Monday, May 9, 2016

We’re not Moving from the Golan Part 2: Talking about Israel behind her Back - Pazit Rabina

by Pazit Rabina

Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav

Read Part 1

If and when the conflict in Syria enters the phase of a final status agreement, Israel will find it difficult to continue to keep a low profile for much longer.

Whether by chance or not, on the same day in which De-Mistura’s  document listing points of agreement was published, the UN’s Human Rights Council decided to condemn Israel for violating the rights of the Druze in the Golan. Coincidence? Not necessarily. Especially since this happened during the five years when Asad has been slaughtering his own people; now is the time that the UN Human Rights Council decided to condemn Israel for abusing and violating the human rights of the Druze in the Golan Heights. Among the states voting for condemnation of Israel were the usual suspects: Cuba, Venezuela and the Arab states, but Russia, Israel’s great friend, was also among them - Russia, with whom Israel’s military coordination has become quite intimate. 

One might say that we need not make anything out of this. Russia strikes a balance between her clientele in Damascus and the Arab states and her warm relations with Israel. But Israel must not downplay the Russian vote in the UN Human Rights Council or ignore it. Surely not after all of the efforts that she has invested in order to  battle the organization that has become the UN’s number one tool for attempting to isolate Israel. Ignoring the vote of a friend, particularly a friend, would be a sort of boomerang. An “own goal”. The government of Israel must have a backbone facing Russia, even in matters such as these.  Especially if the Russian-Israeli cooperation, which is successful at present, will, in the future, evolve and consolidate into a Russian presence in the Golan as part of the future solution in Syria. The entire Middle East is changing, breaking apart and being built anew, and what was thought in the past to be unthinkable could become standard afterward.
Yes, even though Netanyahu’s declarations regarding the Golan Heights yielded mainly international criticism, it seems that as a result of those declarations, the days of Israel’s uninvolvement in Syria are drawing to an end. The doctrine of disengagement regarding Syria has been considered very successful until now. It has allowed Israel to remain an “island of stability” in a stormy sea of volatility in the Middle East. However, if and when the conflict in Syria enters the phase of a final status agreement, Israel will find it difficult to continue to keep a low profile for much longer. 
Soon after the signing of the nuclear agreement with Iran, there were those who said that a similar model should be used in the future with Syria. One lesson learned from the agreement with Iran is that it is better for Israel to be an active participant behind the scenes with her friends, despite the significant areas of disagreement with them. The Golan Heights represent a classic example in which Israel has an interest in cooperation with Russia and the US, individually, so that she will not find herself faced with a joint initiative by Kerry and Lavrov  defining a comprehensive agreement in Syria in which she will be required to abandon the Golan.
Former cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser wrote an interesting post in Facebook one day before the ceasefire took effect in Syria. “The time has come for Israel to take an active step and begin to float, carefully and resolutely – especially among our friends – her essential strategic interest in the “new order” to exist in Syria of the future:  recognition of the Israeli Golan, which represents one percent of the land that was once the Syrian state”. Israel must also have a standing in the process of formulating the new status of Syria. “Israel must be a partner either directly or indirectly in the international  discussion from the start, and not only at the end, after everything has already been ‘cut up’ and agreed to”. 
What Hauser is actually saying is that the international positions regarding the future agreement in Syria are being locked in, and Israel must not miss the historic opportunity to anchor Israeli interests in the Golan Heights. Moreover, all of the states that are relevant to the matter are clearly and publicly marking their interests. A passive Israel might come into the picture too late, and therefore miss the historic opportunity to have an influence on the shape of the new borders in the Middle East.

Is this what suddenly caused Prime Minister Netanyahu to bring the government up to the Golan for a meeting, to repeat the declaration that  the Golan Heights will remain in our hands at a photo-op during a military exercise, and then to repeat it a third time and say it clearly in Putin’s ear and to the rest of the world? Is this a trial balloon, and if so, what is behind the extra repetition of the statement? Is it the fear that we are missing the train?

Next installment: Part 3 –Range of Possible Compensation

Pazit Rabina

Source: Makor Rishon, Yoman Section, issue 977. Pg. 12-13.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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