Syria Must Respond to Israeli Aggression

A Palestinian protester throws a rock towards Israeli soldiers in their vehicle at a protest against the expropriation of Palestinian land by Israel on 1 February 2013 in the village of Kafr Qaddum, near Nablus. (Photo: Jaafar Ashtiyeh - AFP)
Nahed Hattar
Just as an internal settlement was launched in Syria, Israel delivered a humiliating slap with its border incursion – an attack that has opened the door to various possibilities. Israel seeks to impose a new set of rules that begins with Tel Aviv’s ability to violate Syrian sovereignty whenever and however it wishes, at no cost.

In the past – meaning, before the start of the Syrian crisis – Syrian silence towards Israeli violations was understandable. It was rooted in realistic assessments: not to be pulled into a premature war; to avoid shaking the foundations of the regime and its regional and international ties; and to maintain the integrity of Syrian infrastructure, economic installations, and the military. But now, all those reasons have collapsed.

The imperialist, Zionist war has been effectively imposed on Syria for almost two years and the regime no longer enjoys internal consensus. The economic infrastructure has already been destroyed. Finally, it is of no use maintaining the support mechanisms for the Resistance when the heart of the Resistance – and the Syrian army – is itself under attack.

During two years of steadfastness, Damascus had achieved a field victory, as evidenced by military achievements on the ground. The opposition took the rational and courageous decision to start dialogue with the regime. All of this vacillated as Damascus stood by idly during the latest Israeli assault.
First, the strike is an insult to the Syrian army, showing it as a strong force internally, but paralyzed in the face of external aggression. The weakened image of the army, especially now, will impede the gathering of the critical mass needed for internal reconciliation.
Second, the strike sends a message to the extremist forces hostile to the Syrian regime that the hour of desperation has not yet come and that Israeli military aggression has begun.
Third, it is a sign of a new Israeli policy which flouts the pre-Syrian crisis status quo, thus unsettling the Syrian strategy based on resistance.

I do not know why the Syrian leadership has decided to swallow the Israeli blow. It cannot be comprehended from the viewpoint of objective strategic analysis. Contrary to the authoritarian security response, which gives precedence to internal fighting, war against the Israelis right now would deliver a blow to the political and moral positions of the armed groups; it would arouse Syrian nationalist pride that could overshadow Syria’s sectarian and ethnic fissures.

The walls have been breached and the tools of the imperialist Israeli alliance are at the outskirts of Damascus. The logic of “war outside the walls” and replying to Israeli aggression at the right time and place is now devoid of meaning. It is an expression of a lack of political imagination. It’s just an illusion.

The lack of response to this latest Israeli aggression cannot be justified under any pretext. Why didn’t the air defenses move against the attacking Israeli aircrafts? Why wasn't there an immediate response? More importantly, why did the Syrian reply come in the form of a press statement and devoid, at least, of a threat to respond if the attack is renewed? Perhaps the worst outcome of bowing to Israeli aggression will be the direct insult to the Syrian establishment.

Syria defeated the crisis and the doors opened for a solution, change, and rebuilding. But it was a victory that the Israelis could not allow to pass.
Nahed Hattar is a Jordanian writer.

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If you sit by a river long enough, you'll see the body of your enemy float by.
Old Japanese proverb