Tel Aviv (GPA) – According to a new report from the Wall Street Journal, Israel has been paying off jihadists in Syria near the Golan Heights to provide a buffer between pro Assad forces.
The Wall Street Journal has apparently spoken to “Syrian rebels” that operate in the contested Golan Heights near the Israel-Syria border. According to the report, this operation has allegedly been going on since 2013.
The Israeli name for this “secret engagement” is “Good Neighborhood” policy since it’s an effort to place friendly “neighbors” in the Golan Heights. Apparently Israel is more comfortable with violent takfiris on their border than the secular Syrian government and their Shiite allies (who are occupied fighting IS).
The jihadists who talked to the WSJ are said to be members of the rebel group Fursan al-Joulan (Knights of Golan). The group is said to consist of about 400 fighters. Which signals that they’re a local militia but they’re not affiliated with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), leading some to speculate that they are possibly aligned with groups like al Qaeda.
The Golan Heights area was the site of early clashes in the conflict between the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), the FSA and former al Qaeda affiliate Jahbat al Nusra. Since the FSA doesn’t claim the KoG, and the group has existed since 2013 it’s more evidence against them. It’s likely that the KoG would’ve participated in the 2015 offensive in the Quneitra governorate which was led by local factions of al Nusra.
On top of all this, according to the WSJ, the amount of Israeli aid has been rather generous. Beyond the usual treatment of treating takfiris in Israeli hospitals, the Israeli department of defense is also providing weapons, supplies and $5,000 in cash each month.
The WSJ also spoke to KoG spokesman – Moatasem al-Golani, who only had loving words concerning the group’s relationship with Israel, saying “Israel stood by our side in a heroic way.” He also told the WSJ that “We wouldn’t have survived without Israel’s assistance.” Apparently this is also the feeling of other militant groups since the Journal also quoted another fighter from a local group in the Golan region who told them “most people want to cooperate with Israel.”
The Golan groups say they first made contact with Israel following a 2013 raid on an SAA position, after which Israel agreed to treat their wounded.
This is of course just another example of Israel interfering in Syria’s 6 year war despite repeatedly stating that they have no interest in getting involved in Syria. While it’s understandable that Israel would publicly hold the policy of keeping IS away from their border, but with IS forces almost eradicated from the region it’s obvious that Israel is now funding other extremists in order to continue to fuel their proxy war with Iranian backed forces (primarily Hezbollah).
There doesn’t seem to be any reasons left to doubt that Israel’s position towards the secular government of Syria is anything but neutral. The Israeli hypocrisy is that they’re opposing Iranian supported militias in favor of salafi jihadists on their border, further showing that the plans from Washington to further build their alliance with the Sunni wahhabis in the gulf. The question is now, who – if anyone – will stop Israel’s constant meddling across the region?
James Carey is an organizer based in Detroit, Michigan, founder of Geopolitics Alert, and an experienced analyst on Middle Eastern affairs with a particular focus on Turkey. He also covers topics ranging from Latin America and Asia to Europe. You can also hear James in his weekly podcast; The Left is Dead which he co-hosts with investigative journalist Jake Anderson.