With ISIS and allied Muslim groups shoring up their bloodthirsty presence in southwestern Syria, on the border of Israel's Golan Heights, Israel is deliberating as to how to respond.
No one believes that Israel should attack ISIS forces in Syria – but should it send arms to the 700,000 Druze who live there under imminent threat of ISIS conquest and possible massacre?
Dr. Guy Bechor, who heads the Middle East Division at the Lauder School of Government, wrote in Ynet last week that the IDF "must prepare for the possibility that ISIS and similar groups will attack our border from the no-man's-land which was once called Syria. [But it must] definitely not provide an incentive for an attack on us."
Such an incentive, he wrote, could arise if Israel provides arms to the Syrian Druze – for it "will push the enemy to attack us – and therefore it must not take place under any circumstances."
Bechor explains that not only has Israel never had a positive relationship with the Druze in Syria, but "on the contrary, they were among the central pillars of Bashar Assad's evil regime, and they are today Hezbollah's allies."
If Israel "provides weapons or intervenes in favor of Hezbollah's allies – at that very moment, we will be turning ourselves, and rightfully so, into the enemies of Syria's Sunnis for generations to come."
On the other hand, Jerusalem Post senior contributing editor Caroline Glick says that for several reasons, Israel must help out the Syrian Druze.
For one thing, Israel can rebuild its credibility with our neighbors by helping this population. This credibility was sorely damaged, Glick wrote this week, when Israel allowed PLO terrorists to return to Gaza and Jericho and butcher local Arabs who had worked with Israel for years, and later abandoned the South Lebanon Army (SLA) following the retreat from Lebanon.
Glick believes that though the Syrian Druze were loyal to Assad's anti-Israel regime, they "have also been quietly reconsidering their views of Israel" of late – a "revised attitude that has reverberated among their brethren in the Druze villages of the Golan Heights."
Bechor, for his part, says that this is simply a reflection of the Druze will to survive, and that their loyalties are barely more than fleeting. "In Syria-Iraq-Lebanon of today, entire sects are annihilated," Bechor explains, "and so they will hold on to anything, until they abandon it and move on to the next temporary alliance – all for the sake of survival. So only a fool would enter such a treacherous system."
If Israel intervenes, he writes, "we will find ourselves in the Sabra and Shatila situation – with Arabs killing Arabs while Israel is blamed. If Israel intervenes, a huge global spotlight will immediately be directed at us and against us, and the Syrian acts of massacre will immediately stick to us."
Israel must intervene in Syria "only when our border is threatened – not a day earlier," he concludes.
Glick sees it differently: "Without arms, with the [Syrian] regime’s collapse seemingly imminent, it is possible that the Druse will be unable to survive. It is also possible that if Israel doesn’t provide them with weapons, someone else – perhaps Hezbollah – will arm them and so buy their loyalty" – loyalty that Bechor feels is a non-permanent commodity.
A "wait and see" approach is currently the most likely – though Bechor warns of a current "type of political-media campaign requiring Israel to intervene."