When Israeli missiles struck Syrian facilities on May 3—an operation that Israel has not officially confirmed but is widely believed to have carried out—they showed the results of a cost-benefit analysis whose arithmetic yields clear results.
Since the explosions shook Damascus, Israel has gone to great lengths to assure the Syrian regime and others that it has no interest in becoming embroiled in the Syrian civil war. Israel’s concerns, and the military strikes, focus on another enemy, namely Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia that is a close ally of Iran, an avowed enemy of Israel and the source of thousands of missiles fired at Israeli population centers.
Israelis are not exactly looking forward to a victory by the rebels arrayed against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Rebel forces are increasingly dominated by radical Islamists who have already declared their intention to go after Israel once they finish the job in Syria. Still, it would be disingenuous to pretend the fight between Israel and Hezbollah—and Iran—is disconnected from the battles raging between Assad and anti-regime forces, if nothing else because Hezbollah and Iran are actively supporting Assad in the war against the opposition. So any Israeli effort that weakens Hezbollah is a blow against Assad. And ultimately, the collapse of the Assad regime would constitute a huge blow to Hezbollah and Iran, who occupy the top spots on Israel’s list of strategic concerns.