Israel media review

Getting tents in the Golan: 8 things to know for July 2

Israel sends a message to Assad to keep away from the DMZ, but also makes clear that IDPs will get no more help than some shelter, food and medicine

A picture taken on June 30, 2018, from the Israeli Golan Heights shows a tractor-led trailer carrying civilians arriving at a camp for displaced Syrians near the Syrian village of Burayqah in the southern province of Quneitra, just across the border from Israel. (AFP Photo/Jalaa Marey)
A picture taken on June 30, 2018, from the Israeli Golan Heights shows a tractor-led trailer carrying civilians arriving at a camp for displaced Syrians near the Syrian village of Burayqah in the southern province of Quneitra, just across the border from Israel. (AFP Photo/Jalaa Marey)

1. If there were any doubt Israel was taking a hard-nosed realpolitik approach to Syria and dictator Bashar Assad’s survival, it had gone out the window by Tuesday morning.

  • “Israel has made peace with an Assad victory and will not intervene to help the rebels,” reads the top headline in broadsheet Haaretz.
  • “Israel is entering a very delicate phase with regard to the Syrian civil war. Protecting its security interests in the north while avoiding entry into the fighting itself, are becoming an immediate challenge this week,” writes the paper’s Amos Harel.
  • Part of that delicate tightrope involved Israel beefing up its forces near the border in case it is forced to get involved, with the buildup seen as a clear message to Assad.
  • “Now that your army is coming south, don’t send them into the demilitarized zone established in the 1974 [ceasefire] agreement. Israel will see this as a serious violation,” is how Hadashot television news’s defense analyst Roni Daniel is couching Israel’s apparent message.

2. Israel Hayom’s Yoav Limor notes that rebels are taking advantage of this no-man’s land to seek protection from Assad and Russia, but eventually a much larger push will come, probably after Russia is out of the World Cup and perhaps after Russian President Vladimir Putin meets US President Donald Trump.

  • “Israel believes the Syrian takeover will be quick, but not necessarily smooth. It’s also not sure if Israel will be able to stay out of the picture during heavy fighting in the Golan, definitely not in a situation in which rebels might make desperate moves in order to drag the IDF into action, and given the masses of refugees that may seek refuge from the battles in Israel,” he writes.
  • A top military official tells ToI that he does not think refugees will try to bum rush the fence and they have no expectation of refuge in Israel: “Syrians will not run to the fence,” says the officer running Israel’s humanitarian program on the border, who cannot be named. “First of all, we will not allow it. Second, there is a big, big difference between getting help from Israel, getting treated in Israel, and coming to live in Israel.”
  • The officer indicates that Syrians still view Israelis as enemies and don’t want to come here, though anecdotal evidence would say otherwise.
  • Researcher Elizabeth Tsurkov, who is in touch with many of the refugees, writes on Twitter that just because displaced Syrians aren’t asking for asylum doesn’t mean they don’t want it.

3. Israelis also apparently still view Syrians as enemies, though they are providing some aid.

  • Yedioth Ahronoth reports that local Israeli officials on the Golan are urging people to donate more to give to the displaced Syrians, and have organized their own collection center.
  • The paper also notes that two of the children transferred to Israel for medical care are still fighting for their lives in Nahariya.
  • “We go every week to look at our neighbors in the tent camps, who are just 600 meters from my workshop,” a man from Golan town Alonei Habashan tells Israel Hayom. “We are on the normal side, looking at their hell.”
  • A Druze honey-seller tells the paper that he won’t go see the tent cities “because it hurts too much.”
  • In Haaretz, former IDF spokesman Peter Lerner breaks ranks and calls for Israel to let in some refugees.
  • “Our compassion cannot only be at a distance. Our neighbors in Syria have endured, and are still enduring, a devastating civil war, and while Israel has been considered Syria’s mortal enemy since 1973, our humanitarian gestures must be broadened,” he writes, specifically prescribing the entry of orphaned children.

4. And what of Gaza’s children? In Yedioth Ahronoth, columnist Ben Dror Yemini chides the Joint List, Meretz and one Zionist Union MK for organizing a Knesset confab on the crisis facing kids in the Strip.

  • Yemini accuses the lawmakers of playing into Hamas and Islamic Jihad propaganda, though he admits kids in the Strip are suffering.
  • “The Israeli left needs to have an important role in protecting human rights. But it suffers from the same problems as the UN Human Rights Council,” he writes.

5. Yair Lapid and Moshe Ya’alon team up in ToI to pen an op-ed asking why the international community continues to insist Israel return the Golan to Assad instead of recognizing its annexation.

  • “Would you take an area that is flourishing in a Western democratic state, where fifty thousand people of different religions and ethnicities live in harmony, and hand it over to a violent dictatorship ruled by the worst mass murderer of our time so that he can destroy the area and murder most of the residents,” the two ask rhetorically.
  • While the argument is not new, the joining up of the Yesh Atid head and former Likud defense minister currently wandering the political wilderness may be the most significant part of the op-ed.
  • Walla News reports that it is the first public display by the two senior politicians, who have been exploring working together since Ya’alon left Likud two years ago.

6. The Yalapid monster could be bad news for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, though he is hoping Monday will see an issue that has threatened his coalition, the bill on drafting (or not drafting) ultra-Orthodox into the military, put to bed.

  • Though the ultra-Orthodox oppose the bill, expected to pass Monday, they have agreed to not oppose it in order to keep the coalition alive, with Netanyahu reportedly set to call early elections once a softened version of the bill passes.
  • According to Maariv, neither side wants the government to fall over the bill, because of fears it would boost Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, which has campaigned strongly in favor of drafting members of the ultra-Orthodox community into the army.
  • Yesh Atid, though, came out in favor of the bill, at least the version drafted by the Defense Ministry that’s set to pass Monday, according to Walla.
  • Meanwhile Avi Gabbay, head of the Labor Party, tells Army Radio that if he’s prime minister, he will make sure the bill goes by the wayside.

7. Haaretz reports that US officials are torn between whether to try and negotiate a new nuclear deal with the Iranian regime, or flush it down the toilet and push for regime change,

  • “According to Haaretz’s sources, [National Security Adviser John] Bolton views the demonstrations that have broken out in Iran in recent months over the state of the country’s economy as an indication of the regime’s weakness, the paper reports.
  • Bolton’s view is summarized by an official as “ One little kick and they’re done.”
  • On the other side, according to the paper’s sources, is Defense Secretary Jim Mattis who “supports increasing pressure on Iran, but with the clear objective of bringing the Iranians back to the table for a better agreement – one that would roll back their regional aggression.”
  • Between the two poles is new Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who seems to vacillate, according to the paper.

8. The New York Times reports on a phenomenon bedeviling German music festivals: performers’ support for boycotts of Israel. The paper writes that Germans, whose history compels them to oppose such boycotts, don’t take kindly to inviting artists on stage who do avoid the Jewish state.

  • “Whoever [supports BDS] must be called anti-Semitic and be prepared to handle our determined resistance,” the paper quotes Berlin’s far-left culture minister Klaus Lederer saying.
  • However, recently, the tables have been turned, with acts pulling out of festivals in support of acts that back BDS who are being kicked out.
  • “I have a big problem being part of a festival that asks artists to distance themselves from their beliefs and commitments — whatever they are,” says musician Laurie Andersen, who threatened to withdraw from Berlin’s Pop-Kultur festival before organizers gave in.

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