The Silence of the Israelis on ISIS

A curious silence in the U.S.-led battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is coming from Israel, which has advocated the overthrow of Iran’s ally in Syria, President Bashar al-Assad, but has had little to say about the brutal Islamists seeking to oust Assad, notes Stephen J. Sniegoski.

By Stephen J. Sniegoski

In the war on the Islamic State, the alleged scourge of humanity, little is heard about the position of America’s much-ballyhooed greatest ally in the Middle East, if not the world, Israel. Now the Islamic State has been conquering territory in very close proximity to the border of Israel. But Israel does not seem to be fearful and it is not taking any action.

And the Obama administration and American media pundits do not seem to be the least bit disturbed.  This is quite in contrast to the complaints about other Middle East countries such as Turkey that are being harshly criticized for their failure to become actively involved in fighting the Islamic State.

President Barack Obama holds a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in the Oval Office, Oct 1, 2014. The meeting was described as chilly, reflecting the strained relationship between the two leaders. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama holds a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in the Oval Office, Oct 1, 2014. The meeting was described as chilly, reflecting the strained relationship between the two leaders. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

For example, a New York Times editorial, “Mr. Erdogan’s Dangerous Game,” begins, “Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, once aspired to lead the Muslim world. At this time of regional crisis, he has been anything but a leader. Turkish troops and tanks have been standing passively behind a chicken-wire border fence while a mile away in Syria, Islamic extremists are besieging the town of Kobani and its Kurdish population.”

An article in the Boston Globe read “Turkey has failed Kobani, Kurds.”  An editorial in the USA Today was titled “Turkey waits as ISIL crushes Kobani.”

Neocon Charles Krauthammer in “Erdogan’s Double Game” compared Turkey’s failure to come to the defense of the Kurds in the surrounded border town of Kobani to Stalin’s unwillingness to aid the uprising of Polish nationalist forces in Warsaw in 1944, thus allowing the latter’s destruction at the hands of the Nazis.

“For almost a month, Kobani Kurds have been trying to hold off Islamic State fighters,” Krauthammer wrote. “Outgunned, outmanned, and surrounded on three sides, the defending Kurds have begged Turkey to allow weapons and reinforcements through the border. Erdogan has refused even that, let alone intervening directly.”

Even the normally antiwar Noam Chomsky expressed support for protecting the Kurds. “With regard to Kobani, it is a shocking situation,” Chomsky opined. “This morning’s newspaper described Turkish military operation against Kurds in Turkey, not against ISIS, a couple of kilometers across the border where they are in danger of being slaughtered. I think something should be done at the UN in terms of a strong resolution to call for a ceasefire.”

“It is hard to impose the use of force,” Chomsky continued, “but to the extent that it can be done try and protect Kobani from destruction at the hands of ISIS, which could be a major massacre with enormous consequences.” Chomsky added that “the strategic significance of the town in the Kurdish region is pretty obvious, and the Turkish role is critical in this.”

Israel’s Reticence

Returning to the issue of Israel, the fact of the matter is that Israel acts to protect its own national interests.  At the current time, the primary goal of the Islamic State is to purify Islam rather than attack non-Muslims.

In response to Internet queries as to why the militant group wasn’t fighting Israel instead of killing Muslims in Iraq and Syria, its representatives responded: “We haven’t given orders to kill the Israelis and the Jews. The war against the nearer enemy, those who rebel against the faith, is more important. Allah commands us in the Koran to fight the hypocrites, because they are much more dangerous than those who are fundamentally heretics.”

As justification for this stance, the group cited the position of the first caliph, Abu Bakr, who began his caliphate by fighting against those he deemed apostates who still professed to be followers of Islam. (Shiites hold a negative view of Abu Bakr and his policies). Also cited was Saladin, who fought the Shiites in Egypt before conquering Christian-controlled Jerusalem.

Considering the Islamic State is targeting Muslims, the Israeli government does not see it as a significant enemy at this time. And it is reasonable for Israeli leaders to believe that the Islamic State would never move on to attack their country because it will never be able to conquer its major Islamic foes, though American military involvement would further secure Israel from any possible threat from the Islamic State.

