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Fighting 'Islamic State' is not the Israeli priority

By       Message Nicola Nasser     Permalink
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Defying a consensus that it is a priority by the world community comprising international rivals like the United States, Europe, Russia, and China and regional rivals like Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, Israel, like Turkey, does not eye the U.S.-led war on the IS as its regional priority. Nor fighting Israel is an IS priority.

The Israeli top priority is to dictate its terms to Syria to sign a peace treaty with Israel before withdrawing its forces from the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, Palestinian territories, and Lebanese southern lands.

For this purpose, Israel is determined to break down the Syria-Iran alliance, which has been the main obstacle preventing Israel from realising its goals. Changing the ruling regime in either Damascus or Tehran would be a step forward. Towards this Israeli strategic goal the IS could not be but an Israeli asset.

"To defeat ISIS (The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as the IS was previously known) and leave Iran as a threshold nuclear power is to win the battle and lose the war," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly last September.

Therefore, "it should not come as a surprise that the (Benjamin) Netanyahu government has not yet taken any immediate steps against IS," according to Amos Harel, writing in Foreign Policy on September 15.

However, information is already surfacing that Israel is "taking steps" in the opposite direction, to empower the IS and other terrorist groups fighting and infighting in Syria.

Israeli daily Haaretz on last October 31 quoted a "senior Northern Command officer" as saying that the U.S.-led coalition "is making a big mistake in fighting against ISIS--the United States, Canada and France are on the same side as Hezbollah, Iran and [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. That does not make sense."

Regardless, on September 8 Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post reported that Israel has provided "satellite imagery and other information" to the coalition. Three days later Netanyahu said at a conference in Herzliya: "Israel fully supports President [Barack] Obama's call for united actions against ISIS. We are playing our part in this continued effort. Some of the things are known; some of the things are less known."

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Obama's call was the green light for Israel to support Syrian and non-Syrian rebels. Syrian official statements claim that Israel has been closely coordinating with the rebels.

Israeli statements claim theirs is confined to "humanitarian" support to "moderate" Syrian opposition, which the U.S. has already pledged to train and arm in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey. A significant portion of the $64 billion earmarked for conflicts abroad in the budget legislation signed by Obama on December 19 will go to these "moderates."

Both Israel and the U.S. have no headaches about whether the "moderates" would remain as such after being armed with lethal weapons or whether it remains appropriate to call them "opposition."

But the Israeli "humanitarian" claim is challenged by the fact that Israel is the only neighbouring country that still closes its doors to Syrian civilian refugees while keeping its doors wide open to the wounded rebels who are treated in Israeli hospitals and allowed to return to the battle front after recovery.

IS close to Israeli borders

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The Israeli foreign ministry on last September 3 confirmed that the U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff whom the IS had beheaded was an Israeli citizen as well. In a speech addressed to Sotloff's family, Netanyahu condemned the IS as a "branch" of a "poisonous tree" and a "tentacle" of a "violent Islamist terrorism."

On the same day Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon officially outlawed the IS and anyone associating with it.

On September 10, Netanyahu convened an urgent security meeting to prepare for the possible danger of the IS advancing closer to the Israeli border, a prospect confirmed by the latest battles for power between the IS and the al-Nusra Front on the southern Syrian-Lebanese borders and in southern Syria, within the artillery range of Israeli forces.

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*Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist in Kuwait, Jordan, UAE and Palestine. He is based in Ramallah, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

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