Israel is aware that it is outgunned and outmanoeuvred by Russia in Syria, but it also knows that Russia has given it certain guarantees to keep the peace.
On the other hand, Israel is playing, well, Russian roulette, in south-western Syria. An Israeli official has admitted that Israel fired over 100 missiles into Syrian territory since the start of the war. Just a few days ago, in fact, Israel shot down a Syrian Suchoi fighter over the Golan Heights, with Netanyahu saying it was “our airspace.” Western sources invariably quote Israeli sources verbatim, allowing them to create the impression that there is a part of the Golan Heights that belongs to Israel. However, the Golan Heights is Syrian and the UN has made this official. Israel seized part of the Golan during the Six Days War in 1967. The Zionist version is that the war was started by Arab nations, but a version published by Foreign Policy Journal convincingly shows that it was in fact started by Israel. Now that Israel still claims this territory as “spoils of war” 50 years later, it is clear that at least part of the motive was the desire to grab more land. (NSS had reported here on Israel’s Yinon Plan to seize vast Middle East territories).
Our translation from Svobodnaya Pressa appearing below provides insight into the labyrinthine Russian-Israel-Syrian relations that define the dynamics of the war in Syria.
"Israel has captured Russian soldiers"
What Tel Aviv is prepared to do to contain our military, operating near the Golan Heights
As we predicted, the military operation of the Russian-Syrian allies in the south-west of the Arab Republic has not yet touched the territories directly adjacent to the Golan Heights. Obviously, this is due to Israel’s fears. Tel Aviv has many reasons to be dissatisfied with the presence of Russian and Syrian military near the border of the disputed Golan. Such operations, carried out with the active air support, are in themselves dangerous, and if we take into account the possibility of even a slight deviation from the course of a fighter, the situation becomes several times more complicated.
Something like this happened at the end of 2015, when Turkey shot down the Russian Su-24, explaining its actions at the time by the fact that the plane violated its airspace. Then, of course, everything changed, but this incident gave rise to many problems. There is almost no doubt that Israel will act even more harshly than the Turks, if suddenly someone from the IDF notes a short-term violation of their airspace. Everyone will probably manage for a while, but nobody is immune to a repetition of the same.
As for the Syrians, the Israelis have long learned not to stand on ceremony with them - the pro-Assad forces have been attacked repeatedly by Tel Aviv, and often there were numerous victims. In fairness, it should be noted that many Syrians themselves have a great deal of hatred for the neighbouring state, and that even before the local military, they even periodically express support for the destruction of the Jewish state (officially, Damascus has not recognized Israel, and still holds that position - Author). And these same people are now carrying out a military operation near the Golan Heights, which each of them considers to be its territory, occupied by Tel Aviv. We can say that they are not a problem for Israel, because none of them is a big threat by themselves, but now Russia supports them.
This, by the way, also affects the increase in militancy of the pro-Saudi forces, who earlier preferred to run without looking back if a serious battle began. It’s become an interesting situation. Separately, Russia and Assad are not dangerous for Israel. Bashar Assad alone cannot surprise his neighbours on his own, and Russia seems to have always been among more or less reliable partners. But united, Moscow and Damascus cause Tel Aviv a lot of worries, even despite the numerous guarantees provided to Netanyahu by Putin and, reportedly, Assad. Some of the reasons for concern are given above.
In general, Netanyahu did not want to rely on certain guarantees. In any case, Tel Aviv’s actions spell this out. Thus, the Syrian military and government officials have already repeatedly reported on air strikes by Israel taking place after the beginning of Syrian government military operations in south-western Syria. Other methods are also used. The main question in this regard is why Israel behaves this way. Does it really suppose that after the liberation of south-western Syria, Assad, along with Russia, will proceed to de-occupation of the Golan Heights?
Turkish expert Keram Yildirim believes that the actions of the Jewish state are not connected with the Golan, but are used in Israel's military operations. In fact, Tel Aviv is trying to take such measures to force Russia to recognize exclusive rights in south-western Syria.
"Until recently, Israel did not have any problems here, it did not have any problems in Syria at all.”
SP: - And what about the strengthening Iranian influence?
- This is a difficult question, and no one knows the answer. Iran affects Assad, but that was the same before, even before this war. Even Assad's father was seriously dependent on the Iranian elite. For some reason, this was not a big threat to Israel at the time. So it's more like manipulation. In general, Tel Aviv is trying to use the Syrian conflict to increase its influence in the Middle East. Previously, there were no problems with this, but the widespread spread of Russian influence now threatens this process. Probably, Netanyahu is worried that now Syria can become completely inaccessible to him, so now he is trying hard to put pressure on Putin. Not so long ago, he met with the Russian president, but it seems that nothing could be achieved. Russia, of course, will not allow Assad to do anything against Israel, because it will be a disaster, but she wants to limit the presence of Tel Aviv in Syria. This, in her opinion, should contribute to the settlement of the general situation in the country and the final restoration of Assad's power as president. Russia can do this only by preventing any military activity of Israel in Syria.
SP: So, is the current activity connected with the fact that Tel Aviv is dissatisfied with the actions of Moscow in the south-west of Syria?
"Only with that." Of course, Israel does not want to lose influence, so it will use all means available to it.”
SP: - What, for example?
- Some of these means have already been demonstrated. For example, frequent air attacks on the position of the regime forces each time the operations become more insolent - sometimes they (the Israelis - author) may attack targets very close to Russian bases. Similarly, Israel has the opportunity to promote its interests in this region at the expense of the Druze, who live along the Golan Heights. They are pro-Israel, and under certain conditions can mobilize quite a large force. In addition, provocations are possible in the Druze villages in order to aggravate the destabilization of the border areas. The Druze can even provide military resistance to the regime. Israel is also trying to exert pressure directly on Russia. For example, from the testimony of Syrian oppositionists who have been in prison in Israeli for a while, it is known that the Israelis have specially selected from them those with Russian citizenship.
SP: - That is, Russians can be in Israeli captivity?
- Yes, there is nothing strange about this. Many soldiers from Russia are known to be fighting in the ranks of the opposition. Of course, Israel has had many opportunities to take some of them into captivity. These soldiers could be held in prison on Syrian territory, near the Golan, that is, in those areas where the situation is actually controlled by Israel. There were people from many countries, but there were cases when the Russians were selected. Probably, the Israeli special services wanted to take advantage of this, hoping to influence Moscow's actions in a certain part of Syria.