Tag: Golan Heights

NEW IDF CHIEF INHERITS ONGOING IRAN, HAMAS, AND HEZBOLLAH CONFLICTS

TRUDEAU SAYS HE WILL ‘CONTINUE TO CONDEMN THE BDS MOVEMENT’ AT ST. CATHARINES TOWN HALL: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has given a full-throated defence of his condemnation of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement…”We need to understand, as well, that anti-Semitism has also manifested itself not just as in targeting of individuals but it is also targeting a new condemnation or an anti-Semitism against the very state of Israel,” he said. The prime minister added that Canada must be very careful “not to sanction this new frame around anti-Semitism and undue criticism of Israel.” To support his case, Trudeau pointed to the so-called “Three Ds” test for separating criticism of the Jewish state and anti-Semitism: demonization, double standards, and delegitimization of Israel. “When you have movements like BDS that single out Israel, that seek to delegitimize and in some cases demonize, when you have students on campus dealing with things like Israel apartheid weeks that make them fearful of actually attending campus events because of their religion in Canada, we have to recognize that there are things that aren’t acceptable, not because of foreign policy concerns but because of Canadian values,” Trudeau said. (Huffington Post, Jan. 16, 2019)

 

A Full Plate Awaits Israel’s New IDF Chief: Yoav Limor, Algemeiner, Jan. 14, 2019— It’s not surprising that Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot spent his last night as army chief in the command bunker underneath IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv…

Is the IDF Ready for All-Out War?: Yaakov Lappin, BESA, Jan. 10, 2019— The question of just how ready the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is for war has dominated Israel’s headlines in recent weeks.

A One-Time Opportunity for Israel in the Golan?: Michael Oren, JNS, Dec. 25, 2018— Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw ‎American troops from Syria shocked many in the ‎United States and the Middle East.

Is Europe Ready to Defend Itself?: Yaroslav Trofimov, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 4, 2019— The new Republican administration in Washington issued a blunt warning…

On Topic Links 

Prime Minister Denounces BDS at Town Hall Meeting (Video): Anthony Housefather, CBC, Jan. 16, 2018

The Challenges Ahead for Incoming IDF Chief of Staff Kochavi (Video): Breaking Israel News, Jan. 16, 2019

Israel Air Force Invited to First-Ever Joint Exercise With Britain’s RAF: JNS, Jan. 17, 2019

How Changing U.S. Policy Can Improve the Indo-Pacific Relationship: Brahma Chellaney, Globe & Mail, Nov. 21, 2018

 

A FULL PLATE AWAITS ISRAEL’S NEW IDF CHIEF

Yoav Limor

Algemeiner, Jan. 14, 2019

It’s not surprising that Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot spent his last night as army chief in the command bunker underneath IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, closely following the type of operation that has been synonymous with his tenure. It was full throttle up to the very last moment, one final mission before he handed in his dog tags.

As usual in the Middle East, nothing will change when Eizenkot is replaced. There’s enough Syria for everyone (and Iran, Hezbollah, Gaza, and a few other headaches). Incoming IDF chief Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi wasn’t in the command bunker Friday night — he was enjoying his last worry-free Shabbat evening — but his deputy, Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, was there as part of the process of passing the baton to the next IDF leaders.

An airstrike in Damascus on Friday, which has already been attributed to Israel, apparently targeted the logistics center Iran operates at Damascus International Airport — a separate and secured loading dock, where Iran does as it pleases. Several hours before the attack, an Iranian military plane landed in Damascus and unloaded its cargo. This was quite possibly the impetus for the strike, which according to satellite images, caused immense damage. Syria, per its custom, claimed that it shot down most of the missiles fired by Israeli warplanes. These claims don’t always need to be taken at face value. Assad also has to cater to public opinion — at home and abroad — and he has to explain (domestically) why Israel is still attacking his country unhindered. As for the international community, he has to explain why Iran is operating its own secure terminal at the airport in Damascus, as if it were in Tehran.

It was hard not to notice the Russian silence on Saturday in the wake of the rather obvious attack. Ever since the downing of the Russian spy plane last September, Israeli-Russian relations have chilled. Israel was strongly rebuked, including by accusations that it was endangering Russian forces in Syria and regional security. Relations have warmed a bit in recent weeks, and Russia turning a blind eye to the attack Friday night (which didn’t jeopardize its personnel) is a possible indication of this. Past experience teaches us that Israel, too, most likely informed the Russians prior to the operation. Israel would be wise to continue its recent policy of treading carefully as it pertains to operating in Syria. This is now Kochavi’s job.

The good tidings on the northern front were somewhat tempered on Saturday by Hamas’ video revelations regarding the IDF’s botched operation in Gaza in November. Although Hamas invested a great deal in the video, it revealed nothing new of significance. But it did provide another glimpse into the drama that unfolded that night — from the moment the undercover soldiers were detected at a Hamas roadblock, to their narrow escape under heavy air cover and the subsequent round of fighting between Israel and Hamas.

It’s safe to assume that this story isn’t over. Hamas apparently has more information, some of which can potentially cause considerable damage. The Israeli mission inquiry is proceeding apace. Initial findings have already been presented twice to Eizenkot and the head of the Military Intelligence Directorate. The investigators were asked to fill in certain blanks and, on Monday, just before Eizenkot steps out the door, these additional findings will also be presented.

The final conclusions will be up to Kochavi. In television interviews on Saturday, Eizenkot said the operation wasn’t inherently flawed, and that a chain of unfortunate events resulted in the outcome. But the information that has been accumulated thus far paints a different picture, one that raises serious questions about the operation, its approval, the conduct of the soldiers, and the makeup of their team — not to mention questions about structural changes within the unit that carried out the operation and the chain of command.

The operational inquiry (headed by Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon) will surely lead to many professional conclusions and perhaps personal ones as well. Within the unit, there’s been bad blood for the past two months, which must also be drained quickly. The operation in Gaza has already failed. Along with mitigating the fallout, it’s now time to internalize the proper lessons and turn this failure into future operational success. Kochavi will have to lead the way.

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IS THE IDF READY FOR ALL-OUT WAR?

Yaakov Lappin

BESA, Jan. 10, 2019

The question of just how ready the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is for war has dominated Israel’s headlines in recent weeks. The issue came to the fore following the stormy end to the 10-year tenure of IDF Ombudsman Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Brick. Brick released a scathing report and multiple statements claiming that the military’s ground forces are grossly underprepared for conflict. He went so far as to say, during an address to the Knesset’s State Control Committee, that “the IDF is undergoing a process of deterioration that has reached its peak in recent years.”

Brick’s alarming assessments have been outright rejected by military chiefs, including outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot and the Commanding Officer of the ground forces, Maj. Gen. Kobi Barak. While Eizenkot has ordered the military to examine Brick’s claims, he has consistently affirmed that the IDF’s war readiness has improved dramatically in recent years. Eizenkot focused his four years as Chief of Staff on improving readiness, meaning that Brick’s criticisms are being leveled directly at the heart of his efforts and legacy.

Dr. Eado Hecht, a researcher at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, is a defense analyst specializing in military theory and military history and a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan. Hecht also lectures at the IDF Command and General Staff College. In conversation with the author, Hecht agreed with Brick and other critical voices who think the IDF is unprepared – but added that this is not a zero-sum argument. “There are areas in which the IDF has done excellent work, and there is a reason why foreign militaries come here to learn from it,” said Hecht. “On the other hand, there are areas in which the IDF is not good enough.”

Hecht explained that the way in which Brick and military command measure war readiness is different. To understand this difference, it’s necessary to dive into the IDF’s history. The Second Lebanon War of 2006, Hecht said, was the second-lowest point in the history of Israel’s military. The lowest was in the years 1950-53. “The difference between these two points is that while in 1950 to 1953, the IDF did not know how to conduct routine security missions and did not know how to conduct major wars, in 2006, the IDF knew how to do continuous security in an excellent manner,” Hecht said. “Hence, it defeated the Palestinians in the ‘Ebb and Flow’ War [the so-called ‘Al-Aqsa Intifada’ of 2000 to 2006].”

However, it was during those years of the Al-Aqsa Intifada that new concepts were taking hold regarding the future of warfare. The concepts were that there will be no “big, high-intensity wars” anymore, and in the unlikely event that such wars do occur, they should be fought with high-quality intelligence and through the use of long-range firepower, mostly delivered by fighter jet, to destroy enemy targets. As a result, “the IDF deliberately neglected the necessary requirements for ground combat,” said Hecht. By the time Lt. Gen. (ret.) Dan Halutz became Chief of Staff in 2005, the ground forces had suffered major neglect, leading to significant failures in the war that erupted with Hezbollah the following summer.

The strategic gains Israel received from that war came “despite tactical failures,” noted Hecht. Those failures led the next Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. (ret.) Gabi Ashkenazi, to demand a “return to basics” for the ground forces. They underwent a major upgrade during Ashkenazi’s tenure. But then, under the leadership of Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. (ret.) Benny Gantz, this trend was stopped. The older trend of focusing on airpower and intelligence, which dominated before the Second Lebanon War, made a comeback, according to Hecht. The current outgoing Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, “brought back Ashkenazi’s trend,” Hecht said. “However, the reference point for Eizenkot and the General Staff compares today’s IDF to the military of 2006. Brick’s reference points compare today’s IDF to the military when it was at its peak, 40 to 50 years ago.”

