Russian Anti-Semitism Rears Its Head over Syria

Sept. 27 2018

Last week, Israeli jets struck Iranian arms warehouses in northwestern Syria. The Syrian military responded—after the jets were already out of range—with antiaircraft missiles, one of which brought down a Russian surveillance plane, killing fifteen crew members. After initially blaming Israel for the fiasco, Moscow struck a more conciliatory tone, but only temporarily. It has now pledged to provide the Syrian army with its S-300 surface-to-air missile system, which could make it more difficult for the IDF to operate over Syria’s skies. And there has also been some all-too-familiar rhetoric on the part of Russian politicians and media outlets, as Ariel Bolstein notes:

The false accusation against Israel has awakened the ghosts of anti-Semitism that always existed in Russian society and which the ruling powers have made an effort to hide in recent decades. Russian television stations are permitting themselves to make harsh statements about Israel and a number of speakers, including senior delegates in the Russian parliament, have demanded that military air bases in the Jewish state be bombed in retribution. Until last week’s incident, such remarks were effectively prohibited in public in Russia, because officials were certain that the person at the top—President Vladimir Putin—objected to them.

But the new situation in which a major government entity in the form of the Russian Defense Ministry talks about Israel in language reminiscent of the cold war has unleashed anti-Semitic language in Russia in general.

The Russians’ unwillingness to accept the facts, along with their desire to insist that Israel is responsible, demonstrate that they intend to use the incident to squeeze out the diplomatic maximum in Syria. They will try to limit Israel’s operational freedom, albeit without getting dragged into a direct conflict. The manufactured crisis over the shot-down plane will be used as an excuse to bestow advanced military capabilities on the Syrian regime, such as the S-300 missile system.

In a situation like this, it is important that Israel stand its ground and keep operating as it did before the incident: on the one hand maintaining close contact with Russia about diplomatic and military matters, especially at the highest levels, while on the other hand allowing the IDF to operate in Syria as needed. When Moscow realizes that Israel will not capitulate, the understandings that were in place before the incident will remain in effect.

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Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war

Israel Should Try to Defang Hamas without Toppling It

Feb. 22 2019

For the time being, Hamas has chosen to avoid outright war with the Jewish state, but instead to apply sustained, low-intensity pressure through its weekly border riots and organizing terrorist cells in the West Bank. Yet it is simultaneously engaged in a major military build-up, which suggests that it has not entirely been deterred by the previous three Gaza wars. Yaakov Lappin considers Jerusalem’s options:

In recent years, the Israel Defense Force’s southern command, which is responsible for much of the war planning for Gaza, identified a long-term truce as the best of bad options for Israel. This is based on the understanding that an Israeli invasion of Gaza and subsequent destruction of the Hamas regime would leave Israel in the unenviable position of being directly in charge of some two-million mostly hostile Gazans. This could lead to an open-ended and draining military occupation. . . .

Alternatively, Israel could demolish the Hamas regime and leave Gaza, putting it on a fast track to a “Somalia model” of anarchy and violence. In that scenario, . . . multiple jihadist armed gangs lacking a central ruling structure would appear, and Israel would be unable to project its military might to any single “return address” in Gaza. This would result in a loss of Israel’s deterrent force on Gaza to keep the region calm. This scenario would be considerably worse than the current status quo.

But a third option, in between the options of leaving Gaza as it is and toppling Hamas in a future war, may exist. In this scenario, the IDF would decimate Hamas’s military wing in any future conflict but leave its political wing and police force in place. This would enable a rapid Israeli exit after a war, but avoid a Somalia-like fate for Gaza with its destructive implications for both Israelis and Gazans. . . .

On the one hand, Hamas’s police force is an intrinsic support system for Gaza’s terrorist-guerrilla forces. On the other hand, the police and domestic-security units play a genuine role in keeping order. Such forces have been used to repress Islamic State-affiliated cells that challenge Hamas’s rule. . . . Compared to the alternative scenarios of indefinite occupation or the “Somalia scenario,” a weakened Hamas might be the best and most realistic option.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security