Israel has voiced concerns that the new ceasefire and “de-escalation agreement” brokered by US, Russia and Jordan would create a vacuum for Iran and its proxies to gain a foothold in Syria.
Benyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister said during the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, July 9, that his country “will welcome a genuine ceasefire in Syria but this ceasefire must not enable the establishment of a military presence by Iran and its proxies in Syria in general and in southern Syria in particular.”
A ceasefire in Syria would strategically mean security for Israel, the Jewish state was recently threatened by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah’s Leader Hassan Nasrallah about the prospects of the “next war” between the group and Israel.
The establishment of an Iranian military presence throughout Syria [is one of our red lines].
Nasrallah bluntly talked of a wave of “hundreds of thousands” of Shia fighters that would join Hezbollah against Israel from region, these would include countries like “Iraq, Yemen, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan” said Hezbollah’s leader. The Islamic Republic in Iran has already succeeded in recruiting divisions of these fighters and sent them to Syria and Iraq under the pretext of defending Shia holy sites.
Almost two weeks have passed since Hassan Nasrallah’s warning and now Israel is facing a fresh deal that is supposed to establish yet another truce in Syria. But the history of these agreements could be another reason for Jerusalem not to revel.
On Sunday Mr. Netanyahu highlighted three areas of concern for his country: one) Hezbollah acquiring advanced precision weapons and gaining foothold two) Hezbollah establishing a ground force presence near Israel’s border and three) establishing an Iranian military presence throughout Syria.
Israel is not a party to the agreement but its neighbor, Jordan, is that shares almost 400 km of borderline with Syria. The kingdom has already received some one million refugees as a result of the Syrian conflict.
Meanwhile Israel could have yet another worry. The Syrian President Bashar Assad remains in power as agreed by US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. Assad is a close ally of Iran. In fact it was mainly Tehran and Moscow who kept him in power amid all the clashes, sanctions and the international call for him to resign from power.
According to Seth J. Frantzman, opinion editor of The Jerusalem Post, For Israel, the new agreement could serve as “a test of who guarantees the cease-fire and whether there is an opening to move Iran away from the Russia-Syria access”.
This is one of the reasons why Tel Aviv has decided to step in and help with the agreement. Obviously that is mainly possible via cooperation with Jordan, now if the recent meeting between Trump and Putin and their FMs closes the rift between Moscow and Washington, both Israel and Jordan will be in a better place.
What is clear so far is that President Trump has his hopes high about cooperation with Putin and resolving the conflict between all the sides in Syria. That way he will have fulfilled a big election promise and might also guarantee, on the other hand Iran and Hezbollah might be further isolated.