Ian Black writes: Nearly three years into the war in Syria, the Israeli government is getting used to the idea that its northern neighbour is changing beyond recognition as the bloodiest chapter of the Arab spring takes its bloody course with no end in sight.
Unlike Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, Israel – Syria’s enemy for 65 years – has not been inundated with hundreds of thousands of desperate refugees fleeing the conflict. But it is increasingly alarmed about the disintegration of the country and the rise of Jihadi-type groups in the uprising against Bashar al-Assad. Eventually, the fear is, they will turn their attention to Israel.
On the occupied side of the Golan Heights, wounded Syrians are being treated by the Israeli military – which has allowed limited media coverage to advertise its humanitarian activities. Outside Israel, it was reported this week that injured fighters are being questioned about the strength, weaponry and structure of Islamist brigades – indispensable detail on these little-known “new players” in the region.
Israeli officials, including the head of military intelligence, have been warning for months of the growing strength of groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. This has fed into European fears of “blowback” from Islamist fighters returning home after being bloodied in Syria. Israel is also talking up the risk from “Global Jihad” in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – a local “war on terror” narrative that frames its view of the region and deflects pressure to make concessions to the Palestinians. [Continue reading…]