Netanyahu offered to support Assad if Iran left Syria — report

Former prime minister reportedly agreed to help “kosher” Assad, accept him as Syria’s legitimate ruler, in exchange for Iranian proxies withdrawing from the embattled country.

By World Israel News Staff

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was willing to support Israel’s longtime enemy Syria, in exchange for Iran removing its military proxies, intelligence-gathering operatives, and weapons from the embattled country, according to an Israel Hayom report.

The idea of Israel offering to help Syria and repair damage to President Bashar Assad’s reputation was reportedly floated during a Jerusalem summit in 2019, which involved then-president Donald Trump’s advisor John Bolton, Kremlin representative Nikolai Petroshev, and Israel’s National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat.

The men discussed a multi-stage plan that would see Assad publicly demand that all foreign countries remove their entities, including troops and other military assets, from Syria. After the withdrawal, Syria’s suspension from the Arab League would be reversed, and a coalition of Gulf countries would invest billions in the country’s rehabilitation and development.

Netanyahu reportedly gave his blessing to the plan and was willing to advocate for Assad on the international stage, accepting him as Syria’s legitimate ruler and engaging in public relations efforts to persuade the rest of the world not to treat him as a pariah.

The plan was presented to a number of Arab countries, including Jordan and Egypt, who reportedly received the agreement with enthusiasm. However, Israel never had direct talks with anyone in the Syrian government, including Assad.

“In theory, there was agreement among the various countries that this was the right thing to do,” a senior Israeli government official told Israel Hayom, “but because of the frequent election campaigns in Israel, and later due to the change of government in the United States and Israel, the plan did not progress.”

An additional challenge was that Assad’s armed forces have been seriously weakened during the country’s decade-long civil war, and it was unlikely that the Syrian government would be able to successfully expel foreign troops using their own military force without outside support.

“The goal of this program was to delegitimize the Iranian presence in Syria, and for that, first and foremost, we needed support and agreement between the United States and Russia, and these were indeed achieved,” the official added.

Bennett’s government has moved away from the idea of the plan, fearing it could create a lose-lose scenario for Israel.

The current coalition wants to avoid a situation in which Israel would be “a partner in ‘koshering’ Assad [yet in the end] be left with the Iranians in Syria,” another official told Israel Hayom.

“The Iranians are there at his request, and it is difficult to see a scenario in which he calls on them to leave. Therefore, from our perspective, this story is an internal Arab affair. We aren’t part of it.”