Bibi Netanyahu is always one who’s good for a new outrage. No sooner does he lose a controversial cause celebre like Iran (since the P5+1 agreement with Iran removed it as a nettlesome international issue) than he manages to find new ways to outrage his frontline Arab neighbors and all the world leaders who think he’s a friggin’ time bomb waiting to explode.
In a total charade-provocation, he brought his entire cabinet to the Golan, that is sovereign Syrian territory Israel wrested from Syrian control during the 1967 War. He took advantage of a nice photo-op by having them photographed sitting awkwardly on chairs at the top of a mountain. He made sure, unlike in past inconvenient photos when female cabinet ministers were visible in the front row, causing Haredi newspapers to remove them, that all the women were in the back row and barely visible. Good thinking, Bibi-PR flacks!
Then while there, he made this absolutely outrageous, historically bogus claim:
“The time has come after 50 years for the international community to acknowledge that the Golan Heights will permanently remain under Israeli sovereignty.”
…“In the 19 years that the Golan Heights was under Syrian occupation, it was used for bunkers, barbed wire fences and war,” Netanyahu said. “In the 49 years that the Golan has been under Israeli rule, it has been used for agriculture, tourism, economics and peace. In the turbulent region that surrounds us, Israel is the stabilizing factor. It is the solution and not the problem. Many nations in the region recognize this.”
…“Israel will never leave the Golan Heights.”
As always with Bibi, you have to parse his claims to uncover the false assumptions, errors, and outright lies. The main point to clarify above all is that the entire Golan, both what Israel conquered and what remains currently under Syrian control, is Syrian sovereign territory. Contrary to what Bibi appeared to claim. No nations recognize any legitimate Israeli claim to any of the Golan. It was conquered in war and, as such, must be returned. That is incontrovertible despite all the sand Bibi kicks up.
Further, the Golan was not under “Syrian occupation.” Not ever, and certainly not for 19 years. I tried following his math to discover where his error lay. Apparently, he tried to argue that Syria “occupied” the Golan once it was awarded the territory after the end of the French Mandate (1944). But that Mandate didn’t end in 1948, as Bibi’s math would indicate (1967-19 years=1948). In fact, the French Mandate ended in 1944, not 1948. He apparently conflated the British Mandate’s end (1948) with the French Mandate’s end, assuming they concluded at the same time. A quick Wikipedua online search would’ve given him the correct answer. But even before this period, the Golan was included in the international-recognized French Mandate. So whether he wishes to argue 19 or 23 years, his claims are entirely fake.
In short, the Golan is Syrian. It has been since there was a Syria. It was never Israeli except in the eyes of a single nation in the world.
But let’s leave aside all the Bibi-nanigans and get down to brass tacks. What’s going on here? I’ll tell you. Bibi is thumbing his nose at the world: at the U.S., at Assad’s chief ally, Russia; at Assad’s other chief ally, Iran. He’s telling them that he favors carving up Syria into ethnic cantons. He wants a weak, decentralized, dysfunctional Syria. He wants a defanged Assad, or no Assad.
This further disabuses the world of the false Israeli claim that it remains “neutral” in the Syrian conflict. It is most decidedly intervening on the side of anti-Assad forces. That Bibi is going to Moscow to tell Putin this is telling as well.
Bibi opposes Russian efforts to degrade the rebels and boost Assad. But I’m not sure Bibi has any cards to play. He’s not willing to put any skin in the game as Putin has with Russian jets and ground forces fighting alongside Assad. Israel is certainly in no position to challenge Russian might.
But perhaps Netanyahu doesn’t have to go head to head with Putin. All he needs is to maintain the Golan (not just the Israeli side, but the Syrian as well) as an Israeli sphere of influence. That might suffice to ensure Israeli security (at least in Bibi’s eyes).
But in the end, this is yet another example of Israeli territorial expansionism. Aggression the world knows all too well. This is chutzpah the world will have to challenge somehow and sometime if there is ever to be peace in the region. Good luck to them. They’ve done an awful job of it so far.
But just like the Berlin Wall fell suddenly and quickly after standing for decades, just like the Soviet empire disintegrated after existing for decades–there will come a time when Israel’s aggrandizing policies and overreach will come a-cropper. We don’t know when this will happen. But it will. Just a matter of time.