The bottom line, said Hecht, is that compared to its performance in 2006, the IDF of 2019 has “undergone a terrific improvement.” At the same time, he warned, there is a need to take stock of the growing threat posed by Hezbollah, which today is equivalent to some five infantry divisions, in terms of relative power. “Hezbollah is like the PLO and the Syrian army in Lebanon in 1982 combined. True, they [Hezbollah] do not have tanks, but they have many things that the Syrians and the PLO did not have then,” said Hecht, pointing to powerful guided anti-tank missiles as one example. “They are moving ahead with the fortification of southern Lebanon at a scale that did not exist before, and they are much more professional and skilled than the PLO was back then,” he said.

According to public sources, in 2006, Hezbollah’s forces in southern Lebanon were equal to perhaps two infantry brigades, and the organization was armed with far fewer anti-tank missiles, mortars, and other powerful weapons. Hezbollah today is some six times more powerful than what it was in 2006, said Hecht…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

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A ONE-TIME OPPORTUNITY FOR ISRAEL IN THE GOLAN?

Michael Oren

JNS, Dec. 25, 2018

Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw ‎American troops from Syria shocked many in the ‎United States and the Middle East. In Israel, ‎most of the public discourse about this decision revolves around the ‎challenges of this process, but we seem to be ‎largely ignoring the question of what opportunities ‎it may present: For one, could Israel, as ‎compensation, secure a pledge from Washington to ‎help it in times of war and on other vital ‎diplomatic issues?‎

Given the recent discovery of Hezbollah’s grid of ‎terror tunnels and Iran’s attempts to upgrade its ‎offensive capabilities, it is reasonable to assume ‎that Israel is closer than it has ever been in the ‎last decade to a war in the northern sector. This could prove highly complex from a ‎military standpoint and even a legal-diplomatic one: Most of Hezbollah’s arsenal of 130,000 projectiles is hidden under civilian homes. ‎Neutralizing them would require investing ‎considerable military resources and likely ‎entail large civilian losses.‎

It is important to remember that in the last four ‎military campaigns since 2006, Israel has had to ask ‎the United States for additional ammunition, and we ‎would probably have to do the same in a future war. ‎Israel would also likely need diplomatic and legal ‎backing to defend it against condemnations in ‎the UN Security Council and the International ‎Criminal Court.‎

The same opportunity exists regarding the situation ‎opposite Hamas in the Gaza Strip: Israel can win ‎a US commitment for the post-Hamas era ‎there. Naturally, the IDF is capable of removing ‎Hamas from the Gaza Strip on its own, but the ‎question is who would take its place. ‎Understandings could be reached with the ‎United States — and through it, the Sunni world — on Gaza’s rehabilitation and the ‎establishment of an economic infrastructure for the civilian population there.‎

As Israel prepares for military campaigns in its ‎north and south, as part of my position as ‎deputy minister for public diplomacy at the Prime ‎Minister’s Office I am promoting a first-of-its-kind initiative to develop the Golan Heights. ‎The goal is to have more than 100,000 Israelis move ‎to the area over the next decade, thereby increasing ‎the Israeli population there by five times, and to ‎establish the necessary industrial and ‎transportation infrastructure for such a move.‎ My efforts have already gained widespread ‎support domestically and internationally.

Now, ‎given the fragile situation in Syria, Israel must ‎reach a comprehensive understanding with the US on ‎recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan ‎Heights. This would send a message to our ‎enemies about the decisive American position on the eternal Israeli ownership of the Golan ‎Heights.‎ It would be a good idea to make a large portion of ‎these commitments public in multiple languages. Such ‎a move would bolster America’s somewhat bruised ‎image in the Middle East, and even reinforce its ‎ability to promote diplomatic processes and its ‎position as a very effective mediator in possible ‎peace negotiations. ‎

It is no secret that during the Obama ‎administration, the United States lost some of its status ‎in the region. The Trump administration has taken ‎several steps — from striking Syrian assets in ‎response to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s use ‎of chemical weapons to pulling out of the 2015 ‎nuclear deal with Iran — to improve this situation. ‎A commitment to aid Israel would be a continuation ‎of this policy of improvement, presenting multiple ‎possibilities not only for Israel but also for the ‎Trump administration. The recent changes in the region present a one-time ‎opportunity for Israel, and we should take advantage ‎of it.

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IS EUROPE READY TO DEFEND ITSELF?

Yaroslav Trofimov

Wall Street Journal, Jan. 4, 2019

The new Republican administration in Washington issued a blunt warning: Unless Europe quickly set up its own unified army, the U.S. would be compelled to undertake an “agonizing reappraisal” of its commitment to defend its European allies.

The year was 1953, and the main target of American ire was France, whose delay in ratifying the European Defense Community treaty, signed the previous year, meant that preparations for a federal European army had to be paused. But the pressure applied by the Eisenhower administration backfired spectacularly: A joyous choir of French lawmakers broke into the “Marseillaise” when France’s parliament finally rejected the treaty in August 1954. The idea of a joint European defense policy was shelved for decades.

Today, the push for European autonomy in defense—and even for a common European Union army—is gathering momentum again, in part because of doubts in many European capitals about President Donald Trump’s willingness to defend the continent against a renewed threat from Russia. Mr. Trump’s abrupt decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, which prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to resign, has added new urgency to the drive.

This time around, the revival of European defense integration is championed by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, while the American president keeps lobbing angry tweets at the very idea. And inside Europe, the skeptics today aren’t in Paris but in the former Soviet vassal-states in the east that, despite all their misgivings, still view the U.S. as the only credible guarantor of their survival as independent nations. A historic swing in Europe’s public opinion, particularly in Germany—the EU’s most powerful state and one where trans-Atlantic cooperation was the bedrock of the political consensus since the end of World War II—has fueled this change.

Mr. Trump has described the EU as a “foe” and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as “obsolete,” and he has publicly questioned why American soldiers should die for a NATO ally like Montenegro. One recent opinion poll showed that Germans now rank Mr. Trump as the greatest threat to their country. In another, 73% of Germans described their relationship with the U.S. as “bad,” and 72% wanted a foreign policy more independent from Washington’s. “The shift in public opinion is due to a mix of disappointment and fear,” said Volker Perthes, director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, a think tank that advises the German government and parliament. “There is a fear that the U.S. will be less interested in Europe, and that the security commitments of the U.S. will no longer be reliable.” It was in this political environment that Ms. Merkel told the European Parliament in a landmark speech in November: “The times when we could fully rely on others have ended.…If we Europeans want to survive as a community, we must make a greater effort to take our destiny into our own hands.”

Achieving such “strategic autonomy” became the EU’s official policy in 2016. Though calls by Mr. Macron and Ms. Merkel for a European army are largely rhetorical so far, several concrete initiatives to achieve that goal have been launched since then. Probably most significant is the $15 billion European Defense Fund, which aims to spur Europe’s military industry and could limit the influence of American weapons manufacturers. Another new initiative is the so-called Permanent Structured Cooperation system, under which European armies seek to remove the barriers to joint action that stem from fielding so many different—and often incompatible—types of weapons. Addressing a frequently voiced demand of Mr. Trump, European governments have also raised their defense spending to get closer to the NATO target of 2% of each country’s GDP.

On the face of it, there is no reason why an economic giant like the EU shouldn’t be able to protect itself against Russia even without American help. Setting aside Britain (which seeks to continue to cooperate with the EU on security and defense even after leaving the bloc), the remaining EU’s population and defense budgets are roughly three times Russia’s size. France, the EU’s military powerhouse, spends almost as much as Russia on defense just by itself and operates an independent nuclear arsenal. All those sums, of course, are dwarfed by the U.S., whose military budget is nearly double the defense spending of the EU (minus the departing U.K.) and Russia combined. “Europe is addicted to the American security umbrella,” said Bruno Tertrais, deputy director of the Foundation for Strategic Research, a think tank that advises the French government. “But if the U.S. weren’t there, Europe would have found a way to defend itself.”

Yet there is a Catch-22 that makes these aspirations risky. Building up European defenses after seven decades of American protection would take time. Meanwhile, every move that Europe attempts in this direction spurs an American backlash, further undermining NATO’s cohesion—and its deterrent capacity against a rapidly militarizing Russia. “We have to hedge. But it is a very tricky situation: When does the hedge become a wedge?” said François Heisbourg, a veteran French expert who advised Mr. Macron’s presidential campaign on security and defense…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

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On Topic Links

Prime Minister Denounces BDS at Town Hall Meeting (Video): Anthony Housefather, CBC, Jan. 16, 2018—At last night’s town hall meeting at Brock University, PM Justin Trudeau was asked to apologize for opposing BDS. Instead, he gave yet another forceful denunciation of a movement which makes pro-Israel students and, in particular, many Jewish students feel uncomfortable on college campuses and holds Israel to a different standard.

The Challenges Ahead for Incoming IDF Chief of Staff Kochavi (Video): Breaking Israel News, Jan. 16, 2019—Aviv Kochavi became the 22nd Chief of Staff of the IDF. As he assumes one of the most demanding jobs in the world, here’s a look at some challenges ahead of him.

Israel Air Force Invited to First-Ever Joint Exercise With Britain’s RAF: JNS, Jan. 17, 2019—Israel’s air force is to take part in its first-ever joint drill with the Royal Air Force in Britain in the most open level of cooperation between the two forces yet, The Jewish Chronicle reported on Tuesday.

How Changing U.S. Policy Can Improve the Indo-Pacific Relationship: Brahma Chellaney, Globe & Mail, Nov. 21, 2018—The Indo-Pacific is emerging as the centre of global power and wealth, with security dynamics changing rapidly in the region.

