As the IDF official said, “We have proven over more than 70 years as a sovereign state that you don’t push us around.”
Could Israeli air strikes in Syria trigger war between Israel and Russia?
Israel remains determined to continue pounding Iranian forces in Syria in a bid to keep Tehran’s forces away from Israel’s northern border. At the same time, Russia has thousands of troops in Syria that could be caught in the crossfire—or even become belligerents if Moscow tires of its Syrian ally being pummeled.
And if Israel and Russia come to blows, would Israel’s big brother—the United States—feel compelled to intervene?
Not that Jerusalem or Moscow are eager for such a fight. “Neither of us desire a military confrontation,” a senior Israel Defense Forces (IDF) official told me during a recent interview in Jerusalem. “It would be detrimental to both sides.”
Yet Israel’s policy boils down to this: it will do whatever it sees as necessary to eject Iranian forces from Syria. And if Russia doesn’t like it, then that’s just the price of ensuring that Syria doesn’t become another Iranian rocket base on Israel’s border.
Relations between Jerusalem and Moscow are far warmer than during the Cold War. The result is a strange embrace reminiscent of the U.S.-Soviet detente of the 1970s. On the surface, a certain friendliness and desire for cooperation. Yet beneath the smiles is wariness, suspicion and a clash of fundamental interests.
“No one in Israel is confused about who the Russians are and who they are aligned with,” said the IDF official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The Russians are not our allies, to put it mildly. We have one ally, and that is the United States. The Russians are here for totally different objectives. They are supporting a regime [Syria] that has an outspoken goal of annihilating Israel if it only could. They are also part of a coalition that supports Iran.”
Just how easily Israeli military operations can trigger an incident became evident during a September 2018 strike on ammunition depots in western Syria. Anti-aircraft missiles launched by Syrian gunners accidentally shot down a Russian Il-20 surveillance aircraft, killing fifteen people. Israel denies Russian accusations that it deliberately used the Russian plane as cover, or failed to give Moscow sufficient warning of the raid. Yet Russia still blamed Israel for the mishap and retaliated by supplying advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Syria.
Nonetheless, Israel sees value in Russia as a potential restraint on Iran, and a possible lever to get Iranian forces out of Syria. After a February meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Vladimir Putin to mend fences after the Il-20 incident, Israeli officials claimed Putin had agreed that foreign forces should withdraw from Syria. For Moscow, friendly relations with Israel offer more influence in the Middle East even as America may be scaling down its presence in the region.
Still, the Kremlin has denounced Israeli strikes in Syria as “illegitimate.” Syria has been a Russian ally for more than fifty years, and it was Russian air strikes—along with Iranian and Hezbollah troops—that saved Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s faltering regime from ISIS and other rebel groups. At least 63,000 Russian troops have served in Syria since 2015. Though Putin has promised since 2016 that Russian forces would withdraw, Russia currently retains more than 5,000 troops and private military contractors in Syria, backed by several dozen aircraft and helicopters.
And Russia is in Syria to stay. The Syrian port of Tartus is Russia’s only naval base in the Mediterranean: in 2016, Moscow and Damascus signed a forty-nine-year agreement that allows nuclear-powered Russian warships to operate from there. In addition, Russian aircraft and surface-to-air missiles, including the long-range S-400 air defense system, operate from at least two air bases in western Syria.
Israel can live with the Russians next door—but not the Iranians. Israeli officials warn of Tehran’s plan to station 100,000 Iranian and allied troops in Syria. Hezbollah, with its estimated arsenal of 130,000-plus rockets, already menaces Israel’s Lebanon frontier. Syria joining Lebanon as a second Iranian rocket base is the stuff of Israeli nightmares.
“We can – and we intend to – make it as difficult as possible and inflict a price tag that the Iranians aren’t willing to pay,” the IDF official said. And the Israeli Air Force has been just doing that, attacking “Iranian and Hezbollah targets hundreds of times,” Netanyahu announced after a devastating attack on Iranian arms depots near Damascus International Airport in January.
