The Syrian regime’s civil war with armed rebel forces is spilling outside of its borders into Israeli territory. In recent days, Israel has witnessed incursions by Syrian tanks and mortar shelling. Meanwhile, this past weekend, Israel’s Negev population has been hit by over 100 missiles launched by Palestinian jihadists from Gaza. The Palestinians also fired a sophisticated anti-tank missile at an Israeli jeep traveling along Israel’s border with Gaza, injuring four Israeli soldiers. So far, Israel has been showing remarkable restraint in the face of these multi-location assaults. But Israel’s patience is undoubtedly wearing thin.
Whether the Syrian incursions in the north and the Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza are somehow coordinated, under the command of their common puppet masters in Tehran, remains to be seen. However, it would be naive to assume that the simultaneous assaults are a pure coincidence.
Israel’s enemies appear to want to lure Israel into engaging in full blown reprisals, which they would use as ammunition for their propaganda campaign to delegitimize Israel in the international community.
So far, Israel has not taken the bait. Although it reserves its inherent right of self-defense, Israel has held back from launching any full scale air or ground attack against the Syrian troops and weaponry in the vicinity of the Israeli-Syrian border or against the Palestinian jihadists in Gaza.
Syria’s latest hostile act occurred on November 11th, at the same time that the rockets from Gaza were raining down on Israeli population centers. The Syrians fired mortar shells, which hit an Israeli Defense Force (IDF) post and an Israeli community in the Golan Heights area adjacent to the Israeli-Syrian border. This was the second time that Syrian shells exploded in the Golan Heights area during the last week.
The series of Syrian provocations this month started on November 2nd, when Syrian tanks violated the Separation of Forces Agreement, signed between Israel and Syria in 1974, and entered a Golan demilitarized zone.
Although the UN Security Council has ignored Israel’s repeated written complaints regarding the barrages of Palestinian rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, Israel’s UN Ambassador, Ron Prosor, sent a letter on November 6th to the Security Council calling on it to address Syria’s violations of the Separation of Forces Agreement. “The international community and the Security Council should address this alarming development without delay to prevent further escalation,” Prosor wrote.
The Security Council has done no more to address Israel’s concerns over Syrian instigated hostilities than it has Israel’s complaints regarding the Palestinian rocket attacks.
In response to the latest shelling incident instigated by the Syrian regime, the spokesperson for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a waffling statement Sunday evening that as usual failed to clearly lay the blame where it belonged and denied Israel its inherent right of self-defense:
The Secretary-General is concerned by reports of clashes between the armed opposition and Syrian security forces in the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF)-supervised area of separation, in which Syrian small arms fire and one artillery round reportedly landed in the Israeli-occupied Golan today and prompted a response by Israel. No injuries to civilians or UN personnel in either instance were reported.
The Secretary-General is deeply concerned by the potential for escalation. He calls for the utmost restraint and urges Syria and Israel to uphold the Disengagement Agreement, respect their mutual obligations, and halt firing of any kind across the ceasefire line.
The UN Disengagement Observer Force that is supposed to patrol the Golan area has been feckless. In fact, it may be even worse than feckless. According to a report by Inner City Press, Syria is claiming that it had the UN Disengagement Observer Force’s “oral approval” for “conducting a limited military operation to free two villages from terrorist groups.” The operation allegedly approved by the UN Disengagement Observer Force included the Syrian tanks.
Even though Israel’s letter to the Security Council regarding Syria’s prior hostile acts fell on deaf ears, Israel again chose to file a complaint in response to the latest mortar shelling, this time through the UN Disengagement Observer Force, which may have already been complicit in approving the earlier tank incursion. While tamping down any talk of immediate Israeli escalation and firing only a warning shot aimed at a Syrian artillery cannon, Israel indicated that it will not necessarily be so restrained in its military response the next time.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak also issued a stern warning to Syria to keep its fighting against the rebels away from the Golan Heights. “The message has certainly been relayed. To tell you confidently that no shell will fall? I cannot. If a shell falls, we will respond,” Barak told Israel’s Army Radio.
Israel is literally surrounded by enemies, armed and funded by Iran, and sworn to its destruction. Hamas to the south and Hezbollah to the north have increasingly sophisticated weapons to terrorize Israel’s civilian population, while using the civilians the terrorists control as human shields to propagandize the casualties resulting from any serious Israeli reprisal. Egypt and Turkey are no longer buffers. Instead, they are part of the problem, as the Islamists’ grip over the governments of both countries tightens.
Syria presents Israel with a minefield. President Bashar Assad, backed by Iran, is increasingly desperate as the civil war grinds on. Desperate dictators in his position will do desperate things and create distractions, which could drag Israel into hostilities in an area that has been relatively quiet for nearly forty years. But if Assad falls and radical Islamists aligned with al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood take over, Israel will be confronted with an even more implacable enemy on its border.
The United Nations is less than useless. It is often on the side of Israel’s enemies. President Obama’s re-election could mean the further deterioration of relations with Israel’s closest and most important ally.
Israel faces great peril to be sure, but its people are courageous. They have the strength and resourcefulness to save themselves. They are willing to fight for the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish homeland. They know they have no real other choice in a world made up of so many other nations that have too often been willing to persecute as “foreigners” Jews living for generations in those lands simply because they chose to live their Jewish faith.
As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared in his address to the United Nations General Assembly last September:
Throughout our history, the Jewish people have overcome all the tyrants who have sought our destruction. It’s their ideologies that have been discarded by history.
The people of Israel live on. We say in Hebrew Am Yisrael Chai, and the Jewish state will live forever.
Joseph Klein is a Harvard-trained lawyer and the author of Global Deception: The UN’s Stealth Assault on America’s Freedom and the new book, Lethal Engagement: Barack Hussein Obama, the United Nations & Radical Islam.