“During the past few weeks, as the regime’s collapse became more plausible and imminent, Israel has shifted from hypothetical scenarios to dealing with concrete threats. Israel is, of course, concerned with the future of the Syrian state. It is an important neighbour, and chaos or the emergence of a radical Islamist regime would be very negative developments for a country whose geopolitical environment has already been clouded by the Arab spring. Spillover effects into Lebanon or Jordan are also a matter of concern for Israel. These potentially adverse repercussions would be offset to some extent by the blow to Iran’s position and influence and the weakening of Hezbollah.
In looking at these issues Israel bears in mind that its ability to affect the course of events in Syria remains very limited. This is not the case, however, with regard to two threats. One is the possibility that the a crumbling Syrian regime may fire its missiles into Israel in order to depart in a Samson-like blaze of glory. Not very likely, but something the IDF’s command needs to take into account. More likely is the danger that Syria’s stockpiles of WMD fall into or be delivered into the wrong hands. This is an eventuality that Israel can respond to by interception. Israel’s (and Washington’s) concern is that such action could easily develop into a regional war involving Hezbollah, and possibly Iran.
The way to pre-empt it is for Israel and the US to continue their discreet dialogue and for Washington to try to persuade Moscow to abandon its sweeping support for Assad’s regime and to co-operate at least in this issue, if not in guaranteeing a smoother transition to a new political order in Syria. So far Vladimir Putin has been obsessed by his anxiety that this traditional Soviet and Russian fief would fall into pro-western hands. It is time he realised Assad’s ship is sinking and Moscow would be best served by looking at the new phase and by helping to prevent a major crisis from erupting.”