A member of the Druze community uses binoculars to watch the fighting around the village of Hader, in Syria, from the Israeli-occupied side of the Golan Heights, June 18, 2015.
The momentous announcement came on Nov. 3. For the first time, Israel warned publicly that it would intervene militarily in the war in Syria. “The army is prepared and ready to help the residents of the village [of Hader],” announced the spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). “It will prevent the occupation of the village or any attempts to harm it, out of a commitment to its Druze population.”
Hader is a Druze village on the eastern slopes of Mount Hermon, about 2 miles inside Syria, in Quneitra province. The Israeli announcement instilled a sense of calm and restored relative quiet in the Golan Heights. At the same time, however, it introduced an entirely new situation to the region. Military action by Israel in Syria is now a possibility.
That Israel has not been sucked into the Syrian war, which has raged across its northern border for the past six years, is a first-rate strategic achievement. Israel’s government has somehow managed to remain outside the circle of bloodletting despite the frequent drizzle of mortar and artillery fire onto the Israeli side of the Golan Heights, despite the veritable War of Armageddon being fought along the border of the Golan Heights between various rebel groups, despite the reported increase in Israeli aerial attacks on arms convoys from Syria to Hezbollah, and despite at least two attempts by Hezbollah to open a second frontagainst Israel on the Golan Heights. It did this while maintaining its capacity for deterrence on the one hand and by sticking to the red lines that it established on the other. That is no small feat.
There have been calls in Israel to intervene militarily in response to events in Syria. These intensified after reports of chemical weapons having been used against civilians and of a crematoria maintained by Bashar al-Assad’s government in Damascus to dispose of the bodies of regime opponents. All the calls went unanswered. Israel demonstrated that it was determined to remain far from the conflict, unless the red lines set by the Cabinet were crossed, or in other words, unless tiebreaking weaponry is transferred from Assad’s armories to Hezbollah.
The Israeli taboo was broken for the first time on Nov. 3, and it was because of the Druze. The residents of Hader are loyal to the Assad regime. The Druze constitute a small minority in many Middle Eastern states, and their strategy for survival has been simple: loyalty to the central government. The Druze in Israel have a blood alliance with the Zionist state, which considers them its most loyal citizens and its bravest soldiers. Military cemeteries are filled with the graves of Druze troops who fought in the IDF. At the same time, Israel has a firm and longstanding commitment to its Druze population.
There are also strong bonds between the different Druze communities in the Middle East. Israeli Druze are close to their brothers and sisters in Syria, and in many instances belong to branches of the same extended families. These relationships have resulted in a strange situation, whereby an Israeli Druze loyal to the government of Israel can be a close relative of a Syrian Druze loyal to Assad. When Israel and Syria are at war — their de facto status since Israel was established in 1948 — these same Druze can find themselves on both sides of the divide. They each remain loyal to their respective states, but at the same time to their community and family.
Rebel forces, mainly from Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, the al-Qaeda affiliate formerly called Jabhat al-Nusra, attacked Hader on Nov. 3. The operation began with a car bomb and a suicide bomber, killing at least 10 residents and wounding dozens more. Among the victims were six members of the family of Kulanu Knesset member Akram Hasoon. The news from Hader spread quickly among Druze villages in Israel and on the Golan Heights. Dozens of Israeli Druze streamed toward the border fence on the Golan Heights, with the goal of bursting through it to defend their brothers and sisters in Hader. The IDF invested considerable energy in blocking the wave of Israeli Druze about to storm the fence. They even chased down some 10 men who had managed to get through the barrier and began charging toward Syria. For a few hours, it looked like Israel was losing control of a rapidly deteriorating situation.
Meanwhile, Israel announced that it would not hesitate to intervene and would not acquiesce to the capture of or any harm to Hader. The public statement had the desired effect. The Jabhat Fatah al-Sham assault was blocked and dispersed by local fighters, and Hader residents were able to regain control of the routes leading to the village. Tensions have since decreased, but the Golan Heights front is still seething, and the Assad regime is trying to establish control along the Israeli border.
In Israel, people have noted that things ended quietly this time, but no one has any illusions about what lies ahead. “It could happen again,” one high-ranking Israeli security source told Al-Monitor on the condition of anonymity. “It’s important for the other side to know that we have no plans to play games here. Israel’s statement is clear. We have a commitment to the Druze on the Syrian side of the border too. We will treat anyone who tries to harm them as if they hurt us.”
The current assessment is that Israel has no plans to take control of any territory in the region. The idea of establishing a security strip in Syria has been raised on several occasions, but rejected each time. Israel’s military superiority vis-a-vis all the other forces active along the Syrian front is so decisive, with its air force and various other special means available to the IDF, that no one doubts its ability to thwart any attempt to occupy the Druze village.
Thus, added to Israel’s firm red line on a Syrian transfer of tiebreaking weapons to Hezbollah, the world has now learned of another no less firm boundary: Don’t touch the Druze. Period.
