lead to. For example, in an interview with the publication Al-Monitor, the commander of one of the brigades of the Free Syrian Army in East Ghouta, one Abu 'Othman, stated that the West should not bomb the national air defense system, as «this is needed to defend our country from Israel». But who will listen to him?! The Syrian rebels, like their patrons in Arab countries, do not want to understand whose interests they are being forced to fight for.