One of the privileges of living in a vibrant Jewish community, such as the one in the city where I reside, Chicago, is that there are always unique programs available. On my own time outside of work, politics and activism haves always been a part of my life, and I do like to attend events that interest me. An important interest of mine is equal rights and the LGBTQ community. I have several friends, some of those who are very close, who happen to be part of that community, and I have been passionate about equality for them for a long time.
I also am a staunch and proud Zionist, as that has run in my family for generations. My great grandfather, Louis Vickar was a rabbi in the Douglas Park neighborhood on the “Vest Side” or the West Side of Chicago and sought to expand rights within the fledgling Chicago Rabbinical Council to balance the modern life of the 1920s and 1930s to fit the laws of Judaism and promoted Zionism as well. My great grandfather also passed that love of Zionism and Israel to my grandmother, and to her son, my father who passed it to me, as well as my younger sister.
When I became a Hillel president at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill. in 2006, one of the challenges I encountered was the Boycott Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement. On one occasion, we hosted Israel’s 60th birthday celebration on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Commons, which was an apolitical event. There was Israeli dancing and free food on the Commons. While the event was going on, several members of the Muslim Student Association walked to the other side of the Commons and started protesting and chanting against Israel. There was a tension that day, especially when their chants turned to: “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free” among others. Luckily, a brother in my chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi (a partner of B’nai B’rith International), went up to them and hilariously engaged the protestors on a common love of falafel and disengaged the BDS protest after 20 minutes. However, this would not be the last time I engaged BDS protesters.
On Jan. 22, I decided to go to an event at the Hilton Chicago Hotel, which was a LGBTQ and allies Shabbat being hosted by “A Wider Bridge” and “Jerusalem Open House” at the Creating Change Conference, hosted by the National LGBTQ Task Force. It is basically the LGBTQ version of the megaconferences we are accustomed to in the Jewish community (B’nai B’rith Policy Forum, AIPAC Policy Conference, etc.). However, the Friday before, the board of the Task Force, which was running the event, sensing a “conflict” disinvited A Wider Bridge and the Jerusalem Open House from participating in the Conference. Several organizations from both the Jewish and the LGBTQ communities monitored the situation, including the Jewish Community Relations Council of Chicago, which B’nai B’rith is a part of, and by the next Tuesday, the groups were reinvited by the Task Force at the behest of the Task Force directors, Sue Hyde and Rea Carey.
I arrived that night to support my colleagues who had suffered enough from BDS. A rabbi from Temple Sholom in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago, Shoshanah Conover, was co-leading the event, and more than 100 people were going to attend. Those in attendance included the Consul General of Israel to the Midwest, Roey Gilad, and high ranking leadership and colleagues of the Jewish Federations in Chicago and Milwaukee, an Illinois state representative amongst many others. The service was fine and very well done; however, in the hallways of the Hilton Chicago, we could hear the familiar voices of BDS chants, along with members of Black Lives Matter Chicago who joined in the protest. More than 200 supporters of the BDS movement chanted those now familiar, hateful chants, “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free,” and “No Justice, No Peace” as well as “Hey hey, ho, ho Pinkwashing has got to go,” and “2, 4, 6, 8, Israel is an apartheid state” as they marched through the lobby, holding signs like “Zionism Sucks” and “US stop funding Israel” among others.
Half the attendees, including the Consul General never made it into the reception, and a few protesters got into the reception and, following the chant “shut it down,” proceeded to indeed shut down the event, first by taking the stage and the microphone, and then walking around the room , yelling and shrieking at attendees who tried to reason with them, and shouting down anyone on the microphone, about Israel’s “pinkwashing,” Chicago police brutality, lies about Israel forcing sterilization of Ethiopian and Palestinian children, and several charges of oppression and outright anti-Semitism from those who ended the event by “heckler’s veto,” as attendee Tony Verona wrote.
It was bad enough that some people left the room in tears.
Colleagues of mine from the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago were literally restraining people from the protest from getting into the room, and I chose to watch a side door to try to not let agitated protestors from getting into the room and causing something bad to happen. The hotel security could not manage to remove the crowd from the narrow hall and did not get into the room itself for 10-30 minutes. The Hilton Chicago Hotel staff eventually had to request support from the Chicago Police Department which had to declare a fire hazard. Attendees of the reception had to leave out of side doors to escape the crowd.
