Thursday, August 22, 2013

Syrian Crisis Proves, Once Again:
Israel Does Not See Itself As Part Of The Middle East

The pictures coming out of Syria are horrific, as Noam Sheizaf of 972 noted. And he has a suggestion as to how Israel can help save lives: open its borders to Syrian refugees.
... there is one thing Israel could do in order to actually help save lives: opening the borders and allowing in a substantial number of Syrian refugees. 
Not a handful of wounded who are sent back to their Syrian nightmare once their wounds are healed, but the many who need long-term refuge until fighting ends. 
Israel is more prosperous and stable than Jordan or Lebanon, and each of those countries has already accepted hundreds of thousands of refugees. 
Geopolitical circumstances will probably prevent Israel from taking a more active role in ending the war, but our country can still help save many lives. It’s not just the smart or honorable thing to do. It’s the only real human response to the massacre, and the moral call of our own history.
But the Syrian civil war has been going on for close to three years now - with over 100,000 dead and over 1,500,000 refugees having fled the country - in addition to 2-3 million internal refugees. Lebanon has accepted over 600,000 refugees, Jordan 500,000, and Iraq and Turkey 100s of thousands each. Even Cyprus has announced willingness to accept up to 200,000 refugees.

Israel is the only country bordering Syria that has not accepted any refugees - other than short term medical cases. Lebanon, Iraq - and Jordan in particular - are struggling under the burden of dealing with the refugees. Yet Israel, by far the richest and most advanced economy in the region, holds itself aloof from making any significant contribution to the Syrian refugee problem and to humanitarian relief.

What is more, no one - not in the West, not at the UN, and certainly not in the Middle East - has asked Israel to accept Syrian refugees. Not only does Israel not see itself as part of the region (rather - as Ehud Barak once put it "a villa in the jungle"), neither does anyone else.

And that is why Sheizaf's suggestion sounds so radical; and why its is so necessary - both to save lives of Syrian victims and to integrate Israel into the region in which it actually lives.

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