The retiring and the designated Israeli Chiefs-of-Staff sound like twins: both Shaul Mofaz and Moshe Yaalon insist that the next war is inevitable. é Yet another war? Yes: the re-occupation of the West Bank has not satiated the junta’s desires at all. In fact, the on-going war on the Palestinians, with its clear genocidal features, is no real challenge for the Generals. Using one of the world’s strongest armies to chase amateurish combatants armed with outdated revolvers and home-made explosives is a General’s shame, not fame.
So what is Israel up to? Although incitement against Iran, Iraq and even Egypt never ceases (Hebrew Ha’aretz says [2.7] “Recent reports about Egyptian intentions to develop nuclear weaponry WERE APPARENTLY THE RESULT OF ISRAELI PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE and do not match intelligence information in Jerusalem, according to a senior Israeli official”; typically, the capitalised words were omitted in the English edition), Israel’s most immediate target is undoubtedly Syria.
How It All Started
Since 1967, Israel has been holding the Syrian Golan Heights. As revealed in a posthumous interview by Moshe Dayan, Israel’s celebrated Defence Minister of the 1967 War, this occupation was an unprovoked act of aggression:
‘At least 80% of the skirmishes there [prior to the War] started by us sending a tractor to plough inside the demilitarised zone, knowing in advance the Syrians would start shooting. If they did not, we would tell the tractor to go on until the Syrians got nervous and did start shooting. Then we would use cannons and later even air force.’ Dayan added that the decision to occupy the Golan was taken by PM Levi Eshkol, among other reasons, under pressure of a delegation from the Kibbutzim […], whose true motivation was the desire for more land” (Yedioth Achronot, 17.12.1999).
The occupied Golan has formally been annexed, settled by Israelis, and, contrary to international legislation, Israel has been extensively exploiting its nature resources: “Mey Eden”, an Israeli-based mineral water producer, is pumping in the occupied Golan. Typically, even the Yizchak Rabin Monument in Tel-Aviv is made of black basalt from the Syrian Heights.
Barak’s Syrian Fraud
Opinion polls repeatedly show that “in a referendum, 60% of Israeli Jews would support returning the entire Golan Heights and evacuating all the settlements there for full peace with Syria” (Yedioth Achronot, 10.3.2000). But contrary to the prevailing myth, there is no evidence that any Israeli PM, including Barak, was ever ready to return the Golan to Syria. In the Shepherdstown Protocol leaked from the latest peace talks under President Clinton, the Syrian proposal é
“The location of the border has been agreed upon by the parties, based upon the line of June 4th, 1967. The State of Israel will withdraw all its military forces and civilians behind this border”
é was met by the following Israeli version:
“The location of the border has been agreed upon by the parties, taking into account security considerations and other considerations essential to the parties, as well as legal considerations of both parties. The State of Israel will re-deploy all its military forces behind this border.”
So Barak’s “generous offer” to Syria offered no withdrawal but just “redeployment”; no eviction of Israeli civilians; and did not even mention the 1967 border. (Document published in Ha’aretz, 13.1.2000).
War with Syria é Why?
Nevertheless, the Israeli-Syrian cease-fire line has been Israel’s most quiet border since the 1973 war: not a single shot in almost thirty years. Since Israel withdrew from Lebanon two years ago, the Lebanese border has been fairly quiet too. There is limited fighting in a disputed small piece of land that Israel holds, probably just to keep the border warm (how else can one explain Israel’s insistence to keep this disputed area, on the absurd grounds that it wasn’t occupied from Lebanon but from Syria?), and the flak fired by the Hezbollah é often portrayed as a potential casus belli é is provoked by repeated Israeli military flights in Lebanese air space.
(Let’s drop the “terrorism” demagoguery. Sure, Hezbollah is “a terrorist group”. It holds one Israeli civilian and several soldiers hostage, and it used to bomb Israeli civilians and civil infrastructure. But Israel too has been holding several Lebanese citizens hostage for years, it has terrorised south Lebanon for decades, bombed Lebanese civilians, turned up to half a million of them into refugees, repeatedly destroyed Lebanon’s civil infrastructure, and breaches Lebanese sovereignty on a regular basis.)
