"... For the past two years, there have been a number of generally accepted assumptions about what will finally happen in Syria. By late last week, these assumptions came crashing down with the raucous force of an earthquake. We are talking about the very opinions that were considered to be conventional wisdom among the Israeli public, and which had considerable impact on political decision-makers and military strategists alike for the past two years. These are the core assumptions:
* International intervention in Syria is inevitable. Sooner or later the free world will be forced to take action to save the country’s civilian population from the clutches of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his army.
* An Israeli attack on Assad will cause him to recoil in terror and force him to avoid transferring arms to Hezbollah or responding with a counter-attack.
* The aid that Qatar and Turkey provide to the rebels should ultimately change the balance of power.
* The apple (Bashar) has fallen far from the tree (former Syrian President Hafez al-Assad). According to this assumption, Bashar is afraid of his own shadow, and even the faintest breeze can discombobulate him and throw him off balance (this is, by the way, how he is portrayed in the popular Israeli television satire "Eretz Nehederet," but more on that later).
* Israeli intelligence assessments provide an accurate account of the situation and should be the basis of any future decisions about how to respond to the situation in Syria.
* “Assad’s regime will be deposed in a matter of weeks” (former Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Dec. 11, 2011).... By the end of last week, reality seemed to prove that Israeli intelligence assessments claiming Assad would soon fall were premature at best. Furthermore, an Israeli source was now quoted by the London Times as saying (May 18, 2013) that in the current circumstances, Assad is actually good for Israel: “Better the devil we know than the demons we can only imagine if Syria falls into chaos and the extremists from across the Arab world gain a foothold there.” The real question is: “Where were they before this?” By “they” I mean those people described as “Israeli decision-makers” and “senior officials,” who are quoted in the press...
The U-turn that Israel has made this past week in its attitude toward Assad raises serious questions about the people behind our defense strategy. Did none of them know before last week what Assad has been saying for a long time now, that his country has become home to a hodgepodge of terrorist organizations?
Instead of responding to this, analyzing it, and preparing for the worst-case scenario, Israel preferred to mock Assad instead. The parodies of Assad (such as the aforementioned "Eretz Nehederet") depict him as a reluctant coward, a “wimp” to use a more colloquial term, who will not be able to withstand all the pressure being placed on him. In this, he is juxtaposed with other Arab leaders, who were once perceived as being strong: former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi both come to mind.........
As we already noted, the high point of Israel’s failure to understand what is going on in Syria came in Ehud Barak’s statement of 2011. At the time, he gave Assad just a few weeks before he would be toppled. That was a year and a half ago. Since then, Barak has been “toppled,” while Assad remains in power.
What was the basis of Barak’s assessment? The Research Division of Military Intelligence? International security experts? It is more likely that his estimation was based on the same “wimpy” image of Assad as being spineless and lacking leadership experience, as someone who inherited his position of power, and who everyone else has wrapped around their little fingers.
But Assad and his entourage realized that if he was to survive, he would first have to identify the real powers, who determine the balance of threats in the Middle East. And he proved that he knew exactly who they were. Twelve Russian warships sailing off the Syrian coast are just one proof of that. His decision to aim missiles at Tel Aviv to counter a potential Israeli attack is yet further evidence.
This leaves us with one possible conclusion: The assumption that Assad would fall if he dared to attack Israel (in response to an Israeli strike against him) was not as accurate as previously thought.
But that hardly prevents Israel from carrying on with its war games. “Security sources” and “decision-makers” alike continue to ponder whether Assad or the rebels are better for Israel and what steps the country should take, as if they had any say whatsoever in the current situation.
The one person to best express this was the former Israeli Military Intelligence head Uri Sagi, who rose up like a thundering prophet, ignored by the people of his city, to ask, “Who are we to decide? What tools do we have to determine who will rule in neighboring Syria and how?”