Syria is in a deep crisis. The regime is facing one of the greatest threats in the history of the state: The obedient, downtrodden Syrian public is no longer willing to put up with the Assad family's horrific regime of repression. The Syrian public now aspires to the achievements of its Egyptian and Tunisian counterparts, and is willing to fight like the Libyan public. That was a major surprise for the Syrian regime, which still believes that the brutal use of weapons, torture and other fear tactics will eventually bring calm.
Western states have responded to the events in Syria - unlike their behavior vis-a-vis Egypt and Libya - slowly and cautiously, with diplomatic pressure, sanctions and censure in the United Nations. Their caution stems partly from the fact that there is no obvious replacement for the Syrian regime, as there was in Egypt. Another factor is that Syria is much more important than Libya, which could only benefit from a regime change - or so the West believes.
Syria is seen as a state that is capable of reining in Hezbollah, determining the extent of Iranian interference in Lebanon and aiding the United States in the war against terror in Iraq. These are weighty factors, ones that cause the West to hold out the hope that President Bashar Assad may yet agree to introduce meaningful reforms and remain in power.
Israel cannot take a different position than the one being taken now by Western governments. Anyone who thinks that the crisis in Syria affords Israel an opportunity to "change reality" would do well to put aside such dangerous delusions; this is particularly apposite now, 29 years after Israel's invasion of Lebanon. That, too, was aimed at changing the situation in another country.
And as an occupier that itself used, and still uses, weapons against Palestinian civilians in the territories and in Israel, Israel is far from having earned the right to denounce others. It must closely monitor events in Syria, consider the possible scenarios for its future and represent a policy that in the future could be acceptable to any regime in Syria, and all other states in the region. If Israel seeks to change reality in the region, it would do well to adopt the initiatives whose goal is to promote negotiations with the Palestinians.
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