The Task Force on January 25, officially condemned anti-Semitism at the conference, with Director Rea Carey stating “I want to make this crystal clear: the National LGBTQ Task Force wholeheartedly condemns anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic statements made at any Task Force event including our Creating Change Conference. It is unacceptable.” While we applaud the sentiment, steps will need to be put in place to avoid this happening in future years
As we know, BDS is growing on campuses and in certain political elements of the country. While it is not a mainstream majority view, we as the Jewish community have to stand up to it now. Today’s activists in movements such as BDS could very well end up being tomorrow’s policy makers.
B’nai B’rith and the Jewish community at large will continue to reach out to do “Hasbara” or outreach to show why Israel is a beacon of light in the Middle East for its citizens and why it is the leading democracy in an unstable part of the world. We also need to reach out to the younger generations, who are growing in influence in the political movements as well as engaging those who are not traditional “allies” of the Jewish community. If we can do this, the U.S.-Israel relationship can remain bipartisan, and sacrosanct in these unstable times.
In an op-ed for The Algemeiner, Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin that Iran President Hassan Rouhani is on a victory lap following the lifting of sanctions and that Tehran’s friends in Latin America will be sure to bask in the glow.Mariaschin details which Latin American countries will continue to support the regime in Iran, and why even though we’re often transfixed on the chaos of the Middle East it’s important to keep an eye on what’s happening south of our border.
Click here to read the op-ed on The Algemeiner's website.
The sight of Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani now globetrotting his way to world capitals on what he surely sees as a victory lap after signing the nuclear agreement is yet another reminder of how quickly the Tehran regime is being rehabilitated.
He’s not yet made his way to Latin America, but he may yet do so: Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua have been staunch friends of Iran over the years. Surely those countries will want to bask in Tehran’s newfound diplomatic luster and supp at the trough of its economic promise, now that most sanctions have been lifted.
Iran’s penetration of Latin America goes back more than 20 years. The bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992, and the attack on the AMIA social welfare building in 1994, which killed more than 80 people, can be laid at the doorstep of Iranian operatives and their terrorist proxies, Hezbollah.
With the coming to power of the late Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Iran ratcheted up its operations in the hemisphere, including the infamous Tehran-Caracas IranAir flight, which symbolized the close ties the two regimes established. Fellow travelers Bolivia and Ecuador — part of the South American anti-West club — soon joined eagerly, surely benefiting from Tehran’s “walking around” largesse, used to expand its influence in the region.
Indeed, Venezuela has fallen further into an economic abyss under Chavez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro, making more likely Caracas will become even more indebted (and not just financially) to the Iranians.
The result has been not only an Iranian friendship circle, but a bloc of countries pledged to anti-Israel rhetoric and activity at the United Nations and other multilateral fora.
A recent report in London’s Al-Awsat Arabic newspaper speaks of Hezbollah cells operating in at least five countries in the hemisphere, which comes as no surprise. Similar reports have been cropping up over the now nearly 25 years since the terrorist acts in Buenos Aires.
Against this backdrop of Iranian activity in our backyard, there is some encouraging news. The new government in Argentina, led by Mauricio Macri has rolled back a “memorandum of understanding” between the previous Argentine government and Iran, the purpose of which was to bury the longtime investigation into the AMIA bombing — and with it Tehran’s clear fingerprints — and its terrorist presence in that country. It has also given new impetus to an investigation into the mysterious death of Alberto Nisman, the chief Argentine prosecutor in the case — and who was on the verge of disclosing details that may have incriminated Argentine government operatives, as well as the Iranians.
As a result, Argentine-Israeli relations are expected to vastly improve. That may also be the case in Uruguay, which now holds a UN Security Council seat, and whose previous government was often seen as sympathetic to Palestinian and radical positions on a wide range of issues. Uruguay’s new (and former) President Tabare Vazquez did post-doctoral work at the Weizmann Institute years ago, and takes a much more open-minded view of Middle East issues than his predecessor.
And then there is Paraguay. For years, the locus of one third of the infamous tri-border area (together with Brazil and Argentina), a lawless center for smuggling and hospitable to radical elements, the country is led by a president, Horacio Cartes, who has taken principled stands — at odds with his neighbors — including votes at the United Nations relating to the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
Our attention is often so riveted on the concentric circles of chaos, terrorism and violence in the Middle East and North Africa, we sometimes lose sight of what transpires south of our border. For more than two decades now, Iran has seen our neighborhood as a target of opportunity, and has cultivated it with impunity: terrorist bombings for which it has never paid a price, flattering the likes of Chavez and his circle for strategic gain and creating cells of agents moving about from here to who-knows-where.