Moreover, the fact of the matter is that the Islamic State actually benefits Israel by causing problems for those very states that do actively oppose Israel and support the Palestinians, such as Syria. What the Islamic State is causing in the Middle East is perfectly attuned with the view of the Israeli Right, as best articulated by Oded Yinon in 1982, which sought to have Israel’s Middle East enemies fragmented and fighting among themselves in order to weaken the external threat to Israel.

Currently, these divisions are not only plaguing Syria and Iraq, but also Turkey, where ethnic Kurds are rioting because of the government’s unwillingness to help their brethren in Syria, and Lebanon, where the Shiite group Hezbollah, allied with Iran, Israel’s foremost enemy, is being assailed by the radical jihadist Nusra Front, which has the support of many Lebanese Sunnis. [See Jonathan Spyer, “The Shia-Sunni War Reaches Lebanon,Jerusalem Post, Middle East Forum, Oct. 17, 2014.]

More than this, the Netanyahu government is trying to take advantage of the Islamic State’s aggression by falsely claiming that Hamas is its equivalent. In an address to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 29, Netanyahu asserted that “Hamas’s immediate goal is to destroy Israel. But Hamas has a broader objective. They also want a caliphate. Hamas shares the global ambitions of its fellow militant Islamists.”

Thus, Netanyahu claimed that it is wrong for countries to criticize Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinians in its conflict with Hamas, pointing out that “the same countries that now support confronting ISIS, opposed Israel for confronting Hamas. They evidently don’t understand that ISIS and Hamas are branches of the same poisonous tree. ISIS and Hamas share a fanatical creed, which they both seek to impose well beyond the territory under their control.”

In short, Netanyahu maintained that the Islamic State and Hamas were essentially identical, “when it comes to their ultimate goals, Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas.”

National Interest

Now there is nothing strange about Israel’s position here. It is simply acting in its own national interest. There is no reason to fight a group that doesn’t threaten it. Furthermore, it is in Israel’s interest to try to make it appear that it is acting for the good of all humanity when attacking Hamas, and though these arguments are unlikely to sway any UN members, the prime minister did provide ammunition to the Israel lobby and its supporters that could be used to persuade some gullible Americans.

It can be argued that if Israel openly entered the fray as a member of the anti-Islamic State coalition, it would be counterproductive. Since many Arabs see Israel as their major enemy, Israel’s involvement in the war would turn them against fighting the Islamic State and maybe even cause some of them to support that militant jihadist group as an enemy of Israel.

So it might be understandable that the United States would not demand that Israel participate in the war against the Islamic State, just as it did not expect Israel to fight against Saddam Hussein. Although this might be understandable, if true it would mean that Israel could not really be an ally of the United States in the Middle East because it could not participate in America’s wars in the region, which is the very raison d’étre of an ally.

Conceivably, Israel could covertly support the enemies of Islamic State. Israel has been doing just that in regard to Syria. During the past two years it has launched airstrikes against Assad’s forces which has helped the rebels. Israel takes the position that any attacks on its territory from Syria are the responsibility of the Assad government even if they are made by the rebels.

Moreover, just like the United States, Israel has provided training for Syrian rebels. For example, Abdul-Ilah al-Bashir al-Noeimi, currently the Chief of Staff of the Supreme Military Council (SMC) of the Free Syrian Army, secretly trained in Israel in 2013 after being admitted into the country for medical treatment. [See “Report: Commander of Syrian Rebels Trained in Israel, Jewish Press News Briefs,”  Feb. 24, 2014. In regard to Israeli participation in training Syrian rebels, see: Jason Ditz, “Report Claims US, Israeli Trained Rebels Moving Toward Damascus,”, Aug. 25, 2013,; Jinan Mantash, “Israeli analyst confirms link between Israel, ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels,” Alakbar English, Oct. 17, 2014.]

Staying Out of the Fray

Israel’s pro-rebel activities in the Syrian conflict have not been counterproductive in that they have not caused any of Assad’s many Arab enemies to abandon their effort to remove his regime. But it is not apparent that Israel is taking any steps like this regarding the Islamic State, and the United States does not seem to be pressuring it to do so.

What this means is that Israel is not really any type of ally of the United States. It does not bend its foreign policy to aid the United States but only acts in its own interest. It takes actions against the Assad regime because the latter is an ally of Iran and provides a conduit for weapons being sent to Israeli’s enemy Hezbollah.

