Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, second from left, now thinks it’s inevitable that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad will be deposed. He also predicts that Assad’s removal would undermine an alliance of Israel’s enemies.
In a shift, Israeli officials are welcoming the prospect that Syria’s embattled president, Bashar al-Assad, will be overthrown, an event Defense Minister Ehud Barak says could be weeks away.
The officials’ new tone contrasts with conventional thinking here in years past, when Assad was credited with maintaining calm along the frontier with the Israeli-held Golan Heights and considered a stable alternative to a possible takeover by Islamic fundamentalists.
As Assad has come under mounting pressure from a revolt at home and moves to isolate him abroad, initial wariness by Israeli officials of speaking publicly about the fate of his regime has given way to open speculation about how long he can hold on to power, who might replace him and the possible risks of a chaotic disintegration of his rule.
“Basically, it’s inevitable,” Barak said in a telephone interview before flying Wednesday to Washington for meetings with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other administration officials. “The Assad family, through their own behavior, have lost their last drop of legitimacy and put themselves beyond the point of no return with their brutal slaughter of their own people. He has ceased to be something relevant.”
“It might take many weeks,” Barak added, “but it’s not a matter of months or years.”
In a separate interview, Moshe Yaalon, the minister of strategic affairs, said: “It’s a matter of time and bloodshed before we will witness Assad’s departure. That is our assessment.”
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