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article imageOp-Ed: Golan Tremors

By Paul Iddon     Nov 11, 2012 in Politics
The exchange of fire between Israeli and Syrian forces over their border along the Golan Heights has vast geopolitical implications for the wider region.
It only feels like yesterday that Shimon Peres stated – in the midst of a heated debate -- that Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan would not show the restraint he expects Israel to if his country and its civilians came under indiscriminate rocket fire. Peres was essentially vindicated in these pronouncements last month when stray fire near the volatile Syrian-Turkish border killed five Turkish civilians. The Turkish military in turn fired mortars of its own into Syrian territory in a limited retaliation.
A similar exchange of fire has taken place along the Israeli-Syrian border in the strategically significant Golan Heights region. It began when a Syrian mortar round hit an Israeli Army outpost in the Golan Heights. Israel responded by firing what it calls “warning shots” into Syrian territory, showing their readiness to engage the Syrian military if more of its ordnance strays over the Israeli side of that frontier.
Analysis's and news reports of this latest development in that region point out numerous, what are deemed to be the relevant, background factors that one not sufficiently versed in the history of the territory need to know. The most prominent is that this incident signifies the first time that the Israeli and Syrian military's have directly clashed since the end of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, when both countries fought over control of the Heights. Israel's 1981 annexation of the Heights is also a background factor that has been cited along with the fact that this annexation isn't internationally recognized.
Menachem Begin was said to have fallen in the shower and broken his hip the morning he decided to unilaterally annex the Heights. It was after he had heard on the radio that Hafez Assad had declared that Syria would certainly not have peace with Israel for another hundred years. Begin, upon hearing the Syrian leaders declaration that any attempts on Israel's part to broker peace with Syria would be futile, decided to go ahead and annex the strategic territory, which Israel had been holding since 1967. He clearly took this decision since the unwillingness of the Syrian leader to negotiate had been made unambiguously clear to him.
Nevertheless, there were later attempts by the current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reach a settlement with Syria that would have seen to the entire territory being given back to Syria in return for a tangible and tenable peace agreement in 1999. Netanyahu has more recently conducted negotiations with the Assad regime on the eve of the Arab Spring, he showed a willingness, as Ari Shavit points out in his very insightful Ha'aretz column on the subject, to again try and reach a comprehensive settlement over the territory. However, the Arab Spring and especially the violent uprising in Syria has essentially killed such a deal, for the next decade at least, a fact Shavit clearly laments.
There has also been a troubling flare up in the violence in Gaza, with further rockets being fired indiscriminately at South Israel. The IDF through limited retaliation is essentially acting in that territory in a manner highly similar to how Turkey is handling its own volatile border situation, a situation which has seen to unguided munitions raining onto its civilians in Akçakale. This latest incident in Golan is also interesting, because it is seeing to the Israeli military retaliating in a decisive and limited manner to the stray fire in order to warn the Syrian forces in the region not to escalate the present tensions, which have the potential to lead to a dangerous and destructive war. This was essentially done in a manner similar to how Turkey conducted itself in nearly identical circumstances in Akçakale last month.
While Erodgan will probably continue to denounce the Israeli state for its actions against Hamas in Gaza he will also, inadvertently, continue to show his true hypocritical nature. Since, alas his military forces continue to use repressive means in order to clamp down on the Kurdish PKK rebels who also use terrorist means in which to wage a war against the Turkish state. The large Turkish military presence in the Syrian border regions will also doubtlessly respond to the attacks on its civilians with ready retaliatory force that will swiftly strike targets in Syrian territory. A policy they've readily used, and one that is, as I've said, strikingly similar to the Israeli one in Gaza which Erdogan has so vehemently denounced in the past.
Erdogan will likely continue to proclaim to have a bleeding heart over the Palestinians, who he perceives to be brutally repressed by Israel, while he continues to brutally stifle the civil rights of stateless Armenians and Kurds in his own country. He will most likely do this whilst simultaneously ignoring the cackling those same minorities in Syria make when they hear him profess to care about the civil and human rights of respective Palestinian and Syrian nationals.
As for the seizure of territory, one doubts to be surprised if the Syrian state completely collapses, chaos ensues and Turkey in turn militarily intervenes and seizes Syrian territory in order to defend its civilians against various roving ragtag groups of militants that, may capitalize on the confusion and disorder by using it to indiscriminately fire at Turkish territory and in turn endanger the lives of Turkish civilians. Of course this Turkish leadership will, without a doubt, sell such an intervention as a mere act of self-defense.
Such an intervention and seizure of territory -- to serve as a strategic buffer zone against attackers and militants -- would be for the same reasons that Israel took over the Golan Heights in the first place. Since back in the mid-1960's Israel's villages and kibbutzim communities in the north were under threat and fire by Syrian forces, which were strategically positioned high up on the Heights overlooking Israel. However Erdogan probably wouldn't want the comparison to be made, since his view of Israel is one that doubtlessly contends its presence on the Heights is solely for aggressive and hegemonic purposes and not for practical defensive and security purposes.
Thus you can clearly see reader, the tremors we've seen on the Golan Heights show not only the volatile situation there, but it also presents a very apt point in time to reflect upon the monumental hypocrisy of the government in Ankara.
As for those aforementioned tremors, they are warning signals of a very big and dangerous quake that has the potential to wreck havoc across the region. Calculated resolve and realistic encompassing outlooks are what is needed by the states of the region to nip such a catastrophic quake in the bud and alleviate the worsening of an already bleak and dire situation.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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