Israel’s inaction toward the Islamic State, despite its close proximity, should actually provide a model for the United States to emulate. It shows that the Islamic State should not be regarded as a threat to the faraway United States. And this lesson is further confirmed by the fact that the nearby Islamic countries,  which should be far more endangered than the United States, do not seem to be fighting hard against it. It would seem that the fundamental way for the United States to face significant attacks from the Islamic State is to attack it first, which is exactly what it is now  doing.

Considering Israel’s inactivity, it is ironic that in the United States it is the supporters of Israel, such as the neoconservatives, who have taken the lead in pushing for a hard-line American military position against the Islamic State. [See Jim Lobe, “Project for a New American Imbroglio,” LobeLog Foreign Policy,  Aug. 28, 2014.]

Neocon Max Boot, for example, wrote about the need for “a politico-military strategy to annihilate ISIS rather than simply chip around the edges of its burgeoning empire,” which would “require a commitment of some 10,000 U.S. advisors and Special Operators, along with enhanced air power, to work with moderate elements in both Iraq and Syria.”

Fred and Kimberly Kagan have developed a strategic plan involving up to 25,000 American ground troops to combat the Islamic State, which I have already discussed at length. Some of the other noted members of the neocon war-on-the-Islamic-State chorus include Bill Kristol, John Podhoretz, Dan Senor, David Brooks, John Bolton, Richard Perle, Danielle Pletka (vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute), and, as noted earlier, Charles Krauthammer.

Needless to say, neither the neocons, nor any other mainstream commentators for that matter, have uttered a word about Israel’s inaction. As Scott McConnell wrote in August in The American Conservative, “over the past two generations thousands of articles have been written proclaiming that Israel is a ‘vital strategic ally’ of the United States, our best and only friend in the ‘volatile’ Middle East. The claim is a commonplace among serving and aspiring Congressmen. I may have missed it, but has anyone seen a hint that our vital regional ally could be of any assistance at all in the supposedly civilizational battle against ISIS?”

However, it would be far wiser for the United States to follow the example of Israel here, and, in fact, always follow the example of Israel by adhering to national interest (that of the United States, of course, not Israel), than to follow the advice of those American supporters of Israel who have, because of their influence on American Middle East policy, involved the United States in endless wars creating a regional environment beneficial to Israel from the perspective of the Israeli Right.

Stephen J. Sniegoski is the author of The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel.

16 comments for “The Silence of the Israelis on ISIS

  1. s. keeling
    November 9, 2014 at 19:28

    “Although this might be understandable, if true it would mean that Israel could not really be an ally of the United States in the Middle East because it could not participate in America’s wars in the region, which is the very raison d’état of an ally.”

    Just a nit. ITYM “raison d’etre”.

    I await with breathless anticipation a Syrian coup d’etat.

    • November 11, 2014 at 00:25

      Thanks very much for pointing this out–brain malfunction on my part. I definitely meant d’étre but somehow never picked up the error, although I proofed the piece many times. And I guess the other people who read my draft either overlooked it too or accepted my misuse of “reason of state,” thinking that I would know what I was doing (which is sometimes the case). Anyhow, I apologize for my error and would appreciate very much if the editors would make the change to d’étre.

  2. UncleIzzy
    November 9, 2014 at 05:28

    The author first complains about Israel silence only later to explain it by suggesting it would compromise the coalition. Which is obviously true, just like US tied Israel hands during the first Gulf War for exactly the same reasons. Oh, and BTW:
    Media didn’t report Israel inaction, because as a rule media doesn’t report things which do not happen. I know it sounds trivial, but apparently needs to be explained somehow.

    The irony of all this, of course, is that if Israel in fact did make any noise about ISIS, the author would be the first one to jump screaming how Israel is trying to draw US in another ME war. You just can’t win with you guys, can you..?

