The Israeli Army’s Chief of Staff Benny Gantz says Israel is preparing to take in refugees following the downfall of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. The interesting part is that Israel is expecting refugees from the Alawite minority and to house them on the Golan Heights.

The Assad family and most of the regime are Alawites at war with the Sunni Muslim majority. The Golan Heights was taken from Syria in the 1967 war when Damascus used it as a platform to shoot at and shell Israeli civilians in the Galilee far below.

When Assad demands the Golan Heights back, he does not have it in mind as a refugee camp under the stewardship of his enemies for his overthrown clan.

I don’t know if this talk in Jerusalem is psychological warfare against the regime or a real contingency plan. It may be both. Israel probably will take in Alawite refugees if they flee mass retribution by an enraged Sunni majority. And whether the Israelis intend it or not, this is bound to sap the morale of the regime and its base.

Psychological warfare is difficult in a part of the world where conspiracy theories are rampant. Many Syrians may read this as Israeli support for the Alawites, and by extension the Assad regime that is murdering them, thus bolstering the ridiculous yet not uncommon notion that Israel and Syria have long had a sinister agreement with each other at the expense of the Sunnis. So if this announcement about refugees is strategic, it might help, but it also might backfire. We’ll see.

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