The Old Syria Is Back, This Time Accompanied by Hizballah, Iran, and Russia

In the final week of 2017, Hizballah, supported by Assad-regime forces and an Iranian unit, seized most of the Syrian portion of the Golan Heights from the rebel forces that had controlled it for some time. Eyal Zisser believes that the rest of southern Syria will soon follow, and that Israel will have to adjust once again to sharing a border with an Assad-ruled Syria:

The Syrian regime and its allies’ campaign to retake the [Syrian] Golan Heights is a violation of the understandings reached by the United States and Russia just a month ago. This agreement, which focuses on establishing a buffer zone (or safe zone) in southern Syria, promised relative protection and immunity for the rebel groups. Agreements and reality, however, are nothing alike, certainly in this part of the world.

Russia, as we know, honors agreements only when they align with its interests. Moscow has no compunction signing a deal and the next day violating or simply ignoring it. The Assad regime and its allies are unconcerned with such agreements, which are merely another aspect of their deceitful ploy of speaking yearningly about peace while continuing the fighting on the ground, using [such] tactics to . . . restore full control [of all of Syria].

Israel was right to refrain from establishing a military presence on Syrian soil. But the collapse of the security zone [free of pro-Assad forces] in southern Syria is not the only issue: crumbling along with it is the assumption that the war in Syria would go on for years, and that Syria would never resemble its old self. It appears, [instead], that the old Syria has returned to Israel’s border more quickly than expected—more dangerous and more imposing than before. This is due to the presence of Hizballah and Iran, which the world, and certainly Russia, views as a stabilizing and positive factor that should remain for the foreseeable future.

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Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Bashar al-Assad, Golan Heights, Hiballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war

No, Israelis and Palestinians Can’t Simply Sit Down and Solve the “Israel-Palestinian Conflict”

Jan. 17 2019

By “zooming out” from the blinkered perspective with which most Westerners see the affairs of the Jewish state, argues Matti Friedman, one can begin to see things the way Israelis do:

Many [in Israel] believe that an agreement signed by a Western-backed Palestinian leader in the West Bank won’t end the conflict, because it will wind up creating not a state but a power vacuum destined to be filled by intra-Muslim chaos, or Iranian proxies, or some combination of both. That’s exactly what has happened . . . in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. One of Israel’s nightmares is that the fragile monarchy in Jordan could follow its neighbors . . . into dissolution and into Iran’s orbit, which would mean that if Israel doesn’t hold the West Bank, an Iranian tank will be able to drive directly from Tehran to the outskirts of Tel Aviv. . . .

In the “Israeli-Palestinian” framing, with all other regional components obscured, an Israeli withdrawal in the West Bank seems like a good idea—“like a real-estate deal,” in President Trump’s formulation—if not a moral imperative. And if the regional context were peace, as it was in Northern Ireland, for example, a power vacuum could indeed be filled by calm.

But anyone using a wider lens sees that the actual context here is a complex, multifaceted war, or a set of linked wars, devastating this part of the world. The scope of this conflict is hard to grasp in fragmented news reports but easy to see if you pull out a map and look at Israel’s surroundings, from Libya through Syria and Iraq to Yemen.

The fault lines have little to do with Israel. They run between dictators and the people they’ve been oppressing for generations; between progressives and medievalists; between Sunnis and Shiites; between majority populations and minorities. If [Israel’s] small sub-war were somehow resolved, or even if Israel vanished tonight, the Middle East would remain the same volatile place it is now.

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Read more at New York Times

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Middle East