 

WITH SYRIA’S RECAPTURE OF SOUTHWEST, RUSSIA & HEZBOLLAH LOOK TO ESTABLISH PRESENCE ON ISRAEL’S BORDER

Moscow on the Golan: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 9, 2018 — Russia has deployed Military Police to eight observation points on the Golan.

Hezbollah Likely to Replace ISIS North of Israel: Yoav Limor, JNS, Aug. 6, 2018 — The Syrian army is expected to complete its takeover of the country’s southwest, near the border with Israel, in the coming days, according to the IDF.

The Great British Foreign Office Fantasy: Douglas Murray, Gatestone Institute, July 24, 2018— According to the British Foreign Office, the Golan Heights are ‘occupied’.

A Top Syrian Scientist Is Killed, and Fingers Point at Israel: David M. Halbfinger and Ronen Bergman, New York Times, Aug. 6, 2018— Aziz Asbar was one of Syria’s most important rocket scientists, bent on amassing an arsenal of precision-guided missiles that could be launched with pinpoint accuracy against Israeli cities hundreds of miles away.

On Topic Links

Expert Warns of Negative Consequences for Israel From Assad’s Takeover of Border Area: Benjamin Kerstein, Algemeiner, July 31, 2018

Neutralized at the Last Minute: Yoav Limor, Israel Hayom, Aug. 9, 2018

The Coming Battle for Idlib: Mona Alami, Al-Monitor, August 2, 2018

A Sliver of Good News for Israel from the Trump–Putin Summit: Mosaic, July 24, 2018

 

MOSCOW ON THE GOLAN

Editorial

Jerusalem Post, Aug. 9, 2018

 

Russia has deployed Military Police to eight observation points on the Golan. For the first time, Israeli and Russian forces are directly across from each other at a border. This has the makings of a new strategic alignment in Syria, potentially reducing Iran’s presence and bringing stability, or the opposite – increasing tensions with Moscow and its rising power in the region.

Over the last five years as Russia deepened its involvement in support of its ally in Damascus, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has navigated a complex conflict through high-level bilateral discussions in Moscow. This involves a relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin that is based on many visits and discussions – and respect between the two countries and their interests.

Although Israel and Russia do not always see eye to eye on Syria, and although Russia has tensions with Jerusalem’s closest ally in Washington, a beneficial relationship has nevertheless been created. During the conflict, this was built on de-confliction and understandings about southern Syria. Potential conflict was reduced and Moscow emphasized that it understood Israel’s concerns about Iran. But Iran is an ally of Bashar Assad and therefore a partner of Moscow in the Syrian war. It is also part of the Astana talks that have sought to advance some kind of an agreement in Syria between Russia, Turkey and Iran.

Israel is never part of these discussions; its dialogue about Syria is always one-on-one, either with Moscow or with Washington. Israel doesn’t speak to Tehran or Damascus, but it can make its views known through third-party channels. Reports indicate that this has happened as Israel uses a variety of public statements – and sometimes threats, private channels and kinetic power, including air strikes – to make its policies clear.

Israel and Russia have now reached an understanding regarding the 1974 cease-fire lines on the Golan. Israeli Ambassador to Russia Gary Koren met Russian journalists recently in southern Russia. “We coordinated the arrangement under which Russia pledged to make sure, as it were, that the Syrian Army will not cross the cease-fire line established under the 1974 agreement,” he said, according to the Russian news agency Tass. “It looks like everything is functioning for the time being.”

Jerusalem still demands that all Iranian troops be withdrawn from Syria. Alexander Lavrentiev, Putin’s special envoy to Syria, has indicated that Iranian forces and the militias linked to it have withdrawn 85 km. from the border. “There are no units of heavy equipment and weapons that could pose a threat to Israel at a distance of 85 km. from the line of demarcation,” he was quoted as saying.

With Russian observers on the Golan, the chance of chaos and instability directly in the border area is reduced. This is because it is in Moscow’s interest that Syria not be destabilized by Israeli retaliation for any sort of violation of the 1974 lines. In the first days after the Syrian regime returned to the border in July, there were scenes of jubilation. Assad’s image and government flags were waved from Quneitra. In addition, Syrian media reports that residents are returning to the border area. The concern is that Iran or Hezbollah may try to exploit this return.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman was at the border area on Tuesday visiting with the Armored Corps on the Golan Heights and meeting with chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot. He stressed that the Syrian Army is being strengthened and that the regime wants to fully control its territory. This was a way to indicate that the Assad regime is strong enough to control its own territory and therefore does not need Iran and Iranian-backed militias to help it control areas. The regime has leaned on Iran under the notion that it needed its ally to defeat the rebels and ISIS. But Liberman was asserting that now that the regime is strong enough, it’s time for the Iranians and all their tentacles to go home.

At the Knesset on Wednesday, Eisenkot said the IDF was better prepared than it has been in the last 20 years. Israel has a military edge over its opponents and has developed the best weapons systems to defend against threats and strike the enemy. Nevertheless, Israel’s enemies will always seek new ways to carry out attacks. To restrain them, Jerusalem can work judiciously with Moscow and also with Washington to prevent the next war.

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HEZBOLLAH LIKELY TO REPLACE ISIS NORTH OF ISRAEL

Yoav Limor

                                                JNS, Aug. 6, 2018

 

The Syrian army is expected to complete its takeover of the country’s southwest, near the border with Israel, in the coming days, according to the IDF. This will allegedly restore a familiar situation, in which Syria’s regime is once again stable, even if under the auspices of Russia.

On it’s face, this would seem to be an ideal situation — especially if reality on the ground reverts to the one that existed before the war began in 2011, when Syria and Israel both adhered to the 1974 cease-fire agreement in full. This would restore peace and quiet to the Golan Heights, which could once again become Israel’s most tranquil frontier.

The key word here is “if.” Unfortunately, the chances of this becoming reality are slim. The Syrian army may regain control on the ground, but it will not be the only armed presence near the border. Russia will be there, too, and its presence is both a blessing and a curse. The Russian presence — ostensibly meant to inspire restraint on all sides — will only be effective if Russia agrees to act on Israeli intelligence and thwart anti-Israeli incidents. But if the Russians prove to be a modern version of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon — which sees no evil, hears no evil, and speaks no evil —  then Israel will find itself in a terrible predicament, as its presence will make it difficult for Israel to act independently.

Russia, however, is the easy part. The bigger problems are Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah. Iranian forces are unlikely to be able to reach the Syria-Israel border, because Israel, Russia, and even Syria — which would prefer not to be dragged into a conflict with Israel — will work to prevent that from happening. Israel insists on the complete removal of Iranian forces from Syria, which is unlikely to happen. The last Russian offer on that issue was to keep Iran 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the border. This can be used as a starting point for negotiations, but those will be exhausted sooner rather than later.

Hezbollah is a different story. The Iranian-backed Shiite terrorist group is already in Syria. Its operatives are fighting alongside the Syrian army, and it has several hundred local villagers on its payroll. This was a strategic decision by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who wants to turn the Golan border into an active war zone with Israel.

Hezbollah is likely to employ its familiar methods: joining local militias, importing its tactical abilities — anti-tank missiles, explosives, and snipers — from Lebanon, and importing ground troops. The first stage has already been completed, the second stage is in full swing, and — unless Hezbollah is stopped — the third stage will become a reality in a few short years.

Stopping Hezbollah in its tracks is Israel’s main challenge, and doing so will become exponentially more difficult once the Syrian civil war officially ends. Until now, Israel has been able to use the chaos north of the border to eliminate any risk from that direction, but once the war ends, any Israeli use of force would have to be justified to other parties.

Legitimizing Israeli operations on this front is likely to become far more complex, and the risk for a security escalation will be greater. This will require Israel to use more carrots and sticks opposite everyone involved, as well as adamantly enforce its red lines.

Israel will also soon end the humanitarian-aid campaign that it has been carrying out on the border. The IDF hopes that the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force stationed in the buffer zone between Israel and Syria will be able to resume its operations in full, both lending a hand to the local Syrian population, and providing them with an incentive not to back the anti-Israeli elements in the area. But the situation for Israel looks to be extremely perilous.

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                 THE GREAT BRITISH FOREIGN OFFICE FANTASY    

                                                  Douglas Murray

                                                Gatestone Institute, July 24, 2018

 

According to the British Foreign Office, the Golan Heights are ‘occupied’. They have been ‘occupied’ — according to the logic of the UK Foreign Office — since 1967, when Israel took the land from the invading forces of Syria. Ever since then, the Israelis have had the benefit of this strategic position and the Syrian regime has not. This fact, half a century on, still strikes the British Foreign Office as regrettable, and a wrong to be righted in due course.

Of course, since the onset of the Syrian civil war in 2011, the official position of the UK government has become ever-harder to justify. For example, if the Israeli government were at some point over the last seven years suddenly to have listened to the wisdom of the Foreign Office in London and handed over the strategic prize of the Golan, to whom should it have handed it? Should Israel be persuaded to hand over the territory to the Assad regime in Damascus? It is true that, throughout the course of the Syrian civil war, the one bit of territory to which the Syrian regime has laid claim and which it has not been able to barrel-bomb and otherwise immiserate the people there has been the Golan Heights. Only in the Golan has anybody in this ‘Greater Syria’ been able to live free from the constant threat of massacre and ethnic, religious or political cleansing.

