What Do the Joint Air Patrols on the Outskirts of the Occupied Golan Mean?
On January 24th, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced conducting joint air patrols with the Syrian army near the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.
“Russian and Syrian military pilots have conducted a joint air patrol mission along the Golan Heights and the Euphrates River… from the Hmeymim Air Base, … and the Seikal and Dumayr airfields”, said the TASS news agency, quoting the Russian Defense Ministry.
The article added that “The mission’s route ran along the Golan Heights, the southern order, the Euphrates River and over northern Syria. Russian pilots took off from the Hmeymim Air Base, while Syrians took off from the Seikal and Dumayr airfields outside Damascus”.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, “the mission involved Russia’s Su-34 and Su-35 aircraft and the A-50 early warning and control aircraft, as well as Syria’s MiG-23 and MiG-29 planes. During the patrol mission, Syrian pilots controlled airspace and provided fighter cover, while Russian crews practiced attacks on ground targets”.
The Ministry clarified that during the mission, “pilots had practiced strikes on air targets and ground targets at a training range in central Syria”.
The article concluded by noting that “the Russian Defense Ministry stressed… the two countries’ pilots developed skills for cooperation in various situations. This kind of joint missions will now take place on a regular basis”.
The news of the joint air patrols was accompanied by other news that likely fit into the same context about “the Russian forces stationed at the Hmeimim airbase near the port of Latakia, a few days ago, sending a group of its military police force, to be stationed permanently inside the port”.
How Did “Israeli” Media Deal with the News?
The two news stories, particularly the one about the joint air patrols, sparked a wave of articles, commentaries, and analyses in the “Israeli” media, as well as from current and former officials.
Among the dozens of articles and comments, we review below some of what was said in the “Israeli” media about the two news stories, in order to give a reasonable picture of their impact.
Monday, January 24
• The Jerusalem Post published an article by Seth J. Frantzman on the joint patrols entitled: “Will joint Russian-Syrian air patrols make Israel’s airstrikes harder?” The article says: “The Russian patrols appear to be a message about showing off that the Syrians and the Russians will work closely to project power” and “This has ramifications for Israel and could impact its operations”. The article adds: “This could be one part of a multistage Russian operation to assert Syrian regime sovereignty. Eventually, that could lead to potential friction. Israel’s leadership will have to weigh these issues and analyze its next steps”. It is understandable, of course, that the “Israelis” in their collective media dealing with this issue, circumvent the issue of “Syrian sovereignty” by using the term “Syrian regime sovereignty”, which we can see in most articles and news that have been written on the subject. Nevertheless, this does not change a thing of the reality of things.
• An article published in “The Times of Israel” linked (and it was not the only one to do so) the joint patrols with what is happening in Ukraine. Commenting on the patrols, it stated: “As tensions mount between Putin and world powers over Ukraine, Moscow appears to make a statement regarding its presence in the Middle East”.
• An article published in the same news outlet, said that according to Ynet news “Israeli officials are struggling to understand why Russia has apparently changed its policy toward Israel” and “Israel may limit its air campaign in Syria as a result of Russia’s move, even after discussions end [between the Russians and Israelis]”.
• “Israeli” website Kikar, also published an article about the subject, titled “Concern in Israel: Russian and Syrian planes patrol Syria”. The article states: “Israeli radars captured, on Saturday morning, Russian Air Force fighter jets patrolling the Israeli-Syrian border. Although this was an unusual incident, the Russians did not update Israel, and this caused much concern.”
Tuesday, January 25
• In its read of the matter, it was noteworthy that “Israeli” channel i24News had recalled what was announced more than a month ago about cancelling a scheduled visit for Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, to “Israel”, as part of an implication that the cancellation, albeit at the time said to be linked to the tensions surrounding Ukraine, but that it is linked with what was happened later with regards to the joint air patrols.
• In an article by Noam Amir published on the Makorrishon website, he says: “The [Israeli] defense establishment and the political echelon still does not understand what message the Russians tried to convey in the joint air show with Syria”. Commenting on the news published by the Russian Defense Ministry about the patrols, Amir says: “Within the announcement, a particularly alarming line appeared: that the two countries [Russia and Syria] intend to make such patrols regular”.
Wednesday, January 26
• Jewish News Syndicate published an article by Yaakov Lappin, in which he talked about meeting with several former “Israeli” officials, and especially military ones, to comment on the matter. Among the commentaries in the articles, was one by Yossi Kuperwasser, a retired brigadier general and former head of the “Israel” Defense Forces’ Military Intelligence, who said: “assuming the joint flights occurred, they represent a route tracing Syria’s borders”, and “that the message represents a beