Jerusalem Has a Plan to Develop the Golan. It Should Follow Through

Dec. 29 2021

Forty years ago this month, the Knesset decided to extend Israeli law to the Golan Heights, which it captured from Syria in the Six-Day War. In 2019, the White House gave official recognition to Israeli sovereignty there—responding in part to Syria’s collapse and the impossibility of returning the territory in exchange for peace with the discredited Bashar al-Assad. Now Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has unveiled a plan to invest 1 billion shekels in the territory, with the aim of expanding its population by 23,000 over the next five years, building two new towns, and expanding existing municipalities. Eyal Zisser comments:

Despite good intentions, very little has changed in the Golan Heights in 40 years. . . . Barely any new communities have been established in the area, and the number of Israeli residents has grown ever so slightly. In the Golan, some 50,000 people, 60 percent of them Druze, reside. In the 1990s and 2000s, a majority of governments in Israel even expressed a willingness to cede the Golan in return for a peace deal with Damascus.

In Syria, the civil war has come to a close. The Arab world is already rushing to welcome Bashar al-Assad back, as are some European leaders. Even Washington has signaled a willingness to do business with Damascus. . . . Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s spokesman said [that] Washington believes Israel’s presence [in the Golan] is vital so long as the country is at war and the Syrian regime lacks international legitimacy. In the future though, when the Syrian state is back on its feet, there will be a need to renew talks with Damascus, which ceased when the Syrian war broke out, on the future of the Golan and the possibility of returning it to Syria in return for the signing of a peace deal with Israel.

In the meantime, Israeli governments continue to declare their commitment to the Golan and determination to keep the territory. . . . All that remains is to see whether the plan moves forward or, as so many of its predecessors, remains just that. Given the new reality taking shape in Syria, . . . what we need now is action, not words.

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Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Antony Blinken, Golan Heights, Naftali Bennett, Syria

Why the Leader of Hamas Went to Russia

Sept. 30 2022

Earlier this month, the Hamas chairman Ismail Haniyeh and several of his colleagues visited Moscow, where they met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other Russian officials. According to Arabic-language media, Haniyeh came seeking “new ideas” about how to wage war against the Jewish state. The terrorist group has had good relations with the Kremlin for several years, and even maintains an office in Moscow. John Hardie and Ivana Stradner comment on the timing of the visit:

For Moscow, the visit likely reflects a continuation of its efforts to leverage the Palestinians and other issues to pressure Israel over its stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russia and Israel built friendly relations in the decades following the Soviet Union’s dissolution. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Jerusalem condemned the war, but made sure to tread carefully in order to preserve working ties with Moscow, lest Russian military forces in Syria disrupt Israel’s strategically important air operations there.

Nevertheless, bilateral tensions spiked in April after Yair Lapid, then serving as Israel’s foreign minister, joined the chorus of voices worldwide accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine. Jerusalem later provided Kyiv with some non-lethal military aid and a field hospital. In response, Moscow hardened its rhetoric about Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian issue isn’t the only way that Russia has sought to pressure Israel. Moscow is also threatening, on seemingly spurious grounds, to shutter the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency.

Moscow likely has little appetite for outright conflict with Israel, particularly when the bulk of Russia’s military is floundering in Ukraine. But there are plenty of other ways that Russia, which maintains an active intelligence presence in the Jewish state, could damage Israel’s interests. As Moscow cozies up with Hamas, Iran, and other enemies of Israel, Jerusalem—and its American allies—would do well to keep a watchful eye.

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Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Hamas, Israeli Security, Russia