Trump hails ‘big week’ for historic move; ‘Congratulations to all,’ he tweets ahead of May 14 opening
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman gives a first glimpse of the new US embassy in Jerusalem on May 11, 2018, ahead of its opening on May 14 (Screenshot)
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Friday gave a first glimpse of the new US embassy in Jerusalem, showing off workers erecting the official seal on the building and preparing for the opening ceremony.
“We are so excited,” Friedman said in a video posted on the embassy’s Facebook page. “We have the official seal of the United States embassy. We have the dedication plaque. They are covered right now, but on Monday they are going to be unveiled.”
‘Next time in Jerusalem,’ jubilant Barzilai yells after victory; ‘Toy’ marks Israel’s 4th win; hundreds jump in Rabin Square fountain to celebrate; PM calls her ‘best ambassador’
Netta Barzilai after winning the final of the 63rd edition of the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, on May 12, 2018. (AFP/ Francisco LEONG)
Israel won the Eurovision song contest for the first time in two decades Saturday as singer Netta Barzilai clucked and bucked her way to the top of the international song contest with women’s empowerment anthem “Toy.”
Backed up by three dancers, her trademark side buns featuring stripes of pink dyed hair to match her pink-and-black outfit, Barzilai busted her way through “Toy” on stage in Lisbon, Portugal, punctuating her singing with her trademark eye rolls and chicken dance moves
Quoted by US president one day, hosted by Russia’s president the next, PM is on a high, including in the polls. But will this encourage his more divisive tendencies?
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier after the Victory Parade marking the 73th anniversary of the defeat of the Nazis in World War II, in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
JTA — On Sunday, Benjamin Netanyahu began his week by meeting his Cypriot and Greek counterparts to finalize the commercial export to Europe of Israeli gas that he has pushed to exploit for about a decade.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from nuclear deal with Iran was widely seen as a coup for Israel’s prime minister, a fierce opponent of the deal.
The same day Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed that Israel seized Iran’s archive of its military nuclear program in Tehran and spirited it to Israel, a video was posted of IDF soldiers singing Soltane Ghalbha, a traditional Persian love song – in Persian.
Taken together, the two events demonstrate the purpose of Netanyahu’s presentation.
Netanyahu’s detractors in the US and Israel called his presentation as a dog and pony show. “He didn’t tell us anything we haven’t known for years,” they sniffed.
Moreover, they insisted, Netanyahu’s presentation was actually counterproductive because he couldn’t show evidence that Iran is in breach of the nuclear deal it concluded in 2015 and so did nothing to persuade the Europeans to abandon the deal.
While US policy-makers are trying desperately to stabilize Afghanistan, a shift is being orchestrated by China.
The Chinese evidently see their role in Afghanistan as the “good cop” versus the U.S. role as “bad cop.” Like Pakistan, China seems to view the Taliban as the political opposition, not as a terrorist organization, and has offered itself as an intermediary to negotiate the departure of the U.S. and, thereby, be in a position to reap the economic and geopolitical benefits of Afghanistan as a client state of the China-Pakistan alliance.
Reuters/Ipsos set a new standard this week when it condemned its own polling as unreliably favorable to the president.
“This week’s Reuters/Ipsos Core Political release presents something of an outlier of our trend,” stated a paragraph that appeared before the press release on its latest polling even began.
“Every series of polls has the occasional outlier, and in our opinion, this is one. So, while we are reporting the findings in the interest of transparency, we will not be announcing the start of a new trend until we have more data to validate this pattern.”
For the sixth Friday in a row, protestors from Gaza came to Israel’s border with intentions to penetrate it. They come with scissors to cut through the fence, with burning tires, Molotov cocktails, slingshots with rocks, and kites with firebombs attached to them to destroy Israeli farmlands and villages.
This is not some peaceful demonstration akin to Selma in the 1960s when blacks were simply trying to sit together with whites at a lunch counter. The usage of the word “demonstrators” is a misnomer; these are “rioters.”
What would happen if the world took Pope Francis’ advice (via a tweet)? “Do we really want peace? Then let’s ban all weapons so we don’t have to live in fear of war,” said the pontiff.
While on the surface, the disappearance of all weapons might suggest the inability to do violence, in reality, it would mean the certain annihilation of the West as a civilization.
When a Philadelphia Starbucks manager called the police after two black men refused to leave, the chain of events ended with the burnt taste of the overpriced coffee chain colluding with anti-Semitism.
Starbucks reacted to the brief arrest by blaming the police, but Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, who is African-American, initially said that his officers, “did absolutely nothing wrong”. But then he was forced to offer a bewildering apology to the arrested men, the officers and the entire city.
“It is me who in large part made most of the situation worse than it was,” he announced.
“Your threshing season will last until your grape harvest, and your grape harvest will last until the time you plant. You will have your fill of food, and you will dwell securely in your land” (Vayikra 26:5).
This blessing is promised to the People of Israel on condition that, as a unified nation, they observe the laws of the Torah and live by its spirit. Its promise is quite surprising. Not only will the Israelites have plenty to eat but, as the verse clearly indicates, the Jews will experience an overflow of food. The first season, when produce is brought to the threshing floor, will last until the days of the grape harvest, which in turn will continue into the planting season.