BEIRUT—On Friday, forces loyal to a triumphant Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria, raised Syrian and Palestinian flags at a roundabout in Quneitra, a destroyed town inside a demilitarized zone separating Syria and Israel. In July, Russian-backed military operations sought to drive mainstream rebels, as well as fighters linked to the Islamic State, out of the southern province of Daraa and neighboring Quneitra. With the Assad regime recapturing all territories in southern Syria, the two areas that remain out of the regime’s control are the northwestern province of Idlib, dominated by Islamist rebel groups and policed by Turkish forces, and the oil-rich northeast and east, which are under the control of Kurdish militias and under the protection of a contingent of U.S. forces.
The contours of the deal in Syria are already emerging, despite Israel’s downing of a Syrian fighter jet last week and its uncompromising stance on Iran’s expanded footprint in Syria since 2011. Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s defense minister, suggested in early July that his country would love nothing more than a return to the relatively stable status quo that prevailed at the Israeli-Syrian border from 1974 until 2011, and did not rule out “some kind of relationship” with the Assad regime. And despite recent heightened tension with Syria and Iran, Israel has largely stood by over the past few weeks as the regime and its allies captured one town after another along both the Israeli and Jordanian borders. Regime propaganda has referred to this as a campaign to “cleanse the area from terrorists supported by the Zionist state.”