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Israel’s Defence Minister tells giant lie about the Syrian ceasefire

epa04484313 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R), Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (C) and Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (L) attend the 2015 budget voting at the Israeli Knesset plenum in Jerusalem, Israel, 10 November 2014. Media reports on the possibility of early primaries due to controversies between the parties of the Israeli Parliament. EPA/ABIR SULTAN

Israel’s Defence Minister, the well-known hardliner Avigdor Lieberman has told a giant lie about the situation in Syria. He stated that because Israel is not a signatory or guarantor of the ceasefire covering the Golan Heights which was recently agreed upon by Russia, the US and Jordan, Israel is free to act as it militarily pleases in parts of Syria covered by the ceasefire.

This is factually wrong. There is something much more important than the ceasefire which prohibits Israel from attacking Syria and that is international law. Syria is not at war with Israel although Israel continues to illegally occupy part Syria and has done so since 1967.

International law prohibits all acts of aggression against Syria by Israel because Israel and Syria are not at war. This hasn’t stopped Israel from acting aggressively towards Syria and treating jihadist fighters in Israeli hospitals.

Liberman’s remarks when contrasted with those of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from  yesterday read a bit like a “good cop, bad cop scenario”.  Netanyahu endorsed the ceasefire and even bragged about consulting with Vladimir Putin and Rex Tillerson about it. He gave his usual anti-Iranian and anti-Hezbollah rhetoric along with the statements of support for the ceasefire, but the fact remains that as soon as Russian and American troops are on the ground in south western Syria enforcing the ceasefire, Israel would have to be careful where it might attack Syria.

A country as globally unpopular as Israel could not afford to act in western Syria while US and Russian troops are there without coordinating an attack with both Russia and the US. To this end, if the ceasefire holds, it takes away Israel’s overly used excuse about fighting Hezbollah as Hezbollah like all other parties, would not be fighting if the ceasefire holds.

While Israel is becoming increasingly, unpredictable, untrustworthy and rogue in its actions, it would appear that the ceasefire, assuming it holds even temporarily will limit Israel’s options in the region and could even make Tel Aviv think twice before violating international law again….at least for now.

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