But in the present quiet atmosphere, why go to war? The answer seems to be part of the logic of the New World Order. In the Cold War period, conflicts were contained by balance of power and mutual deterrence. The ABM Treaty between the US and the Soviet Union was a good example. You didn’t have to destroy your enemy: it was enough to make sure he had no interest to attack you. With the collapse of the Eastern Block and the emergence of the US as the sole super-power, the rules have changed. The New World Order rejects the idea of balance of power: every threat should be physically eliminated, and reducing whole nations to dust is not too high a price. Only military forces that serve as proxies of the US are allowed to exist. All other forces should be destroyed. Not negotiations, but dictates are the means; not hegemony, but absolute control is the end. Thus, power-intoxicated governments gamble away public money in the lubricated roulette of the booming weapons industry.
Israel is following the example of its American patron. Even though Hezbollah has been a reliable partner for agreements based on mutual deterrence, the mere fact that it possesses missiles that can reach strategic targets in northern Israel is intolerable for Israel. Yes: for the very Israel that now boasts a “capability to launch, by means of a missile, a payload to any location on the face of the earth” (Ha’aretz, 26.6). Obviously, the existence of a rather strong Syrian army cannot be tolerated as well, no matter how unlikely it is to attack Israel. If Syria does not act as an Israeli proxy and dismantle the Hezbollah, it should be destroyed.
War with Syria é When?
Geoffrey Aronson, writing for the Los Angeles Times (21.6), warns: “For the first time since then-Defence Minister Ariel Sharon, under a benevolent American eye, led Israel’s star-crossed invasion of Lebanon in 1982, there are growing indications that a US president has given Israel a green light to attack targets on Syrian soil if the on-again-off-again battle between Israel and Hezbollah intensifies.”
Alex Fishman of Yedioth Achronot (28.6) believes that “the political echelon does not want to open the northern file as long as the Palestinian file has not been closed […] When the Americans launch part II of their war on terror é against the Iraqi regime é Israel will pay its share.”
I am not sure Israel will wait that long. As Geoffrey Aronson says: “Prime Minister Sharon’s government did, indeed, contemplate such a strike this year. According to Eyal Zisser, an Israeli analyst, hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah failed to trigger war in April not because of American opposition but because Sharon has learned that precipitous military action without a broad public consensus is a recipe for defeat.”
War with Syria é How?
Though it is difficult to predict what exactly the junta has in mind, there are some hints.
“This week, the Head of the Military Intelligence Agency held an obscure speech in the Knesset’s Committee for Security and Foreign Affairs, saying Israel was going to give Syria a hit of a totally different kind.” (Ofer Shelach, Yedioth Achronot, 7.6).
“The days in which Israel was confining itself to hitting power generators in Beirut and a few Syrian radar stations are over. In coping with the threat, only a massive punitive operation will do.” Alex Fishman, Yedioth Achronot, 28.6)
The New World Order now enables the US and its allies to reduce peoples to dust. For the richest nation on earth, even cutting food supply is not out of range. Noam Chomsky, in his 911, quotes the New York Times of September 16th: “Washington has also demanded [from Pakistan] a cutoff of fuel supplies […] and the elimination of truck convoys that provide much of the food and other supplies to Afghanistan’s civilian population”.
In World War II, one of the plans considered by the Allies was to send Germany after the war, as a punitive measure, back to the Middle Ages. It was ruled out for fear that it might push Germany to the Soviets. There is no such danger nowadays. In the New World Order, Sharon is reported to have told Colin Powell that Israel might act “in a way that would send Syria back to the Stone Age”. (Shimon Shiffer, Yedioth Achronot, 7.6) And it might happen very soon.
Ran HaCohen was born in the Netherlands in 1964 and has grown up in Israel. He has B.A. in Computer Science, M.A. in Comparative Literature and he presently works on his PhD thesis. He lives in Tel-Aviv, teaches in the Department of Comparative Literature in Tel-Aviv University. He also works as literary translator (from German, English and Dutch), and as a literary critic for the Israeli daily Yedioth Achronoth. His work has been published widely in Israel. His column appears monthly at Antiwar.com.