  3. stevieb
    November 8, 2014 at 12:25

    What it means is that ISIS is exactly what we’ve always known it was -the Syrian ‘rebel’ movement interjected with Israeli, U.S and U.K advisors and weapons and logistics…and a megadose of western jewish-monopoly media propaganda…

  4. Hank
    November 6, 2014 at 11:39

    Silence huh? This reminds me of Bush and Cheney not wanting to testify in public before the 911 Commission. Israel remains silent on ISIS because it actually supports ISIS terrorism, along with the USA and Saudi Arabia. The Bay of Pigs M.O. of training “freedom fighters” to overthrow democratically-elected leaders that don’t kowtow to USA/Israeli interests is old game. It must be nice for the war profiteers to have a private army ready to stir up trouble so that “humanitarian” intervention(bombs, death squads, etc) can be “justified”. The world would be a much better place to live if the USA and Israel held their “leaders” accountable for wear crimes.

    • KHawk
      November 7, 2014 at 13:21


  5. Abe
    November 6, 2014 at 02:38

    “Israel says nothing so as not to force anyone to respond.”

    In January 2013 Israel allegedly carried out an air strike in Syria. It was the first such attack since the 2007 Israeli airstrike on what was alleged to be a Syrian nuclear reactor under construction.

    Unnamed diplomatic and western military sources claimed the airstrike destroyed a convoy of SA-17 surface-to-air missiles being transferred to Hezbollah.

    The Syria claimed that it was a military research centre outside Damascus that was attacked by Israel.

    Western-backed Syrian terrorist groups opposed to the government claimed to have carried out the research centre strike themselves.

  6. Abe
    November 6, 2014 at 02:27

    US Destroying Syria’s Oil Infrastructure Under Guise of Fighting ISIS
    By Maram Susli

  7. Abe
    November 6, 2014 at 01:55

    Israel Wants The Syrian Government to Fall
    Mimi Al Laham ‘Syrian Girl’ analysis – July 2012

    • Abe
      November 6, 2014 at 02:17

      Maram Susli (aka Mimi al-Laham ‘Syrian Girl’), originally from Damascus, is a Syrian-Australian activist-journalist and social commentator covering Syria and the wider topic of geopolitics.

  8. Abe
    November 6, 2014 at 01:50

    Lebanonize & Conquer: ‘CIA, Mossad on Syria front line’
    Pepe Escobar analysis – August 2012

  9. Zachary Smith
    November 6, 2014 at 01:22

    It took Dr. Sniegoski quite a while to get to the point:

    Israel’s inaction toward the Islamic State, despite its close proximity, should actually provide a model for the United States to emulate. It shows that the Islamic State should not be regarded as a threat to the faraway United States.

    I’m afraid I disagree. Just because the murderous & thieving little pissant of a nation-state is coddling terrorists so as to better serve its own interests doesn’t mean the US ought to do the same. That’s just a bigger and better version of wagging the dog.

    A quick search of “Stephen J. Sniegoski” turned up published material strongly suggesting he’s another Libertarian Isolationist. He wrote a long essay titled “The Case for Pearl Harbor Revisionism” where he defended Japan’s rampages in the 1930s. And how Roosevelt’s efforts to deter them were essentially evil.

    He wrote a glowing review of Patrick J. Buchanan’s book Churchill, Hitler, and “the Unnecessary War” How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World

    ‘Mainstream’ historians didn’t much like it, but he noticed “Buchanan does not fabricate his historical facts and opinions but rather relies on reputable historians for his information, which is heavily footnoted.” Unfortunately Dr. Sniegoski didn’t mention the fact that a technique called “Cherrypicking” really does exist. Which is sort of surprising because does exactly that in praising the America First group of pre-WW2.

    Stephen J. Sniegoski is not a fool, but his Libertarian Blinders cause him to write stuff which could cause an unbiased observer to strongly suspect that’s his problem.

    • November 8, 2014 at 12:14

      The “point” of my essay is to show that while the pro-Israel neocons have been in the vanguard in advocating a US attack on the Islamic State because of its alleged threat to the US, Israel is doing nothing against the Islamic State, despite its close proximity.

      Moreover, Israel’s passivity on this issue is not mentioned in the mainstream media. The last part of my essay, to which Mr. Smith refers, is simply my opinion of how facts brought out in my essay should impact American Middle East policy. I was taught to end articles, essays, books, etc., with a view that transcended the thesis (theses) that was developed in the work. I don’t think I am unique in using this approach.

