IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai on Sunday dismissed a report to the effect that Israel preferred Bashar Assad to remain president of Syria if it meant that Islamists would not ascend to power in the civil war-torn country.
Saturday’s report in the Times of London cited an unnamed senior Israeli intelligence officer as saying, “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.”
Mordechai said he didn’t know the identity of the source cited by the Times.
“I’ve learned quite a bit about the calculated ways in which one can make use of such quotations for various purposes,” Mordechai said in a statement. “Since I’m aware of the Intelligence Directorate’s assessment of the events in Syria, I find the quote unreliable, even unfounded. In the IDF we continue to monitor and prepare for all scenarios, along the northern as well as other frontiers, which doesn’t leave us with much time for speculation.”
Amos Yadlin, a former head of the IDF’s Intelligence Directorate, also rejected the assertion that Israel backed Assad, telling Israel Radio that the sooner the Syrian dictator fell, “the better.”
Meanwhile, a Druze former member of Knesset came out in support of Assad Sunday, and blamed the West for rallying “enemies of the Syrian people” to “attack Syria.”
Said Naffaa assessed that Assad would survive the attempt to oust him from power, but would nevertheless be “subject to radical reforms that he must implement.”
Asked by Army Radio if he was “blind to the the slaughter” perpetrated by Assad against his own people, Naffaa asserted that “it doesn’t matter where the bullet comes from; it is the responsibility of the heads of the coalition,” meaning the West.
He rejected the possibility that the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons. Even if Assad had access to nonconventional weapons, Naffaa said, he would not use them because that would give the West an excuse to intervene directly, a scenario that Assad “understands is in contrast to his own interests.”
Naffaa served in the Knesset from 2007 until 2013. In 2010, the Balad party announced that it was dismissing him due to “a series of events and conduct that do not sit well with Balad‘s political agenda.”
He has been charged with illegally traveling to an enemy state, after he organized a visit to holy sites in Syria for some 300 Israeli Druze. His former party also accused him of meeting with Lebanese Druze leader Walid Junblatt without informing Balad officials of the meeting.