The Golan Heights, a rocky plateau in the south-western region of Syria has a strategic significance for Israel. The Golan provides Israel an excellent vantage point for monitoring Syrian military movements, it provides a natural buffer against military attack, the land is fertile - the area provides more than 1/3 of the water for Israel.
Today, during the bi-lateral meeting between U.S. President, Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin a ceasefire in southwest Syria was agreed upon.
Interesting to note:
Russian-Israel diplomatic relations remains good with respective "mutual interests" at the forefront of their alliance. The United States-Israel relationship gives Israel peace of mind that there is a friend in the White House -- for the first time in 8 years. Therefore, both Russia and the United States have a "mutual interest" in brokering a ceasefire that benefits their strategic ally, Israel, as well as for Russia and the U.S.
Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria in the closing stages of the 1967 Six-Day War. Most of the Syrian Arab citizens fled the area during the conflict.
In 1973, Syria unsuccessfully tried to retake the Golan Heights (the 1973 Middle East war). Both countries signed an armistice agreement in 1974 and a United Nations observer force has been in place on the ceasefire line since 1974.
Currently, there are 30 Jewish settlements on the Golan Heights, with an estimated 20,000 inhabitants. There are Syrian Druze in the area as well. (20,000).
Although Syria would like to secure the return of the Golan Heights as part of any peace deal, it is clear based on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's statements/position, "Israel will never give up the Golan Heights."
Mortar shells regularly spilling over from the conflict in Syria spill over into the Golan Heights.
Israel responded with air strikes after errant fire from the war in Syria spilled over into Israel."
Further, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the proxy army of Iran, has 100,000 rockets on their southern border ready to launch into Israel. Lt. Col. (res) Sarit Zehavi told the Jerusalem Post at a briefing, "The next war on the northern border will be pretty bloody for both sides."
In April, news media in Israel, and abroad, reported a story that the Islamic State affiliates (ISIS) in Syria near the southern Golan "apologized" to Israel after a clash in November 2016.
Apologize you ask?
At this time, not even the Islamic State seems to want to escalate a war with Israel, Russia and the United States on the Israel-Syrian border. They have their hands full in other parts of Syria.
The Islamic State is fortified in a small area between Israel Golan Heights to the south, Jordan to the southeast, and Syria to the North.
It is in the MUTUAL INTERESTS of Russia, the United States, Israel and Jordan to work together to ensure Islamic State militants do not engage, and expand conflict.
If history repeats itself, this ceasefire won't last long.
I am not hopeful. Russia benefits when Syria is in chaos.
Vladimir Putin is an existential threat to the free world. Putin doesn't play the strategic game. He plays to show he is powerful and he plays to show the Russian oligarchs he is in control of the region. Putin plays to show global dominance -- Israel and the United States need to recognize this reality.
Lisa E. Benson
National Security/Foreign Policy Analyst, Commentator, Public Speaker
Blogger, "The Times of Israel"
Founder: The National Security Task Force of America.
Posted on 07/07/2017 at 09:01 PM
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