      While I did bring out the fact that Israel and other Middle Eastern countries did not seem to regard the Islamic State as a deadly threat, this would not cover all of the possible reasons that have been given for supporting a US war on the Islamic State—which Mr. Smith apparently supports.

      Regarding Mr. Smith’s charges regarding my political thinking and/or affiliations, I testify that I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Libertarian or an “isolationist.”

      Regarding my essay on Pearl Harbor revisionism, I never “defended Japan’s rampages in the 1930s” nor do I claim that President Roosevelt was “evil.” I do cite reputable historians who point out rational reasons for Japan’s actions and show that Roosevelt’s policy, instead of serving to deter further Japanese aggression (and FDR’s told the American people he was trying to keep the US out of war), served to provoke Japan into expanding into Southeast Asia and the East Indies (then the colonial preserve of Britain, France, and the Netherlands) and attacking the US.

      Most of the article simply states the views of various revisionists. My own opinion is at the end where I make my own assessment, which accepts the revisionist position in a modified form. However, I do not judge the merits of the US war with Japan, but rather point out that Roosevelt reached this goal by deceiving the American people, who, before the attack on Pearl Harbor, wanted to avoid the ongoing wars in Europe and Asia.

      Obviously, Buchanan selected information from reputable historians to prove his points, but there is no evidence that he distorted this in any way. This is how historians use secondary sources—they certainly don’t duplicate whole books written by others.

    • Zachary Smith
      November 9, 2014 at 19:45

      Regarding Mr. Smith’s charges regarding my political thinking and/or affiliations, I testify that I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Libertarian or an “isolationist.”

      That’s good to hear. I guess I was mislead about the ‘libertarian’ bit by your regular essays at the Thornwalker site – “Thornwalker provides editorial services for periodicals, books, and websites, specializing in free-market libertarian materials.” That and my observation that ‘libertarians’ tend to be isolationists.

      The prevalent view of World War II is that of the “good war” – a Manichaean conflict between good and evil. And a fundamental part of the “good war” thesis has to do with the entrance of the United States into the war as a result of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. According to this view, the cause of the war stemmed from the malign effort by Japan, run by aggressive militarists, to conquer the Far East and the Western Pacific, which was part of the overall Axis goal of global conquest. Japan’s imperialistic quest was clearly immoral and severely threatened vital American interests, requiring American opposition.

      I believe that’s the “mainstream” view you were attempting to correct when you wrote Revisionists emphasize that the Japanese had vital economic and security interests in China. Lacking in natural resources, Japan had especially depended upon foreign markets.

      So you don’t actually believe Japan had some kind of Divine Right to take over China using US oil and steel? OK.

      Regarding Roosevelt, I realized the term “evil” was overdoing it right after my post, but this forum doesn’t allow posts to be edited. How about “demonize”?

      You appear to believe Roosevelt was desperately provoking Japan so as to start a war with that nation, and that is in fact my own opinion. Where we appear to differ is that I believe (with 20/20 hindsight from my perch in 2014) it was a good idea, and you apparently don’t.

      Praising America First was a shocker, and that was another reason for the “isolationist” tag. I’m glad to hear you say it ain’t so.


      …this would not cover all of the possible reasons that have been given for supporting a US war on the Islamic State—which Mr. Smith apparently supports.

      Yes, Mr. Smith definitely supports a US war on ISIS. Not Mr. Obama’s pretend war, mind you, but a real one to the knife.

      Captured fighters who weren’t found guilty of war crimes would be in deep doo doo for years afterwards – on every “watch” list and probably wearing ankle bracelets. Countries supporting ISIS would be frozen out of all possible US business. For example, lots of countries besides Saudi Arabia sell oil. Iran, for instance….

      Some sorts of evil must be stomped out of existence if possible. In my opinion ISIS is one of those.

  10. elle
    November 5, 2014 at 23:03

    Netanyahu did make a statement in regards to ISIS in one of his trips to the US
    paraphrasing him ,”Netanyahu said ,when two of Americas enemies fight against
    each other,stay on the side lines and let them kill each other”.
    So yes there was a statement made ,and Israel is sticking with it.

    • Harry
      November 6, 2014 at 10:50

      Gentiles killing Gentiles …….

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