September 2015 – JERUSALEM – Syrian Druse in the southern Jabal al-Druse region are no obstacle to Islamic State reaching the Golan Heights, a top Israeli Druse figure told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. Former deputy foreign minister Majallie Whbee – now a roving ambassador for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean, a forum for the region’s parliaments to come together and reach common objectives – disputed the notion expressed by Israeli Druse personalities in a Post article on Monday that their Syrian brethren stand between Islamic State and the Israeli border. In that article, Druse spiritual leader Sheikh Maufak Tarif said that if Islamic State were to get past Sweida province – where Jabal al-Druse is located – it would put Jordan and the Israeli border areas at risk.
Another Druse figure, Mendi Safadi, who has served as chief of staff for Deputy Regional Cooperation Minister Ayoub Kara, agreed. “Sweida is the wall between us and Islamic state,” he said in the article. “Islamic State has to pass through Sweida in order to get to us. Israel’s interest is to strengthen the Druse in Sweida and southern Syria to prevent Islamic State from progressing on Israel’s borders.” However, Whbee argued Tuesday that al-Qaida’s Nusra Front and Islamic State could reach the area near Israel’s border from other areas, such as Quneitra province near the Golan Heights. He said he had told senior Israeli officials on a number of occasions that if they wanted to help Syrian Druse, they needed to give them the ability to defend themselves.
If Israel cannot give the Druse weapons directly, then it should ask the Americans or others to do that, he said. It’s not small arms they need, but larger and heavier weapons such as artillery, he went on, adding that most Syrian Druse knew how to use most weapons, since they had served in the Syrian army. Whbee pointed out that there are more than 600,000 Druse in Syria, and said that in order to survive the war raging there, were staying neutral and were concerned only with defending themselves. He also complained that the Syrian regime had left the Druse largely to fend for themselves without proper weaponry. The Druse fighting against Islamist groups actually benefit the regime, he added.
When Syrian President Bashar Assad’s father, Hafez, came to power in the 1970s, he pushed the Druse out of powerful positions in the army and government, instead promoting those from his own Alawite sect. Similarly, the government has promoted development in Alawite areas and much less in Druse localities, Whbee said. “The Druse will fight to the last man and refuse to become refugees,” he declared, adding that few Druse were part of the massive refugee outflows heading to neighboring countries and Europe. Asked about the killing of Druse leader Sheikh Wahid Balous in Sweida last week, Whbee blamed the regime, adding that Balous had said he would take weapons from anyone, even Israel. – JPOST