Israeli PM halts initiative to return Syria to regional fold: Report
Tel Aviv had been working on a diplomatic scheme since 2019 to force the removal of Iranian forces from Syria
By News Desk - April 03 2022

(Photo credit: UAE Ministry of Presidential Affairs/Handout via REUTERS)

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has reportedly stopped a regional plan of action started by his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, which sought to welcome Syria back into the Arab League and into the international community in general.

According to Israel Hayom, the plan of action took shape during a summit between the national security advisers of Israel, the US, and Russia three years ago in Jerusalem. The multi-step plan called for Syria to request the withdrawal of all foreign forces that had entered the country since the outbreak of the US-backed war in 2011.

Concocted by Tel Aviv, the plan would then lead to Damascus re-entering the Arab League and allow Gulf states, particularly the UAE, to increase investment in the country to counter “Iranian influence.”

Netanyahu gave the plan his approval and tasked former National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat with seeking the necessary support among Arab states.

However, officials familiar with the plan say that Tel Aviv never tried to approach Damascus about their intentions, despite the support their strategy received from both Jordan and Egypt.

“In the diplomatic system, the belief was that in the conditions that were created, the acceptance of Al-Assad from here, and the ousting of Iran from here was the best possible result we could achieve,” the official who spoke with Israel Hayom said.

“In principle, there was agreement among the various countries that this was the right thing to do, although as a result of the frequent election campaigns in Israel, and the regime change in the US and Israel later on, the process did not progress,” the source went on to add.

This plan was put on hold upon the election of Naftali Bennett to the post of prime minister. Nonetheless, as recently as 22 March the plan was discussed again at a tripartite summit between Bennett, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan (MbZ).

At this meeting, the three leaders reportedly spoke at length about MbZ’s recent visit with President Bashar al-Assad.

Bennett reportedly took a neutral stance on Al-Assad, offering neither support nor opposition to the Syrian president’s potential return to the regional fold.

Over recent years, Tel Aviv has increased its airstrikes on Syria, allegedly against Iranian and Hezbollah troops who have been instrumental in turning the tide of war in Syria’s favor.

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