Syria’s Most Recent Attempt to Shoot Down an Israeli Jet: A Sign of Things to Come?

Oct. 18 2017

On Monday, Syrian forces fired a surface-to-air missile at Israeli planes conducting routine surveillance over Lebanon. This was not a first, but the planes in question were in Lebanese, not Syrian, airspace. In response, the IDF destroyed the battery that launched the missile—also unusual for Israel, which has generally refrained from striking so deeply into Syrian territory. Yoav Limor comments on the possible implications:

There are two ways to explain Syria’s part in the incident. The first is that it was not planned. The Israel Air Force (IAF) planes’ flight path took them further east than usual, and perhaps the Syrian troops manning the battery that night were frightened and decided to fire at them. If this was the case, the Syrians have not changed their policy, and for the moment at least there is also no special reason for Israel to worry.

The second possibility is the Syrian missile launch was the early phase of a new policy that includes a response to perceived threats not only in Syrian but also over Lebanese territory. If this is indeed the case, [the incident] constitutes a drastic change, reflecting a heightened self-confidence and a wish to relieve Hizballah—which defended the Assad regime with its own flesh and blood—of the task of protecting Lebanon.

Israel is leaning toward the first option, but there is no doubt that, in light of . . . the imminent defeat of Islamic State, . . . Bashar al-Assad is feeling confident in his rule, certainly while the Russian defense umbrella remains open above him.

This is also the reason that Israel resolved to be as clear as possible when it drew its red lines. Even though the missile did not put IAF planes at risk, another missile is likely to do so in a future incident. The Israeli response was meant to send the message that as far as Israel is concerned, Lebanon is out of bounds, and there is no better justification for an Israeli strike on Syria than if the Syrians shoot at a routine flight over Lebanese airspace.

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Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Syria

The Impossibility of Unilateral Withdrawal from the West Bank

Feb. 19 2019

Since throwing his hat into the ring for the Israeli premiership, the former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz has been reticent about his policy plans. Nonetheless, he has made clear his openness to unilateral disengagement from the West Bank along the lines of the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, stating the necessity of finding “a way in which we’re not controlling other people.” Gershon Hacohen argues that any such plan would be ill-advised:

The political and strategic precepts underlying the Oslo “peace” process, which Gantz echoes, vanished long ago. The PLO has unequivocally revealed its true colors: its total lack of interest in peace, unyielding rejection of the idea of Jewish statehood, and incessant propensity for violence and terrorism. . . . Tehran is rapidly emerging as regional hegemon, with its tentacles spreading from Yemen and Iraq to the Mediterranean Sea and its dogged quest for nuclear weapons continuing apace under the international radar. Even the terror groups Hizballah and Hamas pose a far greater threat to Israel’s national security than they did a decade ago. Under these circumstances, Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank’s Area C, [the only part still under direct Israeli control], would constitute nothing short of an existential threat.

Nor does Israel need to find a way to stop “controlling other people,” as Gantz put it, for the simple reason that its control of the Palestinians ended some two decades ago. In May 1994 the IDF withdrew from all Palestinian population centers in the Gaza Strip. In January 1996 it vacated the West Bank’s populated areas (the Oslo Accords’ Areas A and B), comprising over 90 percent of the West Bank’s Palestinian residents, and handed control of that population to the Palestinian Authority (PA). . . .

This in turn means that the real dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as within Israel itself, no longer revolves around the end of “occupation” but around the future of eastern Jerusalem and Area C. And since Area C (which is home to only 100,000 Palestinians) includes all the Jewish West Bank localities, IDF bases, transportation arteries, vital topographic sites, and habitable empty spaces between the Jordan Valley and the Jerusalem metropolis, its continued retention by Israel is a vital national interest. Why? Because its surrender to a potentially hostile Palestinian state would make the defense of the Israeli hinterland virtually impossible—and because these highly strategic and sparsely populated lands are of immense economic, infrastructural, communal, ecological, and cultural importance, not to mention their historical significance as the bedrock of the Jewish ancestral homeland

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Benny Gantz, Israel & Zionism, Two-State Solution, West Bank