“We continue to implement our plans,” the IDF official replied when asked if Russia would deter Israeli raids into Syria. “Our activities suggest that, despite everything, we enjoy significant freedom of action.”
But more telling was his one-word response when asked how willing is Israel to fight for that freedom of action.
There are deconfliction mechanisms in place, including a hotline between the Israeli and Russian militaries. “We are very strict about informing the Russians about our activities and that their operational picture is up to date,” said the IDF official. Yet those procedures were not sufficient to avoid a downing of a Russian plane.
Perhaps that ill-fated Il-20 was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. Still, it is not hard to imagine a multiplicity of equally fatal scenarios. Russian advisers or technicians caught in an Israeli raid on an Iranian or Syrian installation. An errant Israeli smart bomb that hits a Russian base, or a Russian pilot or anti-aircraft battery spooked by a nearby Israeli raid into opening fire. Or, perhaps Russia will just feel obligated to support the prestige of its Syrian ally and its shaky government. Just how incendiary Syrian skies are for everyone became evident in December 2017, when U.S. F-22 fighters fired flares to warn off two Russian Su-25 attack jets that breached a no-go zone in eastern Syria.
To be clear, the IDF is neither boastful nor belligerent about its capabilities versus Russia, a former superpower with the largest nuclear arsenal on the planet. The IDF official likened Israel to “The Mouse that Roared,” the classic novel of a tiny nation that challenges the United States.
But if Israel resembles any mouse, it’s Mighty Mouse: small, powerful and not afraid to use its fists. In fact, what makes a potential Israel-Russia battle so dangerous is that it is not hypothetical. After the 1967 Six-Day War, Soviet fighters were sent to Egypt. This led to a notorious July 1970 incident when in a well-planned aerial ambush over the Suez Canal, Israeli fighters shot down five Soviet-piloted MiG-21 jets in three minutes.
On the other hand, Russia doesn’t need to fight Israel to hurt Israel. Indeed, the IDF official seemed less concerned about a physical clash between Israeli and Russian forces, and more concerned that Russia could choose to supply advanced weapons—such as anti-aircraft missiles—to Israeli enemies such as Syria and Iran. In the early 1970s, the Soviet Union supplied numerous air defense missiles and guns to Egypt and Syria, which inflicted heavy losses on Israeli planes in the 1973 October War. If it wants to, Russia can make Israeli air operations very expensive.
As always with the Arab-Israeli (or Iranian-Israeli) conflict, the real danger isn’t the regional conflict, but how it might escalate. In the 1973 war, the Soviets threatened to send troops to Egypt unless Israel agreed to a cease-fire. The United States responded by going on nuclear alert.
Were the Israelis and Russians to come to blows, or if Moscow were to seriously threaten military force against Israel, could the United States risk a grave loss of prestige by not intervening to back its longtime ally? Could Russia—whose Syrian intervention is a proud symbol of its reborn military muscle and great power status—not retaliate for another downed Russian plane or a dead Russian soldier?
Which leads to the ultimate question: could tensions between Israel and Russia lead to a clash between American and Russian troops?
In the end, somebody will have to back down. But Iran isn’t about to give up its outpost on Israel’s border, and Russia probably can’t force them to. Then there is Israel, which is grimly determined to stop Iran.
As the IDF official said, “We have proven over more than 70 years as a sovereign state that you don’t push us around.”
Rabbi Shlomo Tawil, co-director of the Chabad House in Rosario, Argentina. Photo: Facebook.
JNS.org – Rabbi Shlomo Tawil, director of Chabad-Lubavitch in Rosario, Argentina, was recovering at home after being assaulted by three youths on Sunday night during the holiday of Shavuot.
According to neighbors who came to the rabbi’s aid, the attackers shouted antisemitic insults at the rabbi, and began hitting him in the head and abdomen, reported Chabad.org.They then threw him to the floor, kicked him and trampled his hat before fleeing.
A Palestinian man inspects the site of an Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza Strip, June 14, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Ibraheem Abu Mustafa.
Thousands of Palestinians rioted on the Israel-Gaza Strip border on Friday, hurling rocks, firebombs and explosive devices at IDF troops.
