A powerful Lebanese politician and the leader of the country’s Druze population called on the Syrian opposition to distance itself from reports it was seeking to collaborate with Israel, saying such cooperation could push Syria deeper into civil war.
The Monday statement by Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) head Walid Jumblatt came a week after a senior Syrian opposition figure told The Times of Israel rebels were looking for help from Jerusalem.
“We refuse and condemn any resorting to Israelis, as some leaked information [suggested] a security and intelligence cooperation between some rebel parties [and Israel],” Jumblatt said in a column published by the Al-Anbaa news site, according to Lebanese media reports.
Last week, Syrian dissident Kamal al-Labwani told the Times of Israel that the Syrian civil war had shattered taboos, such as avoiding cooperation with Israel.
“I am not the only one [who speaks to Israelis]; there are many others like me. Three years of revolution have destroyed many intellectual and cultural principles,” he said. “People today have begun thinking outside the box, exploring two fundamental things: changing ourselves and seeking help.”
He said rebels were seeking Israeli military assistance in the form of weapons or the creation of a no-fly zone over the Syrian Golan, saying a field hospital near the border was not enough.
But Jumblatt, no doubt recalling his own experiences fighting Israeli-backed Maronite militias during Lebanon’s own decades-long civil conflict, said seeking help from Israel would exacerbate divisions that had led to over three years of civil war in the country.
“This is a very dangerous issue and contradicts the historic path of Syria, which is known for its patriotism and Arabism,” he said. “This could also obstruct the possibility of having a diverse Syria and could push for the division of the country, as happened during the Lebanese Civil War.”
Jumblatt said he would continue to support the Syrian revolution, but urged “all national Syrian opposition parties to take a firm and decisive stance regarding this dangerous development.”
Jumblatt, a Druze strongman and a powerful figure in Lebanon’s diverse political mosaic, is known for shifting alliances with changing political winds, supporting at times Syrian president Bashar Assad, Hezbollah and the Syrian opposition. At other times, he was a vocal opponent of the pro-Syrian faction in his country, even calling “an ape who will get the death penalty” and “a whale vomited out of the ocean.” He eventually apologized for the remarks.
He has in the past called for Israel’s 300,000 Druze to boycott serving in the Israeli military.
In 1977, Jumblatt’s father Kamal, then head of the PSP, was gunned down in the Chouf mountains. The prime suspects were pro-Syrian factions in Lebanon, and even the Assad family itself.