Israel Advocacy Initiatives and Updates
After more than two years of civil war in Syria, the death toll is approaching 80,000, and some estimates place the current number of refugees at one million – and growing. While these figures sketch an outline of the tragic consequences of the conflict for the Syrian people and the tensions that the refugee crisis is creating in countries such as Turkey and Jordan, they do not address the impact that this crisis has on Israel.
The immediate and long-term threats to Israel are both linked to the Syrian-Hezbollah nexus and its ties to the Iranian government. Thus when Israel executed two airstrikes in and around Damascus earlier in May, its aim was not to take sides in the Syrian conflict: the primary concern of the Israeli government was to disrupt transfers of weapons from the Syrian government’s stockpile of weaponry to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Analysts estimate that Hezbollah currently has some 60,000 rockets, and transfers from Syria could provide even more sophisticated weaponry and tactical equipment. Beyond the fear of chemical weapons, Israeli officials also point to Scud-D ballistic missiles, which would give Hezbollah the capability to strike all of Israel’s major population centers, Iranian-made Fateh-110 medium range missiles, and Russian ground-to-air SA17 missiles. This type of arsenal would not only make Hezbollah more dangerous on its own behalf; some analysts also point to the possibility of this weaponry giving “second strike” capabilities to Hezbollah should Israel make any kind of a preliminary strike at the Iranian nuclear program.
Israeli newspaper Yediot Achronot reported that Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Miqdad threatened immediate response to further Israeli strikes but also denied that Syria served as a transfer point for Iranian weapons intended for Hezbollah. In contrast, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah acknowledged Thursday that weapons transfers from Syria would be “game-changing,” and would give Hezbollah an enhanced technical advantage.
Israelis are aware that their options in influencing the Syrian conflict are limited. Certainly, the Syrian government under both Bashar al-Assad and his father, Hafez, has not been a friend to Israel, but the SyrianIsraeli border has been quiet for almost 40 years under the Assad regime. A new government might offer enhanced opportunities for normalizing relations between the two countries but could also include radical Islamist or jihadist elements that might increase hostilities between the two countries.
Further exacerbating the situation, Hezbollah supporters have now joined the Assad regime’s forces in the fighting in al-Qusayr in Homs province in addition to their previous support of Shiite militias in and around Damascus. The larger implications for both Syria and for the fragile political situation in Lebanon remain to be seen.
As a backdrop to these events, Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov held a press conference on Tuesday, May 7, to announce their intentions to convene a conference on the Syrian crisis in May or June. The purpose of this meeting will be to bring representatives of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government together with rebel groups with the hope of negotiating a cease fire and, eventually forming a transitional government.
But Israel must also be wary of Russian involvement in these negotiations. A previous conference that the U.S. and Russia convened on the Syrian conflict in Geneva in June 2012 exposed the differences in their approach. At the time, Russia objected to the demands of opposition groups and the U.S. that a precondition for the talks was that Assad step down for the presidency and the conference was not successful. The Russians may well have abandoned this tenet as more evidence surfaces about Assad using chemical weapons in the ongoing conflict. But current Russian plans to sell an advanced air defense system, the S-300, to the Syrians is undoubtedly a threat to Israel’s security, as are Russian plans to provide ten MiG fighter jets to the Assad government.
Certainly, neither the United States nor Russia is interested in involving themselves in a war between Syria and Israel. However, just as in 1967 and 1973, the United States and Russia find themselves on opposite sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Russian sponsorship of Syria no longer carries the ideological overtones that were attached to Soviet sponsorship of the Middle East, but Russian opposition to the West and the way that this is translated to the Middle East is clear. For now, Israel and the United States must be alert to a growing number of threats from both state and non-state actors and their supporters in the region.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement: Philadelphia's Response
From February 3 - 6 2012, a national conference of BDS supporters (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel) gathered on the campus of the University of Pensylvania. This conference assembled academics and professional activists with a primary purpose of continuing an international deligitimization campaign against Israel.
Israel Education & Advocacy Resource Providers
An Excellent Way to Respond to Boycott Campaigns is to Support Israel Through Buying Israeli Products
When you buy goods made and grown in Israel, not only are you getting quality items but you are also supporting a loyal and important American ally. This Buy Israel initiative is adapted from a ZOA program in place since 2009.
Click HERE for more information about Buy Israel items and locations.
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