Other candidates for the territory naturally presented themselves across the same time-frame. The armies of ISIS came right up to the villages on the Syrian side along the borders of the Golan. There, they were able to bring that form of peace-through-barbarism which the world has come to know well. If ISIS had triumphed in the Syrian conflict rather than suffering repeated set-backs, would the UK Foreign Office have handed them the territory by way of reparational justice, or victor’s prize? If not them, then perhaps the armies of Iran or Russia could have been the recipients of this feat of restorative diplomacy? Perhaps anyone who wished to lay claim to the Golan could have had it. So long as it was not the Israelis.

The ongoing madness of the British Foreign Office’s position has been highlighted in recent days thanks to a request which came from the British government, as well as the governments in other European capitals and in Washington. A request which also involved the Golan.

Over the weekend, it emerged that the British government was among foreign governments to have made a dramatic request of the Israelis. As the war in Syria appears to be clarifying towards its end-point, a group of around 800 members of the ‘White Helmets’ and their families had reportedly become trapped near the southwestern border near the Golan Heights. The White Helmets only operate in ‘rebel areas’ and are despised by the Assad regime. With Syrian government forces moving in, a massacre may well have been about to occur.

At the request of these foreign governments, the Israelis just carried out an extraordinary and unprecedented mission. In recent days, a reported 422 of the intended evacuees and their family members were saved by the Israelis. The other — almost half — of the intended number appears already to have been cut off by other forces. Nevertheless, those who did make it out were transferred by Israeli forces across the Golan and have now reportedly arrived safely in Jordan where their future status will be determined. Some may stay in Jordan; others will be moved abroad to Western countries.

The painful irony of this situation should be clear to all observers. If the Israelis did not lay claim to the Golan, there would have been no means to have got the White Helmets and their families out of Syria. Had Israel not made the Golan the peaceful and thriving area it is, it would simply be another part of Syria in which different sectarian groups were slaughtering other sectarian groups.

As it is, the area is in the control of Britain’s most reliable ally in the region. An ally which — even as it is lectured by Britain — agrees to requests from the British government that takes advantage of a strategic reality, one which the British government still refuses to accept. The Israeli government has given the British government what it wanted. Perhaps now would be a good time for the British government to reciprocate in some way? There could be no better means of doing so than by admitting that the British policy of the last half a century has been a Foreign Office fantasy and a wholesale dud of ‘realist’ regional thinking. The Foreign Office will have to back out of its self-imposed corner regarding the Golan at some point and accept the reality on the ground. How much better it would be if it did so now in a spirit of goodwill and reciprocity, rather than later on in a spirit of inevitable and grudging defeat.

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A TOP SYRIAN SCIENTIST IS KILLED, AND FINGERS POINT AT ISRAEL

David M. Halbfinger and Ronen Bergman

New York Times, Aug. 6, 2018

 

Aziz Asbar was one of Syria’s most important rocket scientists, bent on amassing an arsenal of precision-guided missiles that could be launched with pinpoint accuracy against Israeli cities hundreds of miles away. He had free access to the highest levels of the Syrian and Iranian governments, and his own security detail. He led a top-secret weapons-development unit called Sector 4 and was hard at work building an underground weapons factory to replace one destroyed by Israel last year. On Saturday, he was killed by a car bomb — apparently planted by Mossad, the Israeli spy agency.

It was at least the fourth assassination mission by Israel in three years against an enemy weapons engineer on foreign soil, a senior official from a Middle Eastern intelligence agency confirmed on Monday. The following account is based on information provided by the official, whose agency was informed about the operation. He spoke only on the condition of anonymity to discuss a highly classified operation.

The attack took place on Saturday night in Masyaf, where Syria’s military research organization maintains one of its most important weapons-development facilities. It quickly prompted finger pointing at Israel by both Syria and Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based Islamic militant group whose fighters have played a major role in the Syrian civil war on the side of President Bashar al-Assad. In this case, the accusations were well founded: The Mossad had been tracking Mr. Asbar for a long time, according to the Middle Eastern intelligence official.

The Israelis believed that Mr. Asbar led the secret unit known as Sector 4 at the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center. He was said to have free access to the presidential palace in Damascus and had been collaborating with Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, commander of Iran’s Quds Force, and other Iranians to begin production of precision-guided missiles in Syria by retrofitting heavy Syrian SM600 Tishreen rockets. Mr. Asbar was also working on a solid-fuel plant for missiles and rockets, a safer alternative to liquid fuel.

An official from Syria and Iran’s alliance, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to Western journalists, said he believed Israel had wanted to kill Mr. Asbar because of the prominent role he played in Syria’s missile program even before the current conflict broke out in 2011.

Under Israeli law, the prime minister alone is authorized to approve an assassination operation, euphemistically known as “negative treatment” within the Mossad. Spokesmen for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman did not respond to requests for comment on Monday. Mr. Lieberman, however, earlier in the day dismissed suggestions in the Syrian and Lebanese news media that Israel was behind the blast, which also killed Mr. Asbar’s driver. “Every day in the Middle East there are hundreds of explosions and settling of scores,” he told Israel’s Channel 2 News. “Every time, they try to place the blame on us. So we won’t take this too seriously.”

As one of the directors of Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center, Mr. Asbar had for years been active in the Assad regime’s chemical-weapons production program, working mainly in Al Safir, outside of Aleppo, and in the city of Masyaf, west of Hama, farther to the south. He was also involved in coordinating Iranian and Hezbollah activities in Syria, according to the intelligence official. More recently, as leader of Sector 4, Mr. Asbar was primarily engaged in adapting Syria’s arsenal of low-technology rockets to make them capable of striking long-range targets with far greater accuracy — a danger that Israel has devoted enormous energy and resources to countering.

Israel is making a broad effort against Iranian and Hezbollah forces, which it began after their forces entered Syria to help the Assad government battle rebel fighters. The fear in Jerusalem is that, after the civil war ends, those forces would turn their energies against Israel. Israeli officials also worry that Iran might seek to create a permanent presence inside Syria, effectively creating a second front along Israel’s northern border.

The Iranian presence in Syria is deeply troubling to Israel. Israel’s air force has repeatedly attacked targets in Syria that it sees as a strategic threat. Among them are weapons storehouses for Iran and Hezbollah; convoys carrying arms from Iran to Syria and Hezbollah; bases for Shiite militias from Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps; and Syrian air bases used to house Iranian aerial vehicles. The Israelis also discovered that weapons factories were being set up in facilities of the Scientific Studies and Research Center for the benefit of Mr. Assad’s forces, Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps stationed in Syria. Last September, Israel attacked and destroyed most of the weapons factory in Masyaf where Mr. Asbar was a senior manager. This summer, though, the Iranians began to rebuild it, this time underground. In the meantime, production machines had been transferred elsewhere for storage. But Israel destroyed many of those in a missile strike on July 23.

Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center has long been a focus of Western intelligence agencies and is subject to financial sanctions in the United States and France. Before the civil war, it operated Syria’s main manufacturing and storage sites for chemical weapons, many of which have since been destroyed or abandoned. It employed around 10,000 people developing and producing missiles, chemical, biological and nuclear weapons…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

Contents

On Topic Links

Expert Warns of Negative Consequences for Israel From Assad’s Takeover of Border Area: Benjamin Kerstein, Algemeiner, July 31, 2018 —Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s successful takeover of the area adjacent to the border with Israel marks a “very painful strategic failure” for the Jewish state, an Israeli expert told The Algemeiner on Tuesday.

Neutralized at the Last Minute: Yoav Limor, Israel Hayom, Aug. 9, 2018 —The final stage of the Syrian civil war offers an opportunity, maybe the last one, for any entity that wants to eliminate threats without paying too high a price. The moment the war officially ends, which will happen soon, everything will become more complicated, from airstrikes to assassinations.

The Coming Battle for Idlib: Mona Alami, Al-Monitor, August 2, 2018—The fall of Daraa governorate, including the Golan Heights border region, to forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime on July 31 paves the way for the next battle, in Idlib.

A Sliver of Good News for Israel from the Trump–Putin Summit: Mosaic, July 24, 2018—A week before the U.S.–Russia meeting in Helsinki, Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Moscow to meet with Vladimir Putin in an attempt to secure some guarantees for Israel in southern Syria, and later reported the terms they had settled upon to Donald Trump.

REMEMBER/ZACHOR: DANIEL PEARL Z”L, STALINGRAD; THE JEWISH GOLAN, ISRAELI SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Download Today's Isranet Daily Briefing.pdf 

 

Contents:                          

 

(Please Note: articles may have been shortened in the interest of space. Please click link for the complete article – Ed.)

 

Remembering Daniel Pearl  z”l: October 10, 1963 – February 1, 2002Daniel Pearl was kidnapped on January 23, 2003 while working as the South Asia Bureau Chief of The Wall Street Journal, based in Mumbai, India. He had gone to Pakistan as part of an investigation into the alleged links between Richard Reid (the "shoe bomber") and Al-Qaeda. He was subsequently beheaded by his captors.

 

Lest We Forget: January 31, 1943, Russian Victory at Stalingrad: Frederick Krantz, CIJR, Feb. 1, 2013We sometimes forget the key historical importance of war, and of the decisive tuning-point battles associated with wars.  Today is the sixtieth anniversary of the great Russian victory over Nazi Germany at Stalingrad (today Volgograd), a decisive turning-point in the Second World War.