Also on Friday, numerous blazes were ignited in southern Israel by incendiary balloons sent over the border from Hamas-ruled Gaza.
Early Friday morning, the Israeli Air Force struck several Hamas targets in Gaza, in response to a rocket attack the previous night in which a religious school in Sderot was damaged.
On May 31, the cry went out from Times Square, New York City, to annihilate Israel and extend the terror war against the Jewish state to America.
As they did in Beirut, Berlin, London, Tehran, and Dearborn, Michigan, Israel-haters gathered at Times Square to call for Israel’s dissolution on the day the Iranian regime has determined to be “Al Quds Day,” that is, Jerusalem Day.
The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) posted a video of the event. In it, a series of speakers called over and over again for Israel’s annihilation, voiced support for terrorists and terrorism and called for the war against Israel to come to New York.
Nate Chase from the World Workers’ Party led the crowd in chanting, “We don’t want not two state! We want ’48!”
Leftists have never been as humorless, unfunny and touchy as they are now. And they’ve never poured as much time and money into late night comedy, Netflix comedy specials and assorted people angrily shouting things about Trump and their confused sexual identities into a microphone, as they are now.
Comedy, as supported by billion-dollar media corporations based in blue states that would legalize killing babies and heroin before they would permit gun ownership, has returned to its roots in Greek political life. Except the ancient Greeks thought that people insulting each other’s politics was funny and the modern Proggies think that the insults should be one-sided and delivered in an echo chamber.
The UCLA Daily Bruin and its editorial staff have made a mockery of the concept of a free press, opening their pages to terrorist political organizations and closing them to the opponents of terrorist propaganda and Jew hatred. The Bruin’s allegiance to the destroy-Israel left and failure to observe the core principles of journalism in a democracy was glaringly obvious in its coverage of a recent student government ruling.
The resolution passed on Tuesday, May 21, by the UCLA Undergraduate Students Association asserted that—contrary to all evidence and a long history of spreading the genocidal lies of Hamas terrorists, and harassing Jewish students and their invited speakers— the group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) is not anti-Semitic.
May 28, 2019 0Mevo Modi’im (Photo By BFP Michio Nagata) Two organizations, one headed by Jews and the other headed by Christians, joined together to help the people of Mevo Modi’im. A wildfire in the Ben...
The long-running dispute revolves — most recently — around an effort by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims, a cross-party formation of around two-dozen MPs in the British Parliament, to institutionalize the definition of Islamophobia in racial rather than religious terms.
The proposed definition has been opposed by many Britons, including British Muslims, who warn that it would effectively shield Islam from scrutiny and valid criticism.
The New York Times claimed that President Donald Trump does not care about his re-election campaign or about the policies he would seek to enact during a second term.
“In a recent overarching state-of-the-race briefing in Florida with Brad Parscale, his campaign manager, Mr. Trump was consistently distracted and wanted to discuss other things,
The New York Times got quite a scoop when, in an interview with its Jerusalem bureau chief David Halbfinger, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said that he favored Israel’s annexation of the West Bank. That was the lede of Halbfinger’s article, as well as in the headline. And that was also the way the story was played in virtually every one of the many publications that picked up on the story.
Every movement has a mission statement. “Make America Great Again” is the conservative one. (It’s the “Again” part that makes it conservative.) The enemies of making America great have one too.
If the radicals had red hats, they would say, “They’re Out To Get You.”
TOTGY has been the leftist motto since before Marx learned to shave and then decided to stop doing it. The arc of history may bend toward many places, but the black rainbow serviced by a snarling leprechaun with a PhD and a cocaine problem always begins and ends in the same paranoid place.
In certain circumstances, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said last week, Washington would recognize the annexation of Palestinian territories by Israel.
As expected, Friedman’s comments led to fierce criticism. The Palestinians already call him the “settler spokesman.”
But in fact, instead of blaming the settlers, the Palestinians can only blame themselves. And given that we are in the era of “narratives,” namely, lies that pretend to be history, we should pay attention to the facts.