On Sunday, May 15, Israel's enemies breached three of its borders in an operation that caught its government, army and intelligence napping. Their reaction to the massive violation of its Syrian, Lebanese and Gaza borders showed all three to be muddled and incapable of an organized, rational tactical response to a multiple security crisis. This weakness, which was no doubted noted in Tehran, Damascus, Beirut and Ramallah, may be expected to lead to the next Syrian step to recover the Golan – not this time by thousands of civilians, but by military and terrorist forces.
Military sources report that the Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the chief of staff and his deputy, instead of dropping their routine occupations and taking charge of the crisis, preferred to make light of it. Local commanders, left to handle extreme situations developing at high speed during the day, were reluctant to assume responsibility for the weighty decisions called for.
This weakness, which was no doubted noted in Tehran, Damascus, Beirut and Ramallah, may be expected to lead to the next Syrian step to recover the Golan – not this time by thousands of civilians, but by tough military and terrorist forces.
Eleven months ago, Israeli intelligence missed the coming of the Turkish Mavi Marmara at the head of a flotilla for breaking the Gaza blockade. Israeli commandos who boarded the ship were therefore unprepared for the violence which met them.
The Israeli government and IDF did not learn from this incident. However, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas and Turkey (which is preparing a second flotilla for next month) did and have adjusted their tactics to Israel's conspicuous shortcomings. The popular uprisings sweeping through Arab countries confirmed these anti-Israel forces in their conviction that massed civilians when wielded as a surprise weapon can achieve more than armies or individual terrorists. Crowds of civilians activated on several synchronized fronts are extremely difficult to withstand.
|Tel Aviv thoroughfare|
The coalition organizing the exceptionally violent events of the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe) Day Sunday, marking the founding of Israeli in 1948, first tested the water in the morning: An Israeli Arab drove his truck at high speed through a Tel Aviv thoroughfare, slamming into more than a dozen vehicles and running over pedestrians. He had killed one civilian and injured 17 over a 2-kilometer stretch of road before he was overpowered and apprehended.
When Israel's police chiefs declined to designate the attack an act of terror and insisted it could have been a traffic accident, Damascus, Hezbollah and Hamas felt they were safe in letting their master plan go forward: There was no risk of a tough Israeli response. And indeed, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu later admitted that local commanders and police chiefs were directed to deal with all fronts "with maximum restraint while defending Israel's borders and sovereignty."
Military sources found this contradiction in terms perplexing hours after the IDF failed to defend Israel's borders and sovereignty against invaders.
Because of this directive, Israelis were shocked to discover at 13:30 that hundreds of Syrians, Palestinians and a Hezbollah group had crossed the border and hoisted Syrian and Palestinian flags in the main square of the Israel Golan village of Majd al Shams. They had already been there for four hours and no one was stopping them crossing the border back and forth during that time. Throughout the day, only a small squad of soldiers had been left to guard this border because nothing untoward had been expected there.
It was only at 17:00 hours that tanks and reinforcements arrived.
The invaders had every reason to march around the village declaring they had recaptured the territory Syria had lost 44 years ago while attacking Israel.
By then, military spokesmen had got their act together. It was fortunate that we undermanned the Syrian border, they said, otherwise the incident would have ended with hundreds of dead. The claim that Iran was behind the massive incursion convinced no one.
The Syrian interlopers were finally driven back across the border – not by Israeli troops – but by local Druze chiefs. Israel still does not know how many left and if any remained.
|Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit |
It is to be regretted that the IDF did not meet its fundamental duty to defend Israel's Golan border by bringing up large reinforcements to surround Majdal Shams, seal the Syrian border and shoot trespassers. The Syrians should not have been released but held until Damascus forced the Hamas to free the Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit.
Former Shin Bet director Israel Hasson, who is today an opposition Kadima lawmaker, commented later Sunday that Israel must make it crystal clear to Damascus, Hezbollah and Hamas that they will not be allowed to toss their internal problems into the Israeli court or violate Israeli sovereignty. His words fell on deaf ears, judging from the prime minister's statement.
Strategic sources fear that Israel will pay a heavy price for its flaccid response and misplaced "maximum restraint." Syrian President Bashar Assad can be counted on not to miss the chance of sending over to the Golan the Syrian and Palestinian terrorist teams he has held in reserve for more than a year for the right opportunity. That opportunity is clearly now at hand.
The Majd al-Shams invasion followed by violence by masked Palestinians in Jerusalem and a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv. It was synchronized with mass incursions from Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. This round is not over. It will not be stopped by military restraint.