 

Israel 21C’s Top Ten Science & Technology Stories of 2012: Nicky Blackburn, Israel 21C, Dec. 24, 2012—If you read the world’s newspapers, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the only things happening in Israel this year were security related: the looming threat of a conflict with Iran, missiles from Gaza and unrest on Israel’s borders. The pages of ISRAEL21c, however, tell a completely different story.

To Whom Does the Golan Heights Belong?: Moshe Dann, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 30, 2013—Referred to as “Bashan” in the Bible, the Golan Heights was considered part of the Land of Israel. Its main city, “Golan in Bashan,” (Deuteronomy 4:43, Joshua 21:27) was designated a “City of Refuge” (for those who had committed involuntary manslaughter). The area was assigned to the tribe of Menashe (Joshua 13:29-31).

 

On Topic Links

 

Watering a Thirsty Planet: I.C. Mayer, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Feb. 20, 2011

Good News for Knees: Abigail Klein Leichman, Israel 21C, Jan. 15, 2013

Top Ten Israeli Advances Against Alzheimer’s Disease: Abigail Klein Leichman, Israel 21c,  Sept. 2, 2012

Top Ten Facebook Apps From Israel: Brian Blum, Israel 21c, August 29, 2012

Israeli Pharmacologist Kick-Started Marijuana Research: Abigail Klein Leichman, Israel 21c, May 14, 2012 

 

 

REMEMBERING DANIEL PEARL   z”l

 

October 10, 1963 – February 1, 2002

 

“Civilized society, so it seems,

is so numbed by violence that it has lost its gift to be disgusted by evil.”

 

Judea Pearl, Father

 

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LEST WE FORGET: JANUARY 31, 1943, 

RUSSIAN VICTORY AT STALINGRAD

Frederick Krantz

CIJR, Feb. 1, 2013

 

We sometimes forget the key historical importance of war, and of the decisive tuning-point battles associated with wars.  Today is the sixtieth anniversary of the great Russian victory over Nazi Germany at Stalingrad (today Volgograd), a decisive turning-point in the Second World War.

 

    On January 31, 1943, as his troops, under-supplied and out-gunned, froze to death in -45 degree C. temperatures, German Field-Marshal Friedrich von Paulus surrendered to Soviet forces after what has been termed the “most desperate battle in history”, the Russians’ six-month struggle against von Paulus’ 280,000-strong Sixth Army.

 

   Fought at Stalingrad, in southern Russia, near the Caspian Sea and the gateway to the Caucasus’ rich oil fields, along a 25-mile long Volga River front, the contending armies fought a desperate, six-months’ long battle. Both dictators, Hitler and Stalin, locked in personal as well as political-military struggle, had proclaimed “death until victory”.

 

    Stalingrad cost a total of some two million mostly-Russian lives, military and civilian, from its beginning in July-August 1942 to the final surrender of the complete Sixth Army on February 2, 1943 (one Soviet division of 10,000 men was reduced, in a few weeks of fighting, to 320 survivors; and NKVD security troops, on Stalin’s orders, shot  13,500 fleeing soldiers and civilians).

   Led by General, later Marshal, Georgi Zhukov (author, later, of the biography “The Man Who Beat Hitler”), Soviet troops first surrounded von Paulus, and then imposed a decisive defeat on him and Hitler’s Germany. German soldiers called it the Rattenkrieg, “rat’s war”, continuous hand-to-hand combat, and Vassili Grossman, the famous Soviet journalist and author of the great novel Life and Fate, who was there,  described “an iron whirlwind howling over the bunkers and slicing through anything living that raised its head above the earth”.

 

    Twenty-four German generals, in addition to von Paulus, were captured, along with the 91,000 survivors of the once-proud Wehrmacht’s Sixth Army invaders (of whom only 9,626 ever made it back to Germany).

 

   Stalingrad (today called Volgograd) was the key turning point of World War II, as Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin understood. It was here, and not in the later 1944 Allied landings in Normandy, that Hitler’s war to make the German ”Aryan” master-race the rulers of the world, was effectively lost.

 

   The Allied campaigns from North Africa to Italy to France, were of course of great importance in the European theater, not least in tying down Wehrmacht divisions and war materiel, including tanks and aircraft. But it was the Russians, suffering ca.20 million casualties, military and civilian, from 1941-45, who bore the brunt of World War II.  From Stalingrad, Marshal Zhukov would lead the great Soviet Western counter-offensive which would, finally, end in Berlin, and Hitler’s suicide in his bunker there, in April, 1945.

 

   It is an unimaginable sacrifice that must never be forgotten.  Had von Paulus and Nazi Germany prevailed at Stalingrad, the entire course of the war might well have been changed, with immense consequences for Western, and indeed, world, civilization.
 

(Prof. Frederick Krantz is Editor of the Daily Isranet Briefing,

and Director of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)

 

 

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ISRAEL 21C’S TOP TEN SCIENCE &
TECHNOLOGY STORIES OF 2012

Nicky Blackburn

Israel 21C, Dec. 24, 2012
 

If you read the world’s newspapers, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the only things happening in Israel this year were security related: the looming threat of a conflict with Iran, missiles from Gaza and unrest on Israel’s borders. The pages of ISRAEL21c, however, tell a completely different story. Imaginative, exciting and dynamic – Israelis were at the forefront of cutting-edge developments in hundreds of different fields this year, pushing the boundaries in art and culture, biotech, medicine, the environment, science and technology.

Already famous for their technological innovations, Israeli companies brought dozens of groundbreaking new technologies to market, from inventive mobile apps to cardboard bikes, invisible keyboards and technology that can protect our runways. Israeli physicians and researchers were just as hard at work, making significant breakthroughs in cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, infertility, viruses and asthma. From prizes in medicine and science, to awards for developments in the fields of world hunger, solar energy, desertification and water reclamation, Israeli entrepreneurs gained worldwide recognition.

Israel was also there to help in the wake of global disasters, from Haiti to Kenya, Ghana to Japan. When Hurricane Sandy devastated the US east coast, Israelis were among the few foreigners to send aid. It was also a year when Israel itself came into the spotlight. Tourism rose to its highest level as visitors came to enjoy the country’s hugely varied landscape. National Geographic magazine called the Israel National Trail, stretching 1,000 kilometers from the Red Sea to Israel’s northernmost point, one of the “holy grails of trails across the world.” Lonely Planet chose the Negev Desert second on its top 10 list of regions to visit in 2013.

Tel Aviv won many accolades. Lonely Planet included the beach city on its list of Ultimate Party Cities, and as one of the Top Ten Hedonistic City Breaks. The Huffington Post named it among the eight Best Beach Cities in the world. The Globe and Mail listed it as one of the world’s most creative cities, Master Card named Tel Aviv among the world’s top destinations in 2012, Travelers Digest announced it was home to the most beautiful people in the world, and Condé Nast dubbed it one of the best cities for architecture.

To help you relive an exciting year of development and culture, ISRAEL21c brings you its top 10 most-read stories of the year, giving you a small taste of how a tiny country in the Middle East is helping to change the world.

1. Made in Israel – the Top 64 innovations developed in Israel: To celebrate Israel’s 64th birthday, ISRAEL21c put together a list of the top 64 developments that have come out of Israel since it was founded.  Most people already know that the ubiquitous Disk-on-Key was developed in Israel, but did you know that Windows NT and XP operating systems were primarily developed here? We take a look at some of the country’s best innovations, from Copaxone and Sambucol, to the emergency bandage, Krav Maga, Magshoe, desalination, instant messaging and the Powermat.

2. New Israeli tactic makes deadly viruses commit suicide: In September we ran a story on Vecoy Nanomedicines, a biotech company that has developed a cunning new way to disarm viruses by luring them to attack microscopic, cell-like decoys. Once inside these traps, the viruses effectively commit suicide. Today viruses are considered one of the biggest threats to humankind. In 1918, a Spanish flu outbreak killed 40 million people in two years. A new super virus could wreak even worse havoc in today’s uber-connected world, experts fear. There’s still a long road ahead, but Vecoy may have developed the solution that will keep us safe.

3. Space age rapid transit debuts in Tel Aviv: It sounds like something out of a science-fiction movie, but if all goes well, within two years Israelis will be the first to try out a futuristic rapid transport system designed by NASA’s Ames Research Center in California. The software-guided personal transport pods, designed for two, drive along a guide rail suspended from existing power lines. Magnets in the vehicle create a magnetic field around the metal coil inside the rail, causing the vehicle to lift up and glide 60 miles per hour on a cushion of air. The system uses very little energy and potentially could be powered entirely by solar panels. The goal is to build a pilot project in Israel, and then take it worldwide.

4. Top 12 ways Israel feeds the world: As the world population soars and food production dwindles, food security is becoming a major global concern. No other country in the world has contributed more breakthroughs in this field than has Israel. From drip irrigation to grain cocoons that can keep water and air out of stored crops, from biological pest control to fish farming in the desert, better strains of crops and the most advanced dairy farming techniques on the planet, Israel is leading the way, pioneering advances that could potentially keep our world from starvation.

5. Cardboard wheelchair to roll out from Israel: The inventor, Israeli entrepreneur Nimrod Elmish, started out with a low-cost cardboard bicycle made from recycled materials, but when a leading charity asked if he could also make a cardboard wheelchair, he realized it was a perfect match for his innovative technique. Now his company, I.G. Cardboard Technologies, has entered into an agreement with an international non-profit to set up a $6 million factory for the production of cardboard wheelchairs in Africa. The cost of these wheelchairs, which are made of recycled cardboard, plastic bottles, and recycled tires, is likely to be in the region of $10 each. What’s next? Cardboard toys, wagons, chairs for airplanes, and yes, even cars.

