For years, those opposed to a withdrawal from the Golan Heights argued, why touch something that is not broken? The thinking was quite simple: Although Syria is an enemy state and there are potential positive outcomes from making peace with Damascus, the border along the Golan Heights has always been Israel’s quietest.
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While soldiers have been kidnapped along the border with Lebanon, terrorists have infiltrated Israel from Egypt and drugs and weapons have been smuggled in from Jordan, the border with Syria has been silent.
The demonstrations the IDF has so far faced along the border with Syria near the Druse village of Majdal Shams – on the so-called Nakba and Naksa days – are not yet over. On Monday, IDF intelligence officers warned of a continuation, the first stage of which is expected already on Tuesday in conjunction with Al-Quds Day – Jerusalem Day – the Arab commemoration of Israel’s capture of Jerusalem in 1967.
The demonstrations will continue for two main reasons. First, they are convenient for Bashar Assad, who is trying to divert attention from the massacres he is committing inside his country.
On Monday, there were reports of over 80 Syrians killed by loyalist security forces. Assad’s hope is that violence with Israel will help rally his nation around a common enemy and focus attention away from him.
Second, the Palestinians want to keep up pressure on Israel as they continue to move toward September.
The idea will be to create a northern version of Bil’in or Ni’lin – villages in the West Bank where the army faces weekly violent demonstrations against the construction of the security barrier.
This will force the IDF to maintain a permanent position at the border near Majdal Shams, which will have an effect on deployment numbers in other places.
In general, the army was pleased with the way it handled the protests on Sunday, despite Syrian claims that 24 people had been killed. In the weeks before, the IDF prepared extensively, laying down new minefields, digging trenches and installing new barbed-wire fences.
In addition, the army believes the number of reported dead was purposely inflated and that the real figure is likely closer to half. At least eight of the dead, IDF sources said on Monday, were killed by mines that exploded after the protesters threw Molotov cocktails in fields near the border, causing their premature detonation.
Either way, the IDF – as it faces growing demonstrations in the Palestinian territories as September approaches – will need to remember that the body count the world is willing to swallow when it comes to Syria and Lebanon is not the same body count it is willing to accept in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip.
From past experience, we have seen how much lower numbers in the
Palestinian territories have received far larger headlines,
international condemnations and even debates in the United Nations.
The reasons are quite simple. There is less international sympathy for
the regimes of Lebanon and Syria than there is for the Palestinian
Authority; the validity of Israel’s northern border is not under
constant scrutiny, like its borders with the Gaza Strip and the West
Bank; and Palestinian claims of statehood are considered legitimate.
As a result, Palestinian demonstrations will also be perceived as such.
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