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NYT: Syrian Border Violence May Hold Message for Israel

Author: Anthony Shadid
May 15, 2011


Anthony Shadid of the New York Times offers a picture of what life may be like for Israel if pressure continues on Bashar al-Assad to step down.

BEIRUT, Lebanon — For 37 years the border between Israel and Syria, still technically at war, has proven as quiet as any of the Arab-Israeli frontiers silenced by peace agreements. On Sunday, it was not, and the tumult on the Golan Heights could augur a new phase of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad and the web of international relations he is navigating.

Predictably, Israel and Syria blamed each other for the bloodshed — Israeli soldiers killed four people as hundreds stormed the border. But the message was far more important, since the Syrian government, which controls access to the border, allowed crowds to venture to a place it had all but declared off limits until now. For the first time in his 11-year reign, Mr. Assad demonstrated to Israel, the region and world that in an uprising that has posed the greatest threat to his family's four decades of rule, he could provoke war to stay in power.

Few questioned the sincerity of the Palestinian refugees who flocked to the border; the day that marks Israel's creation remains a searing date in the Palestinian psyche, and they cited the upheavals of the Arab Spring as inspiration. But as is often the case in modern Arab politics, they may have found themselves in a more cynical conflict that involves power, survival and deterrence and in which, to varying degrees, Iran, Israel, Turkey and the United States have a stake in the survival of a government that is bereft of legitimacy except as a force for a notion of stability.

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