Another day, another Israeli assassination. Today, the victim was Midhat as-Saleh, a former resident of the Israeli-occupied Golan town of Magdal Shams. He lived in the Syrian-Golan town of ain-Eltinah and was murdered by an IDF sniper as he stood outside his home.
In 1985, while a resident of Israeli-occupied Golan, he was charged with security offenses and imprisoned for 12 years. He had allegedly recruited Druze residents of the Israeli village to spy on Syria’s behalf. On his release, he fled to Syria, where he was appointed a member of the country’s parliament as the representative for the Israeli-occupied Golan. Israeli intelligence alleges that he continued to work for Syrian intelligence on behalf of reuniting the occupied-Golan with Syria. It was conquered by Israel in 1967 and annexed in 1981. Most of the world refuses to recognize the occupation and considers the annexation illegal under international law.
استشهاد الاسير المحرر مدحت الصالح، جراء استهدافه من قبل العدو الصهيوني، في موقع عين التينة مقابل بلدته مجدل شمس المحتلة. pic.twitter.com/zZxIqZxgci
— SUHAIB (@_suhaib001) October 16, 2021
Though Israel officially refuses to acknowledge responsibility for the assassination, a confidential Israeli source has confirmed to me it was an IDF “hit.” According to the source, Israel believes as-Saleh was working not just for Syria, but Iran and Hezbollah as well. He planned attacks from the Syrian side on IDF forces patrolling the border (in retaliation for Israeli attacks on Iranian and pro-Iranian targets).
Israeli security affairs correspondent offered this trenchant warning about Israel’s unrestrained intervention inside of Syria:
This is already the third attack in Syria in the past week that has been attributed to Israel, and some are wondering how long the Assad regime, the ally of Iran and other Islamist elements in Syria, will continue allowing the IDF a relatively free hand without a retaliation that could ignite the entire region. The concern is that the Syrian’s will eventually retaliate…which will require the government to respond…and possibly trigger a conflagration.
…The two strikes from the air…attributed to Israel are part of the war between the wars, a clandestine campaign Israel is…waging to stave off the next war. From the outset, the idea of the war between the wars stemmed from the chaos in Syria due to its civil war, when in 2013 Israelis officials observed that the lack of governance in the country provided fertile conditions for Israeli actions aimed at reducing threats, without the risk of those actions causing a broad conflict. Throughout these years, this reality gave Assad an excuse not to respond to the violation of his sovereignty.
Nothing lasts forever, though, and as more time passed the risks associated with Israel’s free hand in Syria accumulated. Thus, for example, the Russians, who are neck-deep in Syria, aren’t…happy about this Israeli activity and Moscow occasionally issues disconcerting statements on the matter. The fact that Hezbollah issues threats over every attack on its people in Syria also restricts Israel’s operational freedom, and this past year the IDF was placed on high alert for over 100 days after a Hezbollah terrorist was killed in an attack attributed to Israel.
Now the biggest threat to Israel’s freedom of activity in Syria stems from Assad’s attempt to restore control over his country. Assad wants to re-establish his sovereignty and as a result, among other things, Israeli warplanes now face more anti-aircraft resistance.
…In the foreseeable future, whether due to Assad’s push to restore control of Syria or Iran’s desire to avenge the series of Israeli attacks, one of the various actors in Syria will look to respond…
…Israel should…calibrate a new course of action…both in light of the internal developments in Syria, and in the understanding that maintaining the existing policy could, ultimately…spark a broad conflict instead rather than prevent one.
I would define Israel’s strategy even more starkly: it is based on hubris. On the determination that it enjoys free rein to kill virtually whoever it wants whenever it wants; that it may violate the territorial sovereignty of countries anywhere which pose any threat whatsoever (or no threat) to Israeli interests; that it will destroy what it chooses without consideration for consequences. It can pursue this strategy as long as it maintains regional dominance. But there will come a time, perhaps in a year or five or a decade when its own ambitions and capabilities are matched by one of its rivals. Then Shoval’s warning above will be prescient because Israel will not adjust or restrain these ambitions. It is constitutionally unable to do so. The Israeli nationals ethos is based on pure dominance. I doubt it can adjust to such changed circumstances. This could spark the fatal “conflagration of which she speaks. By then, it will be too late.
Students of Jewish history know that the Kingdom of Israel was once a powerful nation. But more powerful ones arose like Assyria, Persia, the Romans and Greeks. Then Israel became a relative asterisk in various empires. For nearly two millenia it didn’t exist at all as a self-ruled state. The State of Israel has had a short history in the context of nations. And a longer historical view has shown that even the most powerful ones have relatively short spans of dominance. The surest path to oblivion lies in states which overplay their hand, believing themselves invulnerable and their power to be eternal.
Returning to the assassination: it raises the question: if Israel can murder former Syrian legislators, why shouldn’t Hezbollah, Iran, Hamas or any number of hostile groups murder an Israeli ex-legislator? After all, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Such former officials should watch their back when they travel outside Israel. Their own army has rendered them targets.
And before Israel-apologists argue in the comment threads that as-Saleh was an intelligence agent and not a civilian, I remind you that many Israeli MKs are former intelligence officers; and there is no reason to believe that service in the Knesset would end their intelligence work. Once you’ve served in Israeli intelligence, you don’t sever connections permanently. When you are useful, you are asked to do “favors” just as Arnon Milchan did for years.
Of course, if such an Israeli were “hit,” Israel would raise a great geshrei about the murder of an innocent civilian, and cry out about the blood on the hands of the — [take your pick] murderers. The tumult would amount to the greatest hypocrisy.