Behind the Rocket Attacks from Gaza Could Be the Hand of Iran

July 11 2018

Backed by Moscow and Tehran, Bashar al-Assad has begun an offensive against the rebel strongholds in southwestern Syria that will inevitably place Iran’s forces directly on Israel’s border. Meanwhile, groups in Gaza—including Islamic Jihad, which is all but an Iranian proxy—have persisted in firing rockets at Israeli communities. Tony Badran sees a “coordinated Iranian strategy” at work:

Iran’s assets don’t stand a chance against Israel in a full-on war. But low-intensity conflict can work to [Tehran’s] advantage. . . . The purpose of all the activity in Gaza, therefore, is to tie down and distract Israel, and then try to divide its forces between two active fronts in the hope of deterring them from truly acting on either. If successful, Iran will have set up fronts on Israel’s borders with Gaza, Lebanon [in the form of Hizballah], and Syria.

So long as Iran is able to avoid high-intensity conflict in these arenas, it can press ahead with its plan. [For the time being], the Israelis have made clear they will not accept low-intensity conflict on their borders as a norm, and will not allow the Iranians to entrench themselves not just on the Golan but in Syria more broadly, no matter the cost.

There is debate in Israel about whether the time has come to hit Gaza hard. Notwithstanding all the chatter about a deal with Russia [to keep Iran and Hizballah out of the Syrian Golan], there is equal need for Israel to intensify its targeting campaign against Iran’s infrastructure, personnel, and logistical lines in Syria. . . .

Israel will need to carry out its strikes with a posture signaling readiness to go to full war. Normalizing protracted low-intensity war, akin to the situation with Lebanon between 1996 and 2006, will prove to be a costly mistake. As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put it recently, “if there needs to be” conflict with Iran, “it is better now than later.”

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hizballah, Iran, Islamic Jihad, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war

By Recognizing Israeli Sovereignty over the Golan, the U.S. Has Freed Israel from “Land for Peace”

March 25 2019

In the 52 years since Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria, there have been multiple efforts to negotiate their return in exchange for Damascus ending its continuous war against the Jewish state. Shmuel Rosner argues that, with his announcement on Thursday acknowledging the legitimacy of Jerusalem’s claim to the Golan, Donald Trump has finally decoupled territorial concessions from peacemaking:

[With] the takeover of much of Syria by Iran and its proxies, . . . Israel had no choice but to give up on the idea of withdrawing from the Golan Heights. But this reality involves a complete overhaul of the way the international community thinks not just about the Golan Heights but also about all of the lands Israel occupied in 1967. . . .

Withdrawal worked for Israel once, in 1979, when it signed a peace agreement with Egypt and left the Sinai Peninsula, which had also been occupied in 1967. But that also set a problematic precedent. President Anwar Sadat of Egypt insisted that Israel hand back the entire peninsula to the last inch. Israel decided that the reward was worth the price, as a major Arab country agreed to break with other Arab states and accept Israel’s legitimacy.

But there was a hidden, unanticipated cost: Israel’s adversaries, in future negotiations, would demand the same kind of compensation. The 1967 line—what Israel controlled before the war—became the starting point for all Arab countries, including Syria. It became a sacred formula, worshiped by the international community.

What President Trump is doing extends far beyond the ability of Israel to control the Golan Heights, to settle it, and to invest in it. The American president is setting the clock back to before the peace deal with Egypt, to a time when Israel could argue that the reward for peace is peace—not land. Syria, of course, is unlikely to accept this. At least not in the short term. But maybe someday, a Syrian leader will come along who doesn’t entertain the thought that Israel might agree to return to the pre-1967 line and who will accept a different formula for achieving peace.

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More about: Donald Trump, Golan Heights, Israel & Zionis, Peace Process, Sinai Peninsula, Syria