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Syrian President Bashar Assad Gave The Palestinians A Green Light To Carry Out Terror Attacks Against Israel

Prof. Eyal Zisser: 'Assad wants to divert some of the international pressure by focusing on the Palestinian arena'

'The Americans Might Come To The Conclusion That It's Time To Hit Syria'

Syrian President Bashar Assad

Israeli deputy defense minister Zeev Boim told Israel Radio that Syrian President Bashar Assad had encouraged the Palestinian terrorist groups to step up attacks on Israel. On this issue, here is an interview with Professor Eyal Zisser of Tel-Aviv University, a leading Israeli expert on Syria, broad-casted on IBA News:

Question: Why Bashar Assad is interested in heating up the conflict here in Israel?

Prof. Eyal Zisser: Bashar Al-Assad made so many mistakes during the last few years since he became president, and this is but another terrible and serious mistake. There is logic behind this Syrian move because clearly there is now heavy American and International pressure on Syria on the issue of Iraq and on the issue of Lebanon, and clearly he wants to divert some of this pressure by focusing on the Palestinian arena. But this is a mistake and I'm afraid for him he might pay heavy price for it.

Question: Do you foresee a scenario in which the US will actually take military steps against Syria sometime in the near future?

Prof. Eyal Zisser: We are not far away from the point where the Americans might come to the conclusion that it's not enough to put diplomatic pressure, it's time to hit Syria. Not necessarily on the question of these Syrian moves on the Palestinian issue, but on the question of Iraq, and we are all waiting for the publication of the report on the assassination of Rafik Al-Hariri. Clearly there is a process where the Americans are coming very close to point where they might start taking actions.

Question: And what's Israel’s role in this whole equation?

Prof. Eyal Zisser

Professor Eyal Zisser is the Director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies and the Head of the Department of Middle Eastern and African History, both at Tel Aviv University. Prof. Zisser wrote extensively on the history and the modern politics of Syria and Lebanon and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Prof. Eyal Zisser: I think that Israel is for the time being out of this game because it has to do with the bilateral relations between Syria and the United States on the question of Iraq and on the question of Lebanon. I think it's quite good, like in the case of Iraq, that Israel is to benefit from the mistakes of the others and I suggest also for Israel to maintain a low profile. It's not in the interest of Israel to encourage the Americans, they know by themselves what they should do.

Question: The chief of military intelligence, General Zeevi-Farkash, this morning spoke about the penetration of Al-Qaida into the territories. Is this a serious problem?

Prof. Eyal Zisser: It might be a problem but this is only the beginning of this process. During the last few years there were some reports about some members of Al-Qaida that tried to enter the Palestinian territories and to establish themselves there. But generally speaking the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian terrorist organizations are not interested in the support of Al-Qaida, they don't want Bin-Laden here. So I think that this is a problem but not crucial one and not a real threat for the time being.

David Essing

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