Israel’s border with Syria is its quietest border

Since 1974, there have been very few occasions in which we witnessed an exchange of fire on the Golan front. Syria has been completely deterred, and will never move a single soldier into now-Israeli soil. Why then should Israel give up land to a weak neighbour?

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Syrian counter-arguments to above objection


Agreement on Disengagement between Israeli and Syrian Forces:

"Israel and Syria will scrupulously observe the cease-fire on land, sea and air and will refrain from all military actions against each other, from the time of the signing of this document, in implementation of United Nations Security Council resolution 338 (1973) dated 22 October 1973."

Should Syria be faulted for following the disengagement agreement to the letter,? Would Israel have preferred the opposite situation?

The fact that the border has been quiet is a clear indication of Syria’s intention and capacity to abide by her obligations under treaties and agreements in areas under Syrian sovereignty. This is not an indication of Syria’s lack of means to pursue a military option. If Hezbollah's 5000 highly effective soldiers are considered to be trained and armed by Syria, shouldn't Syria's 400,000 soldiers and her vastly superior missiles arsenal be taken more seriously?

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The logic of this argument is fallacious by wanting to have it both ways. On the one hand, Israel rejects true negotiation with the Palestinians and resorts to violent attacks on Gaza and Lebanon, claiming that peace with the two sides is unobtainable due to border incidents, be they rockets or minor incursions. On the other hand, Israel claims that it should not make peace with Syria and return the Golan because the border is the quietest border Israel has. The two arguments are logically irreconcilable.

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Indeed the Golan border has been quiet and we would hope for it to remain so until a peace treaty is signed.

However, the situation can quickly and dramatically spiral out of control following any of the following developments:

  1. Gaza: A serious escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that leads to harsh Israeli punishment of Palestinians in Gaza. Syria might be obliged due to public pressure to do something to defend the Palestinian people under attack.
  2. Lebanon: If Israel decides to launch a pre-emptive attack on Lebanon hoping to deliver a serious blow to Hezbollah, Syria has made it clear that this time it will defend Lebanon.
  3. Iran: An escalation on the Iran issue through a military strike by Israel or the US will probably lead to a regional war that could result in an serious Israeli-Syrian confrontation.
  4. Saudi Arabia: Turmoil or a crisis in Saudi Arabia could turn the balance of power in favor of supporting resistance to Israel. An Israeli or American attack on Iran will dramatically increase the chances of instability inside the Saudi Kingdom.
  5. Egypt: Popular resentment of the Mubarak regime could lead to massive turmoil in Egypt. An anticipated Muslim Brotherhood takeover of power will lead to Egypt's pulling out of its peace agreement with Israel.

Syria is much more confident in 2010 than ever before. It can count on the support of many new close allies including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the new government of Lebanon. In addition, Syria's Iraqi allies have fared very well during the recent Iraqi elections.

It would be a strategic mistake for the Israelis to take Syria’s current position for granted. The prospects of a future unplanned war between Syria and Israel are real. Consequently, it would be in Israel’s best interest to pursue the path of peace.

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3 Responses to “Israel’s border with Syria is its quietest border”

  1. 4
    Riam, Journalist (Publish comment), Not important wrote:

    This is a reply to counter-argument #1

    Hezbollah never denied that it was armed and trained by Iran. Syria is considered a “facilitator” shifting militants and equipment on its territories. It is definitely supplying Hezbollah with some of its arsenal but i highly doubt that the Syrians have the ability or efficiency to train such hardcore fighters as Hezbollah’s.
    Moreover, the Syrian Army is a rag-tag army. It’s mandatory military service programme is sham. Recruits are slaving away at their officers’ homes and offices often running errands, cleaning and cooking. What kind of a fighting spirit is it fostering?
    Another point, Israeli Air Force buzzed the Syrian Presidential Palace and then bombed an alleged nuclear reactor in the works. Where were the Syrian air defences? Where was the “retaliation” power this counter-argumentator claims?
    “We shall strike at the right time, in the right place” That was Syria’s reply to both instances of Israel smashing through Syrian sovereign skies.

    I would also like to laud counter-argument #2. It is indeed a very logical one. To be honest, i never quite thought about it. This kind of fresh arguments is exactly what we need to break through the stalemate.

  2. 11
    Pete Eli, Professor, university of washington wrote:

    What israel forgets is that the time of conventional wars is over,Missles can reach all parts of Israel , and the same people that have trained Hezbollah are sure training part of the syrian army, i dont think it is in the best interest of both countries to battle again because the consequences will be unbearable for both side’s, it is time that we get smarter and for both sides to take difficult positions and decisions, because in my opinion this area is coming to the death or peace Era and i vote for Peace.

  3. 3
    Voltaire's Ghost, Blogger (Publish comment), eyecrazy.blogspot.com wrote:

    Israel has shown a willingness to return land in exchange for a committed peace, as in the case of Egypt. The argument that the Golan/Israel border is the quietest is misleading. While it is true in the literal sense, Syria’s grievence at the loss of the Golan is one of the reasons for its support of Hezbollah in Lebanon.

    Syria is unwilling, and not suicidal enough, to engage in open conflict with Israel, but the proxy war it has launched through Hezbollah is not disconnected to its desire to see the Golan returned.

    But Assad’s leadership faces a number of competing problems. He is a dictator and a member of an ethnic minority (Alawite) in his own country. Syria is one of the few Arab countries that is not an oil producer. The current US leadership is seen as relatively weak in its willingness to confront the growing regional power or Iran, which Assad must remain conscious of.

    It would be impossible, politically, both internally and externally, for any Arab country to make peace with israel without strong US support. But to closely engage with the US would require an internal political and iseological shift within Syria that will take a great deal of time once that committment is made, and there is no indication that has yet happened.

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