Now out-and-about that they are free of official international opprobrium, the ties they have created in Latin America bear special scrutiny. Rather than having to work largely out of the public eye, they can do so now to a large extent above board. Look for “official visits” of Rouhani and others to our hemisphere, in short order. Ignoring this threat, like so many others that characterize the regime in Tehran, would be at our peril.
Daniel S. Mariaschin is the Executive Vice President at B'nai B'rith International, and has spent nearly all of his professional life working on behalf of Jewish organizations. As the organization's top executive officer, he directs and supervises B'nai B'rith programs, activities and staff in the more than 50 countries where B'nai B'rith is organized. He also serves as director of B'nai B'rith's Center for Human Rights and Public Policy (CHRPP). In that capacity, he presents B'nai B'rith's perspective to a variety of audiences, including Congress and the media, and coordinates the center's programs and policies on issues of concern to the Jewish community. To view some of his additional content, Click Here.
Earlier this month, the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) commemorated the 70th anniversary since its founding meeting in 1946. That meeting was held not in the city most associated with the institution, New York, but in London, a city still recovering at the time from heavy Nazi bombardment. Anniversaries are a good time to reflect and analyze about the past, and to look forward to the future. Unfortunately, when it comes to the UNGA, the list of shortcomings is long, while accomplishments are few.
At the outset, it should be noted that the General Assembly played a role in the independence of the State of Israel. The British relinquished to the U.N. the decision of what to do with the British Mandate over pre-state Israel after rising tensions. The UNGA passed a resolution in November1947 that the land should be partitioned into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Yishuv (the pre-state Jewish government) accepted the partition and declared independence for the State of Israel. The Arabs rejected the plan and launched a failed war of annihilation against the fledgling Jewish state. Zionism did not need the U.N. to create a state (indeed, there was already the Yishuv, a pre-state government, and the Haganah, a pre-state army, to create and defend the Jewish state), but the legitimacy granted by the community of nations approving of Jewish self-determination in our ancient homeland was important. Israel was admitted as a U.N. member state in 1949, following approval by the Security Council and General Assembly.
After that point, however, the relationship soured. By the 1960s and 1970s, the U.N. General Assembly became an intensely hostile venue for Israel and the Jewish people. The low-point was the “Zionism is Racism” resolution (see prior blog post on this resolution). The UNGA also created during this period a set of Palestinian propaganda units housed within the U.N. bureaucracy: the “Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People” and the “Division for Palestinian Rights.” These units, whose combined yearly budget is over $6 million, continue to be active participants in the global Palestinian propaganda campaign against Israel from within U.N. Headquarters to this day. In the 1980s the Arab states, along with some Third World dictatorships and Soviet states, tried, unsuccessfully, to remove Israel from the General Assembly.
The 1990s saw the repeal of the “Zionism=Racism” resolution (one of the few resolutions ever to be rescinded) after concerted effort by Israel, the United States., other allies and B’nai B’rith and the Jewish community. Israel’s diplomatic horizons expanded dramatically in the 1990s, thanks in part to the end of the Cold War and the peace process. At the U.N., however, the only tangible benefit was the repeal of the patently absurd “Zionism=Racism” resolution. The number of annual biased resolutions attacking Israel did not decrease. For perspective—there are now around 20 resolutions each year that condemn Israel. A handful of other states (and only the most egregious ones—Iran, Sudan, Syria, North Korea) will be condemned by one resolution apiece.
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The General Assembly has called Emergency Special Sessions to discuss urgent issues relating to peace and security only 10 times. Six of these 10 sessions have been called on issues relating to the Middle East. In 1997, the UNGA called the Tenth Emergency Special Session (to condemn Israel for building in Jerusalem), and then decided to suspend the session so that it could be re-opened later. In the years since, it has been re-opened 13 times to issue one-sided condemnations of Israel for counter-terrorism activities during an onslaught of Palestinian suicide bombings in the early 2000s and rocket attacks. Needless to say, the Palestinian violence that necessitated measures such as Israel’s security barrier and counter-terrorism operations was routinely ignored.
