Israel Isn’t Leaving the Golan Heights—Nor Should It

According to recent reports, Benjamin Netanyahu has been pressing Washington to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which were taken from Syria in the 1967 war. While in the 1990s, and as late as 2010, Jerusalem expressed willingness to negotiate a deal with Damascus that would involve returning all or part of the territory, the Syrian civil war has removed that option from the table. Steven A. Cook comments:

Whether Washington recognizes Israel’s annexation or not, the Israelis are never withdrawing from the Golan Heights—nor should they. . . . [The former] Israeli interest in trading away the Golan Heights was predicated on a belief—or wishful thinking—that a peace treaty [with Syria] would break the Syria-Iran-Hizballah axis. It makes sense on paper, but peeling the Syrians from Iran and Hizballah was never going to work. Bashar al-Assad’s father, Hafez al-Assad, was at best a grudging participant in the peace process of the 1990s. Syrian diplomats showed up for talks, but they never actually negotiated much. . . . The former Jordanian foreign minister, Marwan Muasher, recounts [that] the Syrians sought to obstruct regional peace rather than contribute to it. . . .

Quiet along the Israeli-Syrian front for the last 45 years is a function not just of the capabilities of the IDF but of the unparalleled advantage the Golan Heights gives Israel’s armed forces. The Golan multiplies Israel’s force in the event of a war, but, more important for Israeli security, the area is an unrivaled intelligence-gathering platform. From its posts atop the Golan Heights, the IDF can look and listen in on the valley below that leads to Damascus, only about 45 miles away. Nothing is foolproof, of course. The Israelis occupied the Golan Heights in 1973 and ran into a lot of trouble when the Syrians attacked on October 6 of that year, but all things being equal, there is no question that holding onto the plateau is superior to withdrawing and the uncertainty of an agreement with the Syrian regime. . . .

[W]hen the younger Assad proved himself to be a bloody blunderer who put the regime in jeopardy, it was the Iranians who came to the rescue. The Syrian leader now owes his and his regime’s survival in part to Iran, which has sought thus far unsuccessfully to establish a permanent presence on Israel’s border. Iran and its expeditionary force, Hizballah, are a threat to Israelis security. The Golan Heights is critical to keeping both from achieving their ends.

Read more at Foreign Policy

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

 

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy