Israel Pushes the Envelope in Syria

March 21 2017

Israel has conducted more than a few airstrikes in Syria since the civil war began there in 2011, but the one that took place in the pre-dawn hours on Friday morning was unusual. First, the IDF broke with precedent by taking responsibility for the attack, although it did not release any details. Second, Israeli aircraft struck much deeper into Syria than they have previously done, hitting regime positions near Palmyra. Third, they were met by enemy anti-aircraft missiles, which were then countered by Israeli anti-missile missiles. David Daoud explains:

One possibility is that the target of the Israeli strike was a weapons shipment to Hizballah at the Syrian army’s T-4 airport in western Palmyra. The Syrian military, assisted by Hizballah and the Russians, recently retook the airport from Islamic State, and the Shiite group continues to maintain a large presence there. It is likely that, since the Israelis continue to interdict weapons shipments to Hizballah at the Damascus airport, the group has begun receiving shipments at T-4 thinking it was out of the IAF’s reach. . . .

In another first, Israel’s ambassador to Moscow was summoned into the Russian foreign ministry to clarify his country’s actions. This comes shortly after Benjamin Netanyahu returned from a visit to Moscow, where he discussed Israel’s concerns over Hizballah and Iran’s growing power in Syria with the Russian president Vladimir Putin. Israel’s intelligence minister commented that Jerusalem had acted without informing the Russians because the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, was changing the rules of the game vis-à-vis Israel and allowing Syria to “become a dangerous hub of Hizballah activity,”

Indeed, the Syrian air defenses’ response constitutes a serious development. During past Israeli strikes on Hizballah, the Syrian army has largely stayed out of the fray. The contrast this time is a possible indication that the Assad regime perceives a positive change in its domestic fortunes, particularly after its success against rebel factions in the battle of Aleppo in December 2016.

It is doubtful that Assad was seeking a full-blown confrontation with the Israelis. More likely, he was simply trying to convey this regained confidence to his domestic foes, and also to signal to Israel that the IAF could no longer operate freely against Hizballah in Syrian territory.

Read more at Long War Journal

More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war

Ending the Palestinian “Internationalization” Strategy

March 24 2017

Since Barack Obama (and Benjamin Netanyahu) assumed office in 2009, the Palestinian Authority has refused to negotiate with Israel, demanded the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders with its capital in east Jerusalem, and declined to agree to any concessions in return. To this end it has pursued a strategy of “internationalizing” the conflict by seeking recognition from international bodies and hoping that some sort of consortium of states will impose a solution to its liking on Israel. But with a new president in the White House, and a Middle East in disarray, this strategy seems less promising. Amos Yadlin and Kobi Michael explain why and how Israel and the U.S. can bring an end to it:

The Palestinian internationalization strategy was bolstered by a public-relations effort to [disseminate] the Palestinian narrative of the reasons for the conflict and the “just way of solving it,” and to saddle Israel with responsibility for the political deadlock. This was joined by general efforts to delegitimize Israel. This strategy, which focuses on a persistent, systematic effort to blacken Israel in international institutions, undermine its legitimacy, and deny the historic national connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, has scored several notable achievements in recent years. . . . One of the prominent achievements by the Palestinian national movement was the 2012 UN General Assembly resolution defining Palestine as a “non-member observer state.” . . . [T]he Palestinians [also] succeeded in entrenching within the U.S. administration the belief that Israel’s settlement policy in the West Bank was the main obstacle to an agreement. . . .

Making it unmistakably clear to the Palestinians that they must return to the negotiating process and to mutual give-and-take, and also accept transitional and interim arrangements as preferable alternatives to the status quo, will engender greater potential for progress than during the Obama administration. As an initial sign to the Palestinians that the rules of the game have changed, moving the American embassy to Jerusalem is in order. An American retreat from that pledge . . . [in response to] the Palestinian threats aimed at preventing this measure will weaken the American stature and become an incentive for the Palestinians to adhere to a strategy of bypassing Israel and evading direct negotiations. . . .

It is [also] important that the United States clarify that if the Palestinians prefer to continue their effort to isolate Israel in the international theater, instead of returning to direct negotiations, . . . [Washington] will back independent measures by Israel for determining its border in accordance with Israel’s strategic interests, while preserving the possibility of the future implementation of a negotiated two nation-state solution.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Donald Trump, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian Authority, Peace Process, US-Israel relations