(February 28, 2019 / JNS) It doesn’t matter what the attorney general says, and it doesn’t even matter what the voters say in 40 days. No one will be able to take this strategic achievement from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In strokes of astute prevision, the consecutive governments under his helm—at the beginning, incidentally, with Moshe Ya’alon as his defense minister and Benny Gantz as his army chief—have prevented Iran from accomplishing in Syria what it accomplished in Lebanon and Gaza. In Syria, the ayatollahs and their proxies haven’t been able to establish a militia capable of threatening Israel.
In an intense campaign, the air force and other branches of the IDF have been wiping out every Iranian effort to establish an anti-Israel fighting force before it can take hold.
Hence, now at the tail end of the Syrian civil war, nothing resembling Hamas or Hezbollah exists on the eastern side of the Golan Heights. Israel’s military campaign in Syria is being waged under the protection of a diplomatic umbrella, and this should not be taken for granted.
In the diplomatic realm, on a daily basis, while dealing with dozens of countries across the globe, Israel is making its red lines clear and is enforcing them. When it comes to Israeli deterrence, nothing is more powerful than this credible message.
In addition to both these layers of deterrence, Netanyahu has read the map correctly, allowing him to walk the tightrope between the world’s most powerful leaders. When Russia invaded Syria more than three years ago, the prime minister reacted quickly to establish a sturdy line of communication with Vladimir Putin, thus preserving Israel’s freedom of activity in the war-torn country. This achievement, which is so vital to Israel’s national security, was reaffirmed on Wednesday in Moscow when the two leaders met for the 11th time.
Despite the countless prophecies of doom whereby Russia would prohibit Israel from acting in Syria and despite the downing of the Russian spy plane, on Wednesday, too, Netanyahu left the Kremlin with a green light—or more accurately, with a Russian promise to continue looking the other way.
To be sure, Russia wants to restore peace and quiet in Syria, and therefore Israel’s military activity is viewed as a hindrance to that end. Russian S-300 air defenses make things more difficult for the air force. Regardless, our forces will continue working to thwart Iranian entrenchment efforts. They are so effective that Iran is on the verge of despair and according to some assessments in Israel is even considering abandoning its entrenchment campaign in Syria altogether.
We can agree or disagree with Netanyahu on many things. We cannot ignore the policy that has killed the monster in its infancy.
Ariel Kahana is a diplomatic correspondent for Israel Hayom.