Israel now neutral on ousting Syria’s Bashar al-Assad

The Forward reports: Israel is no longer taking a public position on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s prospects of staying in power, its defense minister said on Tuesday, citing the opposing goals of the United States and Russia as they intervene in the civil war.

Seeing enemies on all sides of the insurgency that erupted in the neighboring Arab state in 2011, Israel has been formally neutral but initially called for Assad to be toppled, arguing this would deny its arch-foe Iran a key ally in the Levant.

That view hewed to the strategy of the United States and its Arab partners, which back some Syrian rebels and say Assad has lost legitimacy to lead. But with Assad holding on and now helped by a Russian military intervention, Israel has gone mum.

“What is our policy in Syria? We say: We do not intervene. We have an opinion as to what we would like to be there. But we are not in a position nor do we have the status, for sensitive reasons, to say we are in favor of Assad or against Assad,” Yaalon said in a speech to a farm collective near Jerusalem. [Continue reading…]

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