U.S. and Russia team up to Seek Israel Pullback from Golan

Israel’s top political leaders and military commanders were shocked and stunned this week when they found out that US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin are jointly supporting the return of the Golan Heights to Syria.
The two presidents gave their top diplomats, Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the green light to include such a clause in proposals being drafted at the Geneva conference on ending the Syrian civil war.
Israel captured the Golan from the Syrian army 49 years ago, during the Six-Day War in 1967.
In 1981, during the tenure of then Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Israel passed a law defining the Golan as a territory under Israeli sovereignty. However, it did not state that the area belongs to Israel.
The strategic importance of the Golan for Israel has grown considerably since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011. The IDF’s largest network of fortifications was established on the heights. This military presence is not directed against Syrian President Bashar Assad, but rather its allies Iran and Hizballah. Both consider the Syrian Golan, located on the other side of the border, as a potential second front against Israel if a war breaks out. In recent years, the Israeli military presence on the Golan has served as well as the main bulwark preventing an attack by ISIS forces, not only against Israel but also against Jordan.
In order to coordinate military operations against ISIS in southern Syria, including the Syrian Golan, the US, Jordan and Israel established a war room, called the US Central Command Forward-Jordan, north of the Jordanian capital Amman.
During the last six months, with the start of the Russian military intervention in Syria in October 2015, the IDF also set up a mechanism with the Russian military to coordinate their air force operations. The deputy chiefs of staff from both sides, namely the Russian military’s Col. Gen. Nikolai Bogdanovski and the IDF’s Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, make the important decisions for this mechanism. The last meeting between the two senior officers was held in Tel Aviv on April 4.
However, the topic of the US and Russian support for Israeli withdrawal from the Golan was never mentioned at any of these high-level military meetings.
DEBKA Weekly’s sources report that Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu called US Secretary of State Kerry on April 13 and asked him if he truly believes that the most important topic today concerning Syria is the Israeli Golan. He accused U.S. and Russia of kowtowing to Iran. Netanyahu also told him that the US-Russian decision had undermined the situation in southern Syria after US, Jordanian and Israeli military operations had stabilized the area.
DEBKA Weekly does not have any details about Kerry’s response.
Our sources report that Prime Minister Netanyahu is about to take three steps regarding the Golan:
1. He will call Russian President Putin on Thursday, April 14, or during the weekend, and tell him that Moscow’s support for withdrawal runs counter to all of the commitments that the Russian leader gave Israel regarding southern Syria.
2. He will hold a Cabinet meeting at one of the Israeli settlements on the Golan next week. The meeting is intended to emphasize that Israel has no intention of withdrawing from the Golan or making any other concession regarding the area.
3. The meeting will approve large new budgets for development of the Golan.
Netanyahu is aware that the US-Russian measure regarding the Golan means that future joint steps by Washington and Moscow regarding Palestinian territories in the West Bank are likely as well.

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