The eyes of Israel continue to be turned northward this week, as the weight of Hezbollah help to Assad was felt– leading to the defeat of opposition forces in the fight for Qusiir. The direct involvement of Hezbollah seems to have changed the tide of the war– at least in the short term. If last week I wrote that Hezbollah's assistance has stabilized Assad's regime, in the past week that stabilization has morphed into Assad’s newly reinvigorated forces seemingly gaining the upper hand. I am sure Hezbollah and the Iranians are going to withdraw from Lebanon, because the White House spokesman has called on them to do so. Hezbollah led forces, together with elements of Assad's army are now heading north to Syria's largest city Halab or Aleppo. Most observers believe they will find tough going. Assad’s supporters seem very determined to help him, while his opponents are getting only marginal support. The US response to Assad's latest actions is to call for an increase in the humanitarian aid to the rebels.
Hezbollah's actions have also brought to the forefront, a fact that until now been clearly under the surface– The Syrian civil war is clearly turning into an all out conflict between Sunnis and Shiite in the Middle East. What that means for Israel– both in the medium and long term– is a major question; a question to which I do not have any answers. Interestingly, the very public involvement of the Hezbollah in the defense of the Assad regime has brought many Israeli observers to believe that it would be better at this point if Assad loses. By now, Assad is so beholden to Hezbollah and Iran that if he wins we will have both of these entities right on our border. On the other hand, if Assad loses it will clearly be a major setback for both Hezbollah and Iran. Last night Ehud Ya'ari (veteran Israeli analyst and commentator on Syria) and Amos Yadlin (former head of Israeli Military of intelligence) jointly stated regarding the status in Syria that "the devil we DO NOT know (the rebels) is without question, better than the devil we DO know (Assad).
Many Israeli eyes have also been turned towards events in Turkey. The large-scale demonstrations against Prime Minister Erdogan have surprised both Israel, as well as the rest of the world. It's clear that the secularists in Turkey fear they are losing the state they love. Erdogan is a clear Islamist, and the fact he initially acted more “moderately” has assuaged the fears of much of the West. The people on the ground in Turkey see things differently, and fear there is very little they can do. They also seem unafraid of the Turkish government. As a result, it's not clear how this will end. Neither side seems willing to climb down their respective trees-- on any matter.
In domestic news, the two largest stories this week were two stupid statements made by very different people. The first idiotic utterance was made by a retired judge (who sill participates in judicial panels) who stated that "some women enjoy rape". The second dopey declaration was made by Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon, who stated that "nobody in the Likud supported a two state solution and there is no way it would ever pass the cabinet." The judge's disgusting absurd assertion was roundly denounced by everyone from the Prime Minister on down. It was, however, a reminder of the amount of sexism that still exists in Israeli society. Things are clearly better today than they were 30 years ago, but there is still a long way to go– and in some areas of our society (like the Haredi world) thing have gotten worse. Danny Danon's distressing pronouncement was an embarrassment, whatever his personal beliefs. Prime Minister Netanyahu has been working hard to at least project the image that he wants to enter into peace talks and favors a two-state solution. In any well-functioning government Danon would have been fired on the spot. However, of course, he is not Deputy Defense Minister because he is well-credentialed or qualified for that position, but rather, because internal Likud politics dictated that he get rewarded with this plumb job. We need a better system!!