An old military vehicle can be seen positioned on the Israeli side of the border with Syria, near the Druze village of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights.
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
The situation in Israel’s north is continuously escalating. The incident that took place Saturday is another step in this process. The way Israel handled the incident proves that the IDF is unquestionably capable of responding quickly and based on accurate intelligence. The downing of the Israeli jet needs to be thoroughly investigated and I’m sure this is already being done. Nonetheless, the Israeli public needs to understand that sometimes when there is fighting, casualties occur.
In past years, the fighting in Syria involved Assad loyalists and rebel forces. Now, the Russians and Iranians (through Hezbollah) have become involved and this has greatly shaped the Assad regime, which currently controls about 75% of Syrian territory. For this reason, preserving Syrian sovereignty vis-à-vis the Syrian people is becoming more and more important to the ruling regime, and its response Israelis air-strikes is a clear sign of this.
This escalating situation was created following an Iranian strategy to take advantage of the campaign in Syria to infiltrate Syria further and bring in Shi’ite militias, thousands of terrorists, whom it wishes to turn into a fighting force against the State of Israel. In addition, it plans to install Iranian air and navy forces alongside Hezbollah troops. In short, the plan is to surround the State of Israel with proxy forces that will carry out terrorist activities against Israel, all the way to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Israel has made it absolutely clear that it will not allow Iran and its cohorts to control land that touches on Israel’s border, and rightly so. The major powers that can stop this process are the Russians and the Americans. Diplomatic efforts made so far with the Russians and Americans have not borne fruit. I personally have met with Russian officials three times over the past 18 months as a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. At the most recent meeting, we made it clear to them exactly where our red lines lie, and warned them that if the process of “Iranization” doesn’t stop, the result will be an escalation of violence that will lead to an all-out war on Israel’s northern front. This would not be in the best interests of Israel, Russia or the US.
In the meantime, the Russians were nodding their heads in agreement, saying they understand the problem, and that they also don’t want Iranian forces in Syria. But they also don’t plan on using any significant amount of force to put a stop to this process. The Americans, to our great disappointment, are doing nothing about this issue except offering lip service.
Unless a big change occurs in the near future, it is almost inevitable that a military campaign will take place on Israel’s northern border. The Israeli government must continue making tenacious diplomatic efforts to convince the Russians and Americans to intervene and prevent a war from breaking out.
At the same time, the State of Israel must prepare for battle. The IDF is doing a great job with preparations, but the civilian populations – especially Israelis living in the north – are nowhere near ready. The government called for all homes in northern Israel to be equipped with security rooms a mere three weeks ago.
The incident on Saturday is a reminder that we need to move quickly to protect Israeli citizens.The author, a retired IDF major-general, served as deputy and commander of the IDF Northern Corps. He is currently a member of the Zionist Union Party and sits on the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.