Herzog visits the Golan Heights, possibly as a retaliation against Russia

The statement appeared to be in retaliation for Israel's publicly proclaimed empathy with Ukraine in the face of Russia's assault.

 President Isaac Herzog visits local authority heads at Kibbutz Ramot in the Golan Heights, March 1, 2022.  (photo credit: CHAIM TZACH/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog visits local authority heads at Kibbutz Ramot in the Golan Heights, March 1, 2022.
(photo credit: CHAIM TZACH/GPO)

There may have been more than meets the eye with the visit to the Golan Heights on Tuesday by President Isaac Herzog.

Israeli media was informed of the visit on Monday night, with an embargo on publicizing it until after Herzog had left the area.

Contrary to general practice, Herzog’s office on Friday did not release the president’s schedule for the week ahead, but there appears to be some degree of Israeli defiance in Herzog choosing to go to the Golan only a few days after Russia characterized Israel’s presence in the Golan as an occupation, and declared that it does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the region.

The statement appeared to be in retaliation for Israel’s publicly proclaimed empathy with Ukraine in the face of Russia’s assault.

Israel, which is on good terms with both countries, has sent both humanitarian aid and human resources to Ukraine and those of its neighbors, who have opened their gates to refugees fleeing the conflict.

 President Isaac Herzog in the Golan Heights, March 1, 2022.  (credit: CHAIM TZACH/GPO) President Isaac Herzog in the Golan Heights, March 1, 2022. (credit: CHAIM TZACH/GPO)

Addressing a group of local authority heads at Kibbutz Ramot, Herzog – possibly with Ukraine in mind – emphasized the importance of defending Israel’s borders.

“One cannot speak about borders, and about border defense or border security, especially here in the Golan, without saying a word about the IDF,” said Herzog. “In these days of global instability, we must remember: we must base our defensive power on ourselves alone.”

Quoting from Ethics of the Fathers, Herzog said: “‘If I am not for myself, who will be for me?’ That is the lesson of this era. The IDF must remain the best of the best, and therefore we must ensure it has the best people and retains the best people, so that they will continue to serve day by day, hour by hour, to risk their lives, in the hope that they will always return home in peace after defending the homeland.”

Herzog also spoke of the war in Ukraine, and on the family of Roman Brodsky, the Israeli who was killed in front of his wife and children on Monday night during hostilities near Kyiv.

Herzog sent condolences to Brodsky’s kin in Ukraine and Israel.

“This is a terrible tragedy: the personal tragedy of Roman and his family and the tragedy of the Jewish community and the Ukrainian people,” said Herzog. “We are profoundly concerned for them. Together with the whole family of nations, I hope this war ends quickly.”

Although most of the restrictions pertaining to corona were removed on Tuesday, Herzog said he felt that he must refer to how Israel had been affected by the virus over the past two years.

During that time, he said, proof has been provided on the latent power and potential that local and regional authorities have. “The corona crisis highlighted the advantages of local government, illustrated the irreplaceability of unmediated contact between citizens and local authority heads, and of the latent power of active involvement by local authority heads.”

At the kibbutz, Herzog was shown a display of diverse local produce and products.

Herzog afterward visited the Enlight Renewable Energy wind farm in the Valley of Tears (Emek Habacha), where he enjoyed breathing the unpolluted air. He praised the Enlight initiative for its objective to minimize greenhouse gases and fossil fuel, which Herzog termed “the most harmful contributors to the climate crisis.”

Concurring with the president, Enlight Chairman Yair Seroussi said that the UN report on the climate crisis “warns that humanity will soon be unable to adapt to the repercussions of the crisis. Renewable energy is not a luxury – it is a necessity for future generations. It is also the cheapest. Time is running out, and it is hard to implement change. This is a groundbreaking project, and it is always difficult to pave a new path, but history remembers those who innovate and dare. The Valley of Tears has become the Valley of Blessing (Emek Habracha), a place of inspiration for entrepreneurship and regional cooperation for our common battle against the climate crisis.”

Herzog met with local farmers about the crops they grow, and what it means to them to live and work in the Golan.

Before returning to Jerusalem, Herzog voiced his pleasure at seeing young Israelis taking up the difficult challenges of agriculture despite its hardships.

“Today, you are following in the footsteps of the giants who first settled this place, and you have made it a flourishing garden,” he told the young farmers and entrepreneurs. “You are in the place with the most [pioneering people] in the country, and you must be the incubator for all of Israel’s genius in the fields of food, agriculture and solar energy.”