The situation at the UNGA in the last 10 years is very serious, but not utterly bleak. The General Assembly passed, 60 years after the fact, resolutions on Holocaust remembrance and Holocaust denial, and created a program within the United Nations to educate about the Holocaust throughout the world. The assembly also passed, by wide margins, for the first time two Israeli-initiated resolutions on agricultural technology and entrepreneurship. A series of Israeli diplomats have also been elected by their peers to important positions at the General Assembly, a recognition that diplomats recognize that Israel has contributions to make at the U.N. beyond the conflict.
Overall, however, the persistent anti-Israel obsession continues to plague the General Assembly, which radiates outwards throughout the U.N. system since the assembly controls the budgeting and prioritization of issues at the U.N. The UNGA also is the parent body of the discredited Human Rights Council, and conducts elections for seats at the Human Rights Council, Security Council and other bodies. General Assembly resolutions are non-binding and do not carry significant weight in international law when compared to Security Council resolutions, but we must not fall into the trap of believing that because of this that the UNGA is completely irrelevant.
The UNGA gives those who are hostile to the existence of the State of Israel a global platform from which they try to legitimize their hateful bigotry. Israel and other democracies engaged in counter-terrorism efforts will continue to feel negative effects from the endemic bias and corruption of the General Assembly until the many nations who are not hopelessly anti-Israel, but vote against Israel in order to avoid making waves in the powerful regional groups, stand up and refuse to take part in the relentless campaign against Israel at the UNGA.
Oren Drori is the Program Officer for United Nations Affairs at B’nai B’rith International where he supports advocacy and programming efforts that advance B’nai B’rith’s goals at the U.N., which include: defending Israel, combating anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, and promoting global human rights and humanitarian concerns. He received a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Minnesota in 2004 and an M.A. in International Relations from the University of Chicago in 2006. To view some of his additional content, Click Here.
Sienna Girgenti is the Assistant Director for the International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy at B'nai B'rith International. To view some of her additional content, Click Here.
For more than four decades—since the disengagement of forces following the 1973 Yom Kippur War—the Syrian border was unquestionably the quietest of Israel's frontiers. Despite its periodic saber rattling, rejectionism, pan-Arabism and support for Palestinian terrorist organizations, the Assad dynasty—Hafez and then son Bashar—strived to keep Syria out of direct military confrontation with Israel—particularly after the trouncing of the Syrian air force during the 1982 First Lebanon War. Contrasted with the recurring rocket fire, snipings, kidnappings and outright wars that remain the norm along the Israel-Lebanese border—first with Palestinian terrorist organizations and then with Iran-back Hezbollah—the Israeli Golan was the epitome of pastoral tranquility, Israel's veritable Switzerland, with the Israel Defense Forces’s (IDF's) eavesdropping devices on the winter-snowcapped Hermon Mountain keeping watchful eye as far as Damascus and its environs.
As 2016 commences, this long-enduring serenity is being threatened by Iranian intensions to take advantage of the presence of its proxy for foreign adventurism and terrorism—Hezbollah—in Syria to shore up Bashir Assad against Daesh (the Islamic State), to ignite the Israel-Syria border too.
The Iranians are striving to use Hezbollah to bring about the collapse of the two main principals that have guided Israeli policy since the beginning of the civil war in Syria: 1) That it will not allow weapons that could tip the strategic balance in the area to be shipped into its fronts with Syria or Lebanon. To this end, Israel reportedly launched 10 air attacks between January 2013 and October 2015 against convoys in Syria and even as far as Somalia carrying weapons to Hezbollah; and 2) To prevent the Syrian Golan from becoming a zone for launching offensive operations against Israel, as is the Lebanese border already. This, ostensibly, was behind the elimination of the Lebanese Druze Hezbollah terrorist Samir Kuntar, reportedly by Israeli Air Force jets that attacked a building in Damascus from Israeli airspace on Dec. 15, killing Kuntar and eight others including Farhan Essam Shaalan, a senior commander in the Syrian anti-Israel resistance militia.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has vowed to avenge Kuntar's death, putting the IDF on high alert along the Lebanese border. Kuntar already had a record of terror, having kidnapped and murdered the policeman Eliyahu Shahar and the Haran family in 1979, which earned him notoriety as one of the most ruthless terrorists in Israel’s history. Since being released from an Israeli prison in 2008 in an exchange with Hezbollah for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, Kuntar had been at the forefront of efforts to establish a Hezbollah clone in the Syrian Golan. Iran's attempt to ignite the Syria-Israel border will probably slowdown in Kuntar's absence, but experts expected that it will remain a strategic goal of the Iranian regime.