6. Israeli ice device destroys breast tumors: For nearly two years, a novel Israeli medical device has been changing the way American doctors remove fibro-adenoma tumors – benign breast lumps. Now the device, developed by IceCure Medical, is being tested for small malignant tumors as well. During an ultrasound-guided procedure, the IceSense3 probe penetrates the tumor and destroys it by engulfing it with ice. Needing only local anesthetic, the cryoablation process takes up to 10 minutes in a doctor’s office, clinic or breast center, and the patient can get up and leave afterward. No recovery period or post-care is necessary.

7. New blood test offers early cancer detection: Israeli researchers have developed a simple and cheap blood test that was found to provide early detection for many types of cancer in clinical trials. The promising new test, developed by scientists at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheva, can detect minuscule changes in the blood of a person with a cancerous growth somewhere in the body, even before the disease has spread. Early diagnosis of cancer could save thousands of lives. Every day in the United States alone, 1,500 people die of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Early detection greatly increases the chances for successful treatment.

8. Revolutionary Israeli toilet gets Gates Foundation grant: It’s an invention that could transform the developing world. Israeli company Paulee CleanTec has developed a toilet that needs no water, leaves no waste, and is powered by solar energy. The toilet, which won funds from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, turns solid waste – including toilet paper – into odorless, sterile fertilizer in 30 seconds. The fertilizer is automatically dropped into a removable canister and can be used on crops. Liquid waste will be sterilized separately and then used as gray water to flush the toilet. The Gates Foundation believes that a reinvented toilet could save millions of lives. Some 1.1 billion people don’t use a toilet, and about 80 percent of human waste goes into rivers and streams untreated.

9. Israeli medicine goes to pot: Israel today has one of the most progressive medical marijuana programs in the world. Thousands of Israelis suffering from cancer, MS, Crohn’s and chronic pain receive pot as medication. Israel’s inroads into legalizing cannabis for pain relief and managing terminal illness rest on the seminal research of an award-winning professor, Raphael Mechoulam from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. His work has inspired generations of research teams around the world to look to marijuana for alleviating medical conditions from chemo-induced nausea to chronic pain. His work also led to the discovery of anandamides, naturally occurring THC-like chemicals in the brain.

10. Non-invasive tool identifies brain disorders: One in three people suffers from a brain-related disorder such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ADHD, chronic pain or depression. But because of the complexity of the human brain, blood tests and imaging are of limited value for diagnosis or documentation of treatment. The Israeli company ElMindA could revolutionize this field by opening a new window into how the brain works. Its non-invasive BNA (brain network activation) technology, which expects FDA approval early in 2013, has shown promise in clinical studies. The procedure is simple and painless. Patients sit at a computer for 15 to 30 minutes, performing a specific task many times while the device maps network activation points in the brain. The result is a three-dimensional image of nerve cell connectivity and synchronization that is highly sensitive, specific and reproducible. The tool is sensitive enough to show subtle differences in the severity of the condition from one day to another. It can also optimize drug dosing by monitoring the changes in brain network activities as the drug takes effect.

 

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TO WHOM DOES THE GOLAN HEIGHTS BELONG?

Moshe Dann

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 30, 2013

 

Referred to as “Bashan” in the Bible, the Golan Heights was considered part of the Land of Israel. Its main city, “Golan in Bashan,” (Deuteronomy 4:43, Joshua 21:27) was designated a “City of Refuge” (for those who had committed involuntary manslaughter). The area was assigned to the tribe of Menashe (Joshua 13:29-31).

 

King Ahab of Israel (874- 852 BCE) defeated Ben- Hadad I of Damascus near Kibbutz Afik in the southern Golan (I Kings 20:26-30), and the prophet Elisha prophesied that King Yehoash of Israel (801-785 BCE) would defeat Ben-Hadad III of Damascus, also near Kibbutz Afik (II Kings 13:17).

 

During the late 6th and 5th centuries BCE, the Golan was settled by Jews returning from exile in Babylon. In the mid-2nd century BCE, Judah Maccabee and his brothers led the Jewish army to rescue Jewish communities in the Golan who were attacked by their non-Jewish neighbors (I Maccabees 5). Judah Maccabee’s grandnephew, the Hasmonean King Alexander Yannai (103-76 BCE) later added the Golan to his kingdom.

 

At the beginning of the Roman war against the Jews, the historian Josephus Flavius wrote of the siege and conquest of Gamla, the main Jewish town of the Golan, where he alleges a mass suicide took place. Excavations of the site revealed the oldest synagogue in Israel, dated to the Hasmonean period, around 80 BCE.

 

Twenty-five Jewish villages and synagogues from the Second Temple and Talmudic periods have been found throughout the Golan. Jewish life flourished there until the mid-8th century CE, when an earthquake and/or the Muslim invasion destroyed these communities.

 

Except for a few small Druse villages built during the 15th and 16th centuries, and later, Circassians, the Golan remained desolate until the late 19th and early 20th centuries when Jews bought land between the modern-day B’nei Yehuda and Kibbutz Ein Gev, on the eastern shore of Lake Kinneret.

 

This community survived until 1920, when several of its members were murdered in the anti-Jewish riots of that year; isolated and unprotected, the rest left. In 1891, Baron Rothschild purchased approximately 18,000 acres of land about 15 km. east of Ramat Hamagshimim, in what is now Syria. Between 1881 and 1903 (the “First Aliya”) Jews established five small communities in this area, but they too were driven out by Arab gangs.  In dispute between Britain and France, the Golan became part of the French Mandate after WWI, and was included in Syria when it became an independent state at the end of World War II.

 

There was little significant civilian Syrian presence on the Golan Heights during Syrian occupation; it was used primarily as a military base from which to attack settlements in the Hula Valley and, in 1965, Syria attempted to divert the sources of the Jordan River, Israel’s main water supply, almost provoking war.

 

Conquered by the IDF during the Six Day War (in 1967), it was overrun by Syrian forces in 1973 (the Yom Kippur War), reconquered by the IDF and officially annexed by Israel in 1981. Today, there are nearly three dozen Jewish communities on the Golan Heights, most on or near remnants of ancient Jewish towns. Arguments for retaining the Golan based on its strategic and military importance, or its natural resources may be overcome. Israel’s historic and legal claims, however, are unique and irrefutable.

 

Birkei Yosef (Orach Chaim 489) discusses performing mitzvot and the relative sanctity of the area east of the Jordan River (territory occupied by the tribes of Reuven, Gad and Menashe) Chazon Ish proves that wherever the 12 tribes conquered and lived is automatically considered Eretz Yisrael, by referring to the laws of shmita, the sabbatical year, which depend on all tribes living in Eretz Yisrael. If Jews living east of the Jordan River weren’t included, then shmita would not apply to any area for anyone.

 

None of the Rishonim wrote that the area east of the Jordan River is not part of Eretz Yisrael. The Ran (Nedarim 22a) writes that certain mitzvot, like omer, did not apply in areas east of the Jordan River – implying less, but not no sanctity.

 

The author is a PhD historian, writer and journalist living in Jerusalem.

 

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Watering a Thirsty Planet: I.C. Mayer, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Feb. 20, 2011 Today, the Israeli Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor lists some 166 water tech enterprises, including 91 companies offering water efficiency solutions, 50 companies specializing in wastewater reuse and desalination, and another 25 offering water control and command systems. In addition to serving the local market, Israel's water technologies can also be found throughout the world: Israeli water tech exports now total about $1.5 billion annually and the government is seeking to boost this number to $2.5 billion in 2011.

 

Good News for Knees: Abigail Klein Leichman, Israel 21C, Jan. 15, 2013If you get a cut, break a bone or scrape an elbow, your bloodstream brings the injury all the necessary nutrients for healing. But if your cartilage gets damaged, you’re out of luck. This flexible soft tissue that cushions joints – especially in the knee – has no blood vessels and therefore little ability to heal itself.

 

Top 10 Israeli Advances Against Alzheimer’s Disease: Abigail Klein Leichman, Israel 21c,  Sept. 2, 2012The amount and quality of medical research coming out of Israel is quite astounding. Advances in treating cancer, asthma, diabetes, sepsis, neurological diseases such as ALS – Israeli scientists have made their mark in all these areas and many more. So it’s not surprising that some of Israel’s best minds have been tackling the mystery of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), a fatal and progressive brain disorder that is the most common cause of dementia worldwide.

 

The Top Ten Facebook Apps From Israel: Brian Blum, Israel 21c, August 29, 2012If you can play games, share referrals, recognize friends and purchase gifts through Facebook, it’s probably thanks to an Israeli startup. When Facebook acquired Israeli facial recognition app maker Face.com for an estimated $100 million in June, it highlighted a growing category of made-in-Israel apps specifically built for the Facebook ecosystem.
 

The Israeli Pharmacologist Who Kick-Started Marijuana Research: Abigail Klein Leichman, Israel 21c, May 14, 2012 If some 7,000 Israelis can fill a prescription for marijuana to ease pain and enhance appetite, it’s only because half a century ago, Hebrew University Prof. Raphael Mechoulam isolated and synthesized THC, the main psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant.

