In a surprising revelation, Walla! exposed on Friday that a senior Israeli official held several meetings in Western countries between 2012 and 2014 with members of the secular Syrian opposition, despite Israel's official stance of neutrality regarding the internecine civil war.
The secular rebel forces have been fighting both Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, as well as radical Islamist rebel groups also seeking to seize power in the war-torn state.
The meetings, which are the most senior-ranking ones to have taken place between the sides, did not reach any concrete agreement on cooperation between Israel and the rebel forces, but both sides reportedly attributed importance to the very fact of their being held.
As for the identity of the Israeli source, the news site reported he or she is a high-ranking diplomatic source in a significant public position, who continues to serve in that post – it did not reveal the name of the source.
The meetings took place with the aid of a non-governmental source who is in contact with several secular opposition groups in Syria. As opposed to being a string of continuous meetings, they were rather a set of talks at different points in time, with the conversation focusing on the shared enemies between the opposition groups and Israel.
A source familiar with the meetings told Walla! that "the important thing in these meetings was the dialogue, and the fact that the dialogue received approval in the form of the participation of a senior Israeli official."
"In the Syrian opposition there are people who want to see us take a side, but for most of them it's clear that from our perspective that's not on the docket," added the source. "Israel can help in the humanitarian field, no more than that."
He noted that despite the official neutral stance, Israel clearly shares common enemies with the secular opposition forces, who confront the hostile Assad who remains in a state of war with Israel on the one hand, as well as the Iran-backed Hezbollah propping him up, and on the other vie with radical Islamic rebel forces such as Al Qaeda affiliates and now Islamic State (ISIS).
A diplomatic source in Israel told the news site "the problem with the secular forces that oppose Assad is that they are full of good intentions, but they have no true power on the ground."