The decision to prevent Iran from establishing ‎itself militarily in Syria required bold ‎determination, and intelligence and operational ‎capabilities, alongside prudence, so as not to ‎provoke an escalation that would drag the region ‎into an overall armed conflict. ‎

Now, however, it seems that this campaign has ‎exhausted itself.

Israeli officials continue to ‎claim that the Israel Defense Forces’ operational leeway in Syria has ‎not been compromised in the wake of the Sept. 17 ‎downing of a Russian plane by Syrian air defenses ‎trying to counter an Israeli airstrike. Add that to the ‎ensuing crisis with Russia, with Defense Minister ‎Avigdor Lieberman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin ‎Netanyahu both asserting that Israel will do ‎whatever it takes to prevent Iran from realizing its ‎ambitions in Syria, but reality on the ground proves otherwise. ‎

A review of the situation reveals a gap between ‎Israeli rhetoric and reality. Rather than reports of ‎Israeli strikes in Syria, we see reports of the ‎deployment of Russian S-300 air-defense batteries in ‎Syria, and reports on how Mustafa Mughniyeh,‎ son of ‎Hezbollah archterrorist Imad Mughniyeh, is setting ‎up terrorist infrastructure along the Israel-Syria ‎border.‎

It is safe to assume that the window of opportunity ‎for Israel to truly operate freely in Syria would ‎have closed regardless of the downing of the Russian ‎plane. After all, Russia wants to ensure peace and ‎stability in Syria so it can capitalize on its ‎investment in the war-torn country. Moreover, ‎Moscow does not perceive Iran as a threat, nor does ‎it see the presence of Iranian forces in Syria as a ‎Russian problem. ‎

But even without Russian indifference, it’s ‎hard to imagine that the Israeli airstrikes would be ‎enough to make the Iranians rethink their plans for ‎Syria. ‎

Such attacks can perhaps foil an Iranian hold on one ‎site or another and possibly the deployment of ‎advanced weapons systems, which are easy to ‎identify. But all this is a drop in the bucket given the presence of thousands of Iranian soldiers ‎and Hezbollah operatives, and tens of thousands of ‎Shi’ite militia fighters imported into Syria. ‎

In light of this reality, Israel must think outside ‎the box and recalibrate its course of action. One ‎possible policy shift is to return to tried and ‎true policies, namely exacting a price not only from ‎Iran but also from its host, namely Syrian ‎President Bashar Assad.‎

The Israeli defense establishment mistakenly sees ‎Assad as an Iranian puppet but in ‎reality, he is bolstering his position. It is ‎possible that if he—and his Russian patrons—are ‎made to understand that the Iranian presence on Syrian ‎soil has a price, he will act to restrict it.‎

Israel missed its chance by allowing Assad’s forces ‎to simply regain control of southern Syria without ‎exacting a price, as this also made way for Iranian ‎and Hezbollah presence near the Israeli border.

But ‎it’s not too late: A change of direction is still ‎possible, and it must be made very carefully so as ‎not to provoke an overall confrontation. There is no ‎better time to pursue this than now, as a new IDF ‎chief of staff is about to take office. ‎

Eyal Zisser is a lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Tel Aviv University.