‘Israeli diplomats met with Syrian oppositionists’

Foreign Ministry declines comment on report that Israel appealed to rebels to help set up a buffer zone along border

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Members of the Syrian opposition meet in Istanbul, March 2013 (photo credit: AP)
Members of the Syrian opposition meet in Istanbul, March 2013 (photo credit: AP)

Israeli diplomats and officers have met with members of the Syrian opposition in Amman, likely in order to gauge the possibility of establishing a buffer zone along the Golan Heights border, a Jordanian news site reported on Wednesday.

According to an unnamed Syrian opposition source who spoke to Jordan’s independent Mouab website, the Israeli embassy in Amman recently contacted a number of members of the Syrian opposition living in Jordan, inviting them for “consultation meetings” inside the embassy. Some oppositionists refused the invitation out of hand, while others agreed to meet outside the embassy in complete secrecy, the report said.

The meetings were said to have taken place in upscale restaurants and hotels, the source told Mouab, with the Israelis speaking “fluent Arabic.”

The Times of Israel could not independently confirm the report, and a spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment on it.

“As a matter of principle, we do not comment on such rumors,” Yigal Palmor said.

Members of Syria’s opposition told Mouab that the goal of the meetings was likely to entice Syrians on the Golan Heights to establish a buffer zone on the border with Israel. Such a buffer would reportedly be administered by pro-Israeli elements similar to the South Lebanon Army, which was founded in 1982 upon Israel’s invasion of Lebanon and fought alongside the IDF until Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000.

Nearly half a million Syrian refugees have entered Jordan since the outbreak of the popular revolution against the Bashar Assad regime in March 2011. With an average daily influx of over 3,000 Syrians, Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour recently dubbed the refugee issue “a threat to Jordan’s national security.”

A number of senior Syrians have defected to Jordan, including former prime minister Riyad Hijab and numerous senior military officers.

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