It took just under a week for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to go from cautious optimism about the ceasefire jointly established in south-western Syria between Russia, Jordan and the United States to total opposition.
On 10 July Netanyahu said the following of the ceasefire,
“Israel will welcome a genuine ceasefire in Syria but this ceasefire must not enable the establishment of a military presence by Iran and its proxies in Syria in general and in southern Syria in particular”.
He further stated that Israel will continue to,
“…prevent the strengthening of Hezbollah via Syria, with emphasis on the acquisition of precision weapons, prevent Hezbollah – or Iranian forces – from establishing a ground presence along our border, and prevent the establishment of an Iranian military presence in Syria as a whole”.
However, on the 16th of June at a press conference with French President Macron, Netanyahu told reporters that he now opposes the plan because according to Haaretz, “it perpetuates the Iranian presence in the country”.
The opposition Israeli outlet further stated that according to Israeli officials close to Netanyahu,
“The agreement as it is now is very bad.
It doesn’t take almost any of Israel’s security interests and it creates a disturbing reality in southern Syria. The agreement doesn’t include a single explicit word about Iran, Hezbollah or the Shi’ite militias in Syria”.
These statements are totally misleading. Unlike the de-escalations established in other parts of Syria (not bordering Israel) by the Astana group which are policed by a combination of Russia, Turkish and Iranian forces, the ceasefire and accompanying de-escalation zones for south-western Syria will only be enforced by Russian, American and Jordanian troops. Iran, like Turkey is simply not part of the deal.
This comes as al-Masdar breaks news that Russian troops have arrived in south-western Syria to begin the process of enforcing the ceasefire. The report states that it is unclear when any Jordanian or American troops might arrive. It has been further reported by Haaretz that Israel is opposed to the presence of Russian troops in spite of the fact that unlike Israel and Iran, Tel Aviv has no major disputes with Russia and frequently does business deals with Russian companies.
Israel’s opposition to the ceasefire has been voiced in spite of Russian President Vladimir Putin and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaking to the Israeli PM about the deal during its early stages of negotiation.
The fact is that Israel’s objections to the ceasefire have no basis in reality. In spite of bordering Syria, Israel has been uniquely untouched by Syria’s civil war. The same cannot be said of Lebanon which has seen al-Qaeda spillover activity or for that matter Turkey which plunged headlong into the conflict. Jordanians have also faced terrorist attacks from the groups that have attacked Syria which is to say nothing of Iraq whose conflict directly lead to the breach of Syrian sovereignty by Israel.
This is a fact that no amount of Israeli scaremongering can obfuscate.
The other inconvenient truth for Israel is that because Israel has illegally occupied part of Syria, the Golan Heights since 1967 and vehemently opposes the government of Syria, Israel has cheering on illegal regime change in Damascus since before the current crisis began in 2011.
Israel’s goal of regime change remains unchanged, even as the US and even France appear to have shifted their position.