Which Group in Syria Is the Lesser Evil for Israel?

(Wall Street Journal) Yaroslav Trofimov - Opposite the southern Golan Heights, in Syria, are the positions of the Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda that the U.S. has targeted with airstrikes. Nusra Front, however, hasn't bothered Israel since seizing the border area last summer - and some of its severely wounded fighters are regularly taken across the frontier fence to receive treatment in Israeli hospitals. There is clearly a growing divergence in U.S. and Israeli approaches over who should be seen as a lesser evil in the implosion of Syria. "There is no doubt that Hizbullah and Iran are the major threat to Israel, much more than the radical Sunni Islamists, who are also an enemy," said Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israel's military intelligence. "Those Sunni elements who control some two-thirds to 90% of the border on the Golan aren't attacking Israel. This gives you some basis to think that they understand who is their real enemy." Israeli officials also stress that Israel views with mounting alarm the push southward along the frontier by regime troops and Hizbullah forces. "Nusra is a unique version of al-Qaeda. They manage to cooperate with non-Islamist and non-jihadi organizations in one coalition," said Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Michael Herzog, former chief of staff for Israel's defense minister. "They are totally focused on the war in Syria and aren't focused on us. But when Hizbullah and Iran and others are pushing south, they are very much focused on us." Yet Eyal Zisser of Tel Aviv University, one of the country's foremost experts on Syria, cautioned, "It is just a matter of time before some of these Syrian rebels start launching attacks against Israel....Nusra is al-Qaeda. Maybe a little bit more pragmatic, but still al-Qaeda."

2015-03-13 00:00:00

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