The limited scope of Israel’s offensive posture in Syria to weapons transfers and terror infrastructure directed against Israel, has led it to a hands-off policy regarding the much broader issue of the dissolution of the Syrian state and the ascendance of numerous other players, international, national and local, in the Syrian arena since the start of the civil war in March 2011.
Speaking recently to Makor Rishon, Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, the long-serving director of Policy and Political-Military at Israel's Ministry of Defense, reiterated this position in referring to the tragedy in Syria and its possible spill-over into the Golan Heights: "There is no such thing today as Syria. A human tragedy of major proportions is taking place there. Hundreds of thousands of dead, millions of refugees, fine cities with tremendous historical significance destroyed. Bashar Assad controls only a quarter of Syria and he is completely dependent on Iran and Hezbollah. At this juncture the only exit from the war is political, as was seen in the talks in Vienna. Some say that if Assad is out an arrangement could be found, but the truth is that there are not a lot of people jumping for the job of President of Syria. There are no quick resolutions, everything is complicated. Syrian is erupting lava, with partition on the horizon."
In a new paper entitled “Syria: New Map, New Actors Challenges and Opportunities for Israel” published (in Hebrew) this month by Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, Brig. Gen. (res.) Udi Dekel, former head of Strategic Planning in the IDF’s General Staff and researchers Nir Boms and Ofir Winter argue that, considering the multitude of state and non-state actors (estimated at 1,500 groups of widely varying political leanings, according to a February 2014 estimate by James R. Clapper, U.S. director of National Intelligence), now vying for territory and power in what was once Syria, it is time for Israel to abandon this no-interference policy and to actively engage ‘positive’ local and foreign elements with which it has common interests.
These players impact on the current reality in Syria and are expected to play a significant role in the stabilization and redesign of the Syrian space if the Assad regime falls or if the current entity still known as Syria breaks up into Alawite, Kurdish, Druse and Sunni enclaves. The writers argue that Israel should consider adopting a more robust policy, in coordination and partnership with positive elements in the Syrian arena that will promote both its long and short term goals.
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Identifying such extant elements, the writers contend that “This policy will be part of a broad strategy that will allow Israel to build more effective leverage on the Syrian arena, create a region of influence in southern Syria (including the Syrian Golan – A.S.) and to promote its vital tactical and strategic interests – first and foremost keeping the peace on the Golan Heights and preventing ‘negative’ forces from becoming entrenched on the Syrian side…At this juncture, Israel should engage in deep consideration about the impact of changes in Syrian and the danger that pro-Iranian or Salafist-Jihadist elements will feed into southern Syria, the only area free from their overbearing sway, and to consider the possibility of establishing an area of influence in the arena adjacent to the border in cooperation with relevant Syrian, regional and international players...Despite their relative military weakness and the limited influence in the current reality, the ‘positive’ players represent the ‘silent majority’ in the Syrian people that despises both the Assad regime and the Jihadist forces, and are interested in the end of the war, rehabilitation of the country and the creation of a new political reality that will afford the citizens of Syria stability, security and prosperity after years of displacement, destruction and pain. The significant presence of relatively moderate and pragmatic elements in southern Syria in general and near the border with Israel in particular, makes the question of cooperation with them significant and concrete due to the immediate and future impact of Israel’s actions (and its inaction) on the security situation in the Israeli Golan Heights.”
The imperative for Israel to review its policy vis-à-vis southern Syria now is reinforced by research published by the Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point that found that Islamic State is currently looking to build on what it has already accomplished since it restarted in southern push a year ago.
Another new element in the region is Russia's direct intervention on behalf of Assad with the deployment of fighters to the Syrian airbase in Lattakia on Sept. 30, that by now have flown hundreds of missions against Syrian rebels and ISIS. The Russian deployment ostensibly came in response to an appeal by Assad for help and to hit radical Islamist terrorists so it does not permeate and reach Russian territory.
