Israelis are divided about whether a rebel victory would be a good thing. On one hand, many hope that a new Syrian leadership would seek peace with Israel. On the other, many others fear that a rebel-imposed government made up of Islamist fundamentalists would be far more hostile to Israeli interests than the Assad regime is. Still others fear that Syria might fracture into fiefdoms of rival groups and become a haven for anti-Israel terrorists.
Netanyahu already has ordered work sped up on a high-tech fence that would run the length of Israels border with Syria. His aides have said he doesnt want to take the chance that the border would remain vulnerable to attacks.
Israeli ambivalence toward events in Syria was on display earlier this week with the announcement that officials were weighing whether to open a field hospital on the countrys northern border that would treat wounded rebels. The announcement came after seven wounded Syrian rebels were hospitalized in northern Israel after they approached Israeli soldiers in the no-mans land between the countries.
Doctors in Israels Ziv Hospital said six of the men had light to moderate gunshot wounds and that one was in critical condition, with heavy wounds to his torso. The decision to treat the men in Israel was made by the Israeli military, which increasingly witnesses the fighting between pro- and anti-Assad forces.
"We can see it from here and we can hear it from several miles away," said an Israeli intelligence officer whos based along Israels border with Syria. "Sometimes the fighting is literally within eyesight, and we can see the rebels take up positions in the no-mans land between our border and Syria."
The nearness of the fighting makes remaining aloof increasingly difficult, the intelligence officer said. He spoke only on the condition of anonymity because he wasnt authorized to talk to reporters.
"It is a very delicate balance between providing maybe gentle assistance such as medical aid and being seen as a party that is interfering. Israel cant, by any means, be seen to have a favorite in the events unfolding in Syria," the officer said. "The only role Israel can have is of maintaining its red lines and being sure those arent crossed."