 

 

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ISRAEL’S OTHER “PARTNER FOR PEACE”: BASHAR “THE REFORMER” ASSAD

 

 

 

THE SYRIAN CRISIS
Lee Smith
Weekly Standard, May 9, 2011

 

Now more than a month and a half after peaceful demonstrations kicked off in the small city of Deraa, the Syrian uprising gives the Obama administration another shot at getting history right. The first time was June 2009, when the people of Iran took to the streets to protest the fixed presidential elections that returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to office. But in time the protests expanded to critique every aspect of Iran’s closed society: from the lack of freedom of speech to Iran’s abysmal women’s rights to support of foreign terrorist organizations like Hezbollah. The Green Movement was a rebuke to the essential nature of Tehran’s obscurantist government. The Iranian people sought nothing less than freedom.

And the Obama administration blinked.…

What we know today is that the political aspirations of the Iranian people frustrated the administration’s plans to reach out to their rulers. According to an administration official quoted last week in the same New Yorker article that described the president’s strategy as “leading from behind,” “We were still trying to engage the Iranian government and we did not want to do anything that made us side with the protesters.”

President Obama came to office with high hopes for engaging Syria, too. He’d promised as much on the campaign trail. If George W. Bush had isolated the Assad regime after its suspected involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, an Obama White House would bring the Syrians in from the cold and show them that it was in their own best interest to change their behavior.

The problem is that, after several decades of U.S. envoys and policymakers making the pilgrimage to Damascus with the same evangelical purpose, the Assads (first the father Hafez and now the son Bashar) know how the game is played. The Americans want concrete results—like abandoning support for Hezbollah and Hamas, splitting from Iran, closing down the jihadist pipeline into Iraq—that would cost the Syrians too much. So instead the Assads promise much, give nothing, and profit handsomely from the prestige that comes to them merely from sitting at the same table as the Americans.

It is perhaps strange that a country whose most notable export is terrorism should figure so prominently in the calculations of Washington policymakers. But for the Obama White House, Syria was central. The president intended to show his bona fides to the Arab and Muslim masses by advancing the Arab-Israeli peace process, thereby dampening anti-American sentiment. As the Palestinian track faltered, Obama needed the Syrian track even more—not least because the Syrians could crash the entire peace process at any time with one spectacular act of violence against Israelis or Arabs or both. Moreover, the administration believed, progress on the peace process was a way to sideline the Iranians.

In other words, the Obama administration’s counterterrorism strategy and regional security strategy both depended on flipping Assad. The White House is essentially protecting a man who sent tanks to fire on his own people because Syria is the cornerstone of its Middle East policy.

Events have overrun the administration’s understanding of the Middle East. As it turns out, Arabs are more concerned with the governance of their own polities than with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That is why they have risen around the region to reject their autocratic leaders. It is why Syrians have braved the regime’s sniper fire and tanks to protest, “silmiyyeh, silmiyyeh,” as one of the uprising’s mottoes has it: Peaceful, peaceful.

This is Obama’s second chance to get the Middle East right, by speaking out loudly and clearly against Iran’s chief ally. Unfortunately, according to administration officials, the White House doesn’t believe it has much leverage with the Syrians. Such resignation is the natural consequence of not recognizing how the United States is truly perceived in the world: as a leader, albeit an imperfect one, and a symbol of moral clarity. If the president wants to win the respect and admiration of Arab and Muslim peoples, the opportunity has presented itself, again.…

As one Lebanese friend says, “Syria never had anything more to offer Washington than blood—the blood of Lebanese, Palestinians, Israelis, Iraqis, and Americans. Now that the regime is letting its own blood, the blood of Syrians, will the leader of the free world finally stop negotiating in blood?” A nation that has reckoned honestly with its own failings throughout its history has not only the prerogative but the duty to lead with the truth. The danger of leading from behind is that history will pass you by.

 

DAMASCUS NEEDS REGIME CHANGE
Bret Stephens

Wall Street Journal, April 19, 2011

 

It’s coming on close to four decades since the U.S. foreign policy establishment got into the business of making excuses for the Assad regime in Syria. Maybe it’s time to stop.

The excuses come in many forms. Hillary Clinton, citing the testimony of congressional leaders who have met with Bashar Assad, calls the Syrian president a “reformer.” In the National Interest, former CIA official Paul Pillar writes that “there is underestimation of how much worthwhile business could be conducted with the incumbent [Assad] regime, however distasteful it may be.” On PBS’s NewsHour, Flynt Leverett of the New America Foundation says that Mr. Assad “can probably marshal at least 50% of the society…[who are] looking to him primarily to demonstrate that he can hold this together and keep [Syria] from turning into post-Saddam Iraq or civil war in Lebanon.”

Those are just some of the recent commentaries, offered even as the regime slaughters scores of peaceful protesters in its streets. They arrive on top of years worth of true belief that Damascus wants a peace deal with Jerusalem (if only the stiff-necks would take one); or that it is a stabilizing force in the region (or could be if its “legitimate needs” are met); or that it has been a valuable ally in the war on terror (ill-used by the Bush administration); or that, bad as the regime is, whatever comes after it would probably be worse.

Today this fellow-traveling seems a bit distasteful. But the important point is that it has always been absurd. Hafez Assad turned down multiple offers from several Israeli prime ministers to return the Golan Heights. Bashar Assad once told a Lebanese newspaper that “It is inconceivable that Israel will become a legitimate state, even if the peace process is implemented.” Syria brutalized Lebanon throughout a 29-year military occupation, climaxing—but not yet concluding—with the assassination in 2005 of Rafik Hariri and 21 others. The regime nearly provoked a war with Turkey in the late 1990s by harboring the leader of the PKK, the Kurdish terrorist group. It continues to harbor the leadership of Hamas and other Palestinian “resistance” groups. It serves as the principal arms conduit to Hezbollah. It funneled al Qaeda terrorists to Iraq. It pursued an illicit nuclear program courtesy of North Korea. It is Iran’s closest ally in the region and probably in the world.

The list goes on. And as the regime behaves toward its neighbors, so too does it against its own people. A “Damascus Spring” early in Bashar Assad’s tenure quickly turned into a Mao-style Let 100 Flowers Bloom exercise of unmasking the regime’s domestic opponents. Mr. Assad was “re-elected” in 2007 with 97.6% of the vote. Freedom House notes that “Syrians access the internet only through state-run servers, which block more than 160 sites associated with the opposition.” Again, the list goes on.

All this raises the question of why the Obama administration won’t call for Mr. Assad to step aside. After all, it did so with long-standing U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak when Egyptians took to the streets, on the theory that America should stand with the people in their demand for change—even when we are not yet sure what change will bring. And it did so again with long-standing enemy Moammar Gadhafi on the theory that the international community has a “responsibility to protect” when civilians are being shot in the streets. Both conditions are now operative in Syria.

Last month I asked Robert Gates whether the U.S. would support regime change in Damascus. “I’m not going to go that far,” he answered, adding that “maybe the Syrians can take a lesson out of what happened in Egypt, where the army stood aside and let the people demonstrate.” The problem is that the Syrian army hasn’t stepped aside, and won’t, because its key units—the intelligence ministry, the Republican Guards—are in the hands of Mr. Assad’s immediate relatives.…

What, then, should the administration do? As Middle East analyst Firas Maksad notes, it would not be asking much of President Obama to recall his recently installed ambassador to Damascus as a signal of U.S. displeasure. Nor would it hurt to refer Syria’s case to the Human Rights Council, or to designate regime money-man Rami Makhlouf, another Assad relative and easily the most detested man in Syria, for Treasury Department sanctions. At a minimum, such moves would put the U.S. symbolically on the side of the protesters and improve our leverage with them should they come to power.

Yesterday I asked Henry Kissinger where the U.S. interest in Syria lies. “We don’t owe [Mr. Assad] an exit with dignity, to say the least,” he told me. “We are for a Syria that is a responsible member of the international community and that will be treated with respect and cooperation if it works for peace and if it does not support terrorist organizations in neighboring countries.”

The Assad regime has proved over 41 years that it cannot meet that standard. It’s time to help replace it with one that can.

 

SYRIA NOT A PARTNER FOR PEACE? SO WHAT’S NEW?
Barry Rubin
Rubin Reports, April 30, 2011

 

The Obama administration no longer considers Syria a potential peace partner for Israel because of its repression against its own people. This is according to media background interviews with government officials.

But wait a minute! What do we know about that regime now that we didn’t know—I should say, should have known—a month or six months or six years ago? Syria has been a repressive, radical dictatorship at least since 1963 and arguably a few years earlier.

We know the same thing about Hizballah and the other rulers of Lebanon; Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip; and—to a much lesser extent but it’s still basically true—the Palestinian Authority.

So what has been the Western idea up until now? Namely for Israel to make a peace with these “partners” involving major risks and concessions. For example, Israel is supposed to give the Golan Heights to this regime in Syria in exchange for its promise of peace.

If you’ve never seen the Golan Heights in person you can’t imagine its unique strategic significance. Israel’s territory is perfectly flat and stretches to the nearby Mediterranean. The Golan Heights rise almost vertically above it and looks over this land like a balcony. Those up on the Heights can bombard downward to their heart’s content with artillery, rockets, missiles, and mortars. Once Israel gives up the Heights there are no natural defenses between there and the sea. And by the same token it would be very hard—and costly in casualties—for Israel to recapture the Golan.

It is almost impossible for any piece of territory to have a greater military advantage.

Giving this territory to the Assad regime is the kind of silly idea that passes as somewhere between brilliance and conventional wisdom in every Western government and mass media outlet. Of course, if the Syrian government were the kind of regime that would agree to eternal peace and keep that agreement then such a deal would make sense. But it isn’t.