Some believe, though, that these have provided Russia with the opportunity to once again stake a claim in the region it had left to the Americans in 1973. Ironically, the downing of the Russian jet fighter by Turkey has provided Russia with justification for introducing into the battlefield their most advanced anti-aircraft systems—the
S-300 and S-400—that Israel had successfully blocked from going to Iran for years.
Now these systems are on our doorstep. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had the prescience to visit Moscow just 10 days before the Russian deployment in Syria and to conclude with Russian president Vladimir Putin parameters for the IAF’s freedom of action. Israeli Russian expert Yasha Kedmi, head of "Nativ,” Israel's outreach organ to Russian Jewry, has said that Putin's intervention in Syria is much more global than the conflict in Syria. "The conflict there is merely a demonstration of the huge military moves that Russia has made in recent years," he told Israel Defense in late November. "They reached an assessment that in the current reality, the American will accept any solution the Russians impose on Syria," Kedmi said. Former head of IDF Intelligence Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin has clarified that while the rationale of the Russian move, its strategic objective, scope and duration are not yet sufficiently clear, “it is obvious that the move places Israel in a new reality that requires reconsideration of the ways to confront the challenge and opportunities brought on by the new reality.
Yadlin says that the real threat of the Russian gambit in Syria for Israel is that Hezbollah could be strengthened should Russian arms trickle into its arsenals or be intentionally supplied to the organization. Furthermore, if Assad survives, Russia’s involvement is liable to provide a seal of approval for Iranian activity in Syria in years to come, as well as or Hezbollah forces armed with the best of Russian’s weapons on Syrian soil, Yadlin warns.
Despite this, Israel has avoided making moves that could have contributed to the efforts to topple Assad and thus undermine Iran and Hezbollah presence in Syria. He concludes that in the case of failure in moving the Western coalition into concurrent action against Assad and ISIS, “Israel should strive to realize…an Assad-free Syria as an arrangement reached in partnership with Russia. In any case, Israel must gear up for active efforts to topple Assad, based on the understanding that beyond the moral imperative, Assad’s ouster will lead to a strategic loss for Iran and Hezbollah in the bleeding Syrian state.”
As 2015 drew to a close, Israelis received a chilling reminder that although they had largely been spared ISIS-inspired violence until now, they were my no means off the Caliphate’s radar. In a new audio statement released last Saturday and attributed to the Islamic State leader al-Baghdadi, he warns that "ISIS will soon be heard in Palestine. The Jews thought that we forgot to Palestine and that they had diverted our attention from it. Not at all, Jews. We have not forgotten Palestine. Allah will not forget it. Soon soon, with Allah: Listen to the boiling emotions of jihad fighters. We will soon meet in Palestine. Israel will pay a heavy price. Palestine will not be your land or your home, but for you it will be a graveyard. Allah has gathered you in Palestine so that the Muslims may kill you. The leaders of the jihad fighters will surround you on a day you think is far, but we see it as close. We are coming closer to you day by day,” Al Baghdadi vowed.
Although this is not the first threat against Israel from the militant group, it is the most specific regarding ISIS plans to attack Israel military. Analysts believe that while its assets in the Sinai might be in easier striking range against Israel in order to put this threat into effect, it is not impossible that the Syrian Golan will be al-Baghdadi’s preferred staging area for an attack.
According to reports that appeared at the end of the year, the ISIS-affiliated Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade is operating in the border area and although it is relatively small, with 600 fighters, the group controls a significant 15-kilometer stretch of border with Israel and some 40,000 civilian residents (out of the 750,000 residents of the Syrian Golan). Like other terrorist organizations operating in the area, such as the far larger Jabhat al-Nusra, Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade, conquered posts abandoned by the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force and has been using them as bases for numerous types of weapons, most of them captured from the Syrian army, including light guns, heavy machine guns mounted on trucks, anti-tank missiles and even a few tanks and Armored Personnel Carriers.
With all this in mind, 2016 will undoubtedly be a pivotal year for Israel’s relationship with all the actors in the Syrian catastrophe—from the great powers to local militias—and the government will be called upon to utilize all of its assets—intelligence and analysis alongside overt and covert hard power—in order to steer Israel through this complex matrix.
Alan Schneider is the director of B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem, which serves as the hub of B'nai B'rith International activities in Israel. The World Center is the key link between Israel and B'nai B'rith members and supporters around the world. To view some of his additional content, Click Here.
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