MESOP ANALYSIS : BESA-CENTER – TEL AVIV The ISIS Challenge in Syria; Implications for Israeli Security – By Prof. Hillel Frisch on May 9, 2016 – Mideast Security & Policy Studies No. 118

ISIS captured the world’s attention when it routed the Iraqi army in Mosul and took control over the city in early June 2014. At one point, its advance southward reached to within 75 km of Israel’s border on the Golan Heights.The organization’s remarkable ascent raises the question: to what extent does ISIS pose a threat to Israeli national security, and what should Israel do to meet that threat? This study by Prof. Hillel Frisch, a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, evaluates the ISIS threat to Israel. It does so by examining the organization’s strategic goals and military performance, the relative strength of its opponents, and the reactions of those opponents—especially that of Iran—to possible ISIS gains. This study concludes that:

ISIS, unlike the Palestinians, would not enjoy international support that might seriously inhibit Israeli action. Israel would enjoy a freer hand against ISIS than did the Syrian regime, which had to compromise its fight against the organization because of its need for the very oil that ISIS had wrested from the state.

Israel should communicate an effective quid pro quo formula that would allow ISIS to assess the cost of hostile moves against it. Israel would have to make sure that the punishment it exacts would be far greater than any damage it might suffer.

Israel’s chief security concern is a complete takeover of Lebanon by Iran, undertaken with the object of containing an ISIS advance in Syria.

Israel must send three clear messages. First, it must convey its red lines, the most important of which is the prohibition of the transfer of advanced missile launchers and rockets through both seaports and airports in Lebanon and the Alawite state (if not overrun by ISIS).

Second, it must clearly signal to Iran that infringement of these red lines will result in the destruction of the installations in question. Regarding Beirut International Airport, Israel should adopt a gradually escalating response.

Third, Israel must signal that as long as Iran does not infringe its red lines, Israel will remain militarily neutral in the conflict with ISIS, with the possible exception of defensive activity on the Golan Heights, such as support for Jabal al-Druze.