If one could have a real knowledge in advance that its successor would also keep a peace treaty—as long as the sky is blue and the rivers flow—it could be justified. But that’s not true either, as the situation in Egypt is showing, as the situation in the Gaza Strip has shown. How many examples do you need?

And if one could know that the Western countries would keep their promised guarantees and then come riding like the cavalry to smite the evildoer who broke agreements with Israel than those guarantees would be credible. But, once again, that’s not true, as the ceasefire in the Gaza Strip with Hamas, and the truce ending the 2006 war with Hizballah, and the 1993 agreement with what became the Palestinian Authority show. How many examples do you need?

According to the current way of thinking then, only after the concessions have been made, the risks undertaken, and the piece of paper signed do we find out that these weren’t partners for peace. But then it would be too late.

Isn’t it better to learn such things beforehand? In fact, isn’t it better to learn that reality right now this minute?

(Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center,
and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.
Mr. Rubin will be a guest speaker at the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research’s
upcoming Gala, scheduled for June 15, 2011.)

 

WHY SHOULD ISRAEL MAKE PEACE WITH FAILED STATES?
Martin Peretz
New Republic, May 11, 2011

 

…The present upheavals [in the Arab world] in their cumulative impact are deadening. Not only to the victims of the regimes but to their observers, commentators, rapporteurs.

Actually, many of these observers, perhaps most, are infatuated with the Arabs. But infatuation is really a variant on infantilization. The torment now spreading in the Arab world, however, is an evidential repudiation of this view, a cardinal attribute of which is that whatever difficulties obtained in the vast space from the Maghreb to the outskirts of Baghdad are attributable to Israel, in particular, and maybe even to the Jews, in general. This was very convenient in that it matched with the traditional bigotries of Western diplomatic elites. Yet it had a contemporary ring to it—from Barack Obama’s pastor to the increasingly monolithic editorial view of the liberal press.

One of the reasons that this is so is that this is a field where knowledge is certainly arcane, if not deliberately suppressed. Given the phantasmagoric nature of Arab governmental documents, would you trust material from official archives? In addition to all of this is the haste and fashion of news itself. The “experts” simply do not know much about the topics on which they have to anddo pretend expertise. Many who report and interpret for us know exactly zero about their quickly changing subjects. For most, a one-page memo or a quick update will do. Syria is a case in point. I would bet that some of the authoritative press people don’t know the difference between Hama, a town the population of which Bashir Assad’s father, Hafez, bombed to smithereens and killed some 10,000 to 40,000 (a difference that maybe should make a difference) Sunnis in the process, and Hamas, the governing terrorist organization in Gaza that is itself Sunni but is willing to make alliances with anybody—that is, Turks, the Shia of Iran, and the secularized Alawites in Damascus—as long as they are antagonists, loathing antagonists, of Israel. In this sentence alone lay a thousand facts and factoids. And don’t forget that between Turkey and Syria lies a land dispute with a long past and passions aplenty to match it.…

Actually, it is Syria where outside ignorance and inattention have reaped for the regime enormous latitude over the years. And enormous latitude now when it has over just about a month murdered a thousand people, maybe more. Not exactly its own people, by the way, but that is how things are in the body counts of tyrannies. How many wounded have been picked off by snipers (here acting as random rather than precise killers) nobody really knows. But the scandal of this all is the fact that the presidency of Barack Obama has been more or less allied with the dictatorship since it came to power, a part of the liberal idealist’s opening to the Arabs whoever they were. Or, to be precise, the ignominy of it all was that it was a courtship by the paradigmatic democracy of the paradigmatic oppressor which would respond to every overture with insult and scorn.…

Of course, the Obama-Clinton diplomacy—oops, I almost typed “Carter” for “Clinton”—with Syria was initially an aspect of the president’s patently foolish diplomacy with Iran about which people nodded sagely but knew deep inside it was twaddle. But long after Obama understood—reluctantly, I am certain—that there weren’t deals to be had with Tehran (neither with Ahmadinejad nor with Khamenei) the president pursued his Damascus gamesmanship with a stubbornness that was born of his sense that he was always right. At least in foreign policy, about which he knows even less than about technical economic issues, his tenacity has been the cause of an almost seamless set of international failures. Alas, very few in the United States notice because we are fixated on our domestic exertions. Now, it may not be that Obama actually desires American authority and grip in the world to slip away, although I suspect that he might see this as a triumph for what old enthusiasts of this disposition call international morality and international law. Still, the decline of America is the sure consequence of his actions.

I have just read two articles about Syria. One, “Hundreds Reported Arrested as Syria’s Crackdown Widens,” is in The New York Times, datelined Beirut. One knows that it is based on sources in Damascus and other Syrian cities. But names can’t be used and, even in Lebanon, informants are better off nameless lest Assad’s long-armed secret police reach over the feeble frontier to silence him, like he silenced Rafik Hariri, the zillionaire Sunni prime minister of the neighboring cedar republic in 2005. “The scale and ferocity of the crackdown” is actually hair-raising, what with young children being arrested with their elders. There were dead…but no one can make a true estimate.…

“Living Dead: Why is Syria Going Up in Flames?” is the second article, really an interpretative essay on Syria where a new writer for TNR, Theo Padnos, lived for several years. We think we know a dictatorship by how it behaves in exigent threat. But Padnos actually conveys the essence of how “normal” life prepares people slowly, almost casually, for dread. You can even sing along with the fashionable young of Damascus in the jolly days. But you’ll end up being cannily knowing about the erratic and also almost completely static rhythm of the police state. How well the tyranny plays off these two impulses determine its destiny. Maybe Assad will win this call. But maybe he won’t.

Still, the Obama administration has been wishing him well for at least two years. Or, rather, it should be said that Obama administration initiatives involving Syria—had they been successful which, of course, they were not—would have propped up the dictatorship by exaggerating its intrinsic sway, its own freedom of movement and the justice of its grievance against Israel. It is as if we have suddenly decided that a regime that tries to capture another country and loses territory in the process has the right to have it repatriated as if nothing had ever happened. Try, try, and try again, so to speak.

This is especially the case in the Levant where the diplomacy of boundaries going back to the fall of the Ottoman Empire—whose power had been wielded at a time from Vienna to Central Asia—was so scrawly and shifting that no one could know from one day to the next where this scepter held sway and that one did not. A propos these vagaries, in the diplomatic talks between France and England following the signing of the Sykes-Picot agreement in 1916 up to 1923 the biblical phrase “from Dan to Beer-Sheva” was the template of any map. But, of course, the words were more evocative than determinate, metaphoric than concrete. And so the cartographic war, from then and now, continues. What are Syria’s real claims to the Golan Heights? There were Syrian Arabs in the Golan prior to 1967. But no one actually thought of himself as ethnically or nationally Syrian. Instead, they replicated the diversity of hate, the permanent schismatics of difference. Moreover, the resident Alawite contingent—surprise! surprise!—is quite loyal to Israel. And there are Druze whose affinities are hard to judge since they are neither Arab nor Jew. In any case, what is Syria? It is certainly not a coherent or cohesive nation, what with its constant incitement of sectarian strife. And then there is the hydrostrategics of its geography, a permanent temptation for anyone governing from Damascus.

Spotted around Israel are failed states. I doubt that the states to the north, Lebanon and Syria, can be mended. Their essence was always difference. But certainly not as democracies where the rights of diverse groups are honored.… In Syria, 10 percent of the population governs. The majoritarian rest, the Sunnis and their Muslim Brotherhood vanguard, have been cowering since 1982.… Pity the Alawites when the Sunnis will strike for revenge. On the other hand, how much can you pity the Alawites who have been plundering and imprisoning and also murdering for four decades?

What had Obama in his head when he tried to jumpstart Israeli negotiations with Syria? Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, what else? The answer is simple and transparent: Israel’s retreat from territories it had captured while they were being used by enemies trying to vitiate Israel itself. But this is the president’s steady trope. Israel should withdraw from the West Bank and ancient Jerusalem and East Jerusalem and, yes, the Golan Heights, too, without a shred of evidence that it would be protected, could be protected from attack by armed soldiers, armed aircraft and armed terrorists, by a deadly admixture of regular troops with guerrillas somehow coddled by human rights organizations which define the latter virtually as civilians. Do you believe that the Arabs truly want peace? Does President Obama? Well, I don’t.…

Why am I not a believer? Because the only unifying strand in the disparate state systems of the Arabs is their struggle against the Jews, the Zionists, the Israelis. Nothing else motivates them so doggedly. The Christians also are targets of the various Muslim governments under which they live, and their numbers are falling in every country of the region—except Israel.…

The future plight of the Christians in the region has been foreshadowed in Egypt where yet another slaughter of innocents took place on May 8 after a string of fiery incidents. “We are in a jungle,” cried a Coptic bishop. Eleven men and women, both Christian and Muslim, were left for dead, with about 250 wounded, of which some 50 were shot. Two churches were incinerated. It was an assault by Salafists who make the Muslim Brothers appear moderate.

We are now being sermonized, mostly by journalistic oracles, to believe that these last months are a Prague Spring for Muslims. They have an agenda and it is to convince Israel not to be a killjoy but to join the party and ease the path to peace. I happen to believe that Arabs need to learn to live with each other before Israel opens itself to its neighbors’ villainy now being practiced on their own.

(Martin Peretz is editor-in-chief emeritus of The New Republic.)