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Israel recognizes Assad's staying power

Israel shifts its strategic posture, recognizing that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is staying on and that a jihadist alternative would be even worse.
Israeli soldiers look across the border to Syria in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights August 30, 2013. Israel ordered a small-scale mobilisation of reservists on Wednesday and strengthened its missile defences as precautions against possible Syrian attack should Western powers carry out threatened strikes on Syria. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun (MILITARY POLITICS) - RTX131QH

Over the next few weeks, a historic event, which will go unreported and not elicit much public reaction, will take place in Israel. The command of the 36th Ga’ash Division of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) will disband and relocate from the Golan Heights to a new home-front base. Established in 1954 — six years after Israel’s foundation — it is one of the IDF’s first armored divisions, and has been deployed on the Golan Heights since 1971. This is an elite, highly trained regular division that for the last 43 years has been tasked with overseeing only one sector — the Syrian one. Living and breathing the Golan Heights, this division trains there and knows the area inside out. All the division’s combat arrays, doctrines and training were based on war with Syria. The Syrian enemy, to wit, the Assad dynasty, has been the 36th Division’s raison d’être. In Israel, when you call it by its name, you're in fact saying the Golan Heights, you’re in fact saying Syria. They’re synonymous.

Yet lo and behold, not before long this historic IDF division will relocate to a home-front base and its troops will move to the rear. It will be replaced by a regional brigade whose mission is to engage in what is known as low-intensity security operations. Not trained to engage in heavy battles between regular armies, it will be similar to the units guarding Israel’s border with Jordan and much of its border with Egypt. These are troops who are trained to carry out border patrols, identify incursions, deal with low-intensity security issues and react forcefully if attacked. It’s a whole different ball game.

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