Two Aviv (GPA) – Russia and Israel have reached a deal for a 10-15 kilometer wide buffer zone between the Israeli border and Iranians in Syria.
Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu a day after Israel targeted a Russian-made air defense system in Syria. The two met to discuss several issues, but the meeting was focused, for the most part, on Israel’s one primary concern: Iran’s activity in the Syrian war.
The two men met to find some compromise that would both address Israel’s concern as well as protect the progress made by Iranian-backed forces and Hezbollah, who are aiding Russia in fighting terrorists in Syria. Of course, it’s always hard to find middle ground with Netanyahu, who started the meeting off from a predictable position.
Netanyahu’s established his position reasonably early in the meeting, telling Shoigu, rather bluntly, that Israel would not allow Iran to “establish itself militarily in Syria.” Arguably, Netanyahu may have missed the boat on this since Iran is now heavily involved in Syria and has played a crucial role in turning the war around with the Syrian army, and nearly bringing the conflict to a close.
According to the official position of Israel, they are neutral in the Syrian war, despite their semi-regular attacks on Syrian troops and their allies. A point justifying most Israeli interference in Syria Netanyahu kept hammering on at this week’s meeting; that Iran is building up Hezbollah and threatening the Golan Heights.
Most Israeli bombing runs on Syria are typically claimed to be targeting transfers of weapons to Hezbollah by Syria and Iran. This has caused tension between Israel and the global community, as Tel Aviv has shown their willingness to “intervene” while not technically at war by bombing forces operating in a country they were invited to.
Netanyahu may not have brought up Hezbollah, but Shoigu did meet with Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman the day before who was much more clear. Lieberman still upheld the lie that Israel “will not get involved in internal matters in Syria, but, on the other hand, we will not allow Iran and Hezbollah to turn Syrian territory into a forward operating base against Israel.”
Lieberman built on the excuses listed above, saying Israel “will not allow the transfer of advanced weaponry by Iran through Syria to Lebanon.”
Shoigu was not hostile with either Israeli leader, instead focusing his trip on global unity saying “As terrorist activities in the world have been growing, the global community needs to close ranks to fight against this scourge.” According to Shoigu, Russia’s primary concern when it comes to the current situation in Syria is that “some issues need to be tackled” as “the operation there is nearing completion.”
Despite Israel’s demanding positions, Shoigu still managed to work out an agreement that will create a buffer zone between Hezbollah, Iranian-backed forces and the Israeli border. Israel initially demanded this buffer zone be about 40 kilometers wide but later agreed to lower that distance to between 10-15 km.
Israel obviously uses meetings like this to continue to play the victim, despite violating their professed neutrality in multiple ways, including arming and paying ‘Syrian rebels.’
Two-thirds of the Golan Heights (officially Syrian territory) region has been occupied by Israel since 1981, in a manner similar to the occupation of southern Lebanon that ended in 2006. According to Israeli interpretations of recent history, the Golan is already a “buffer zone” in itself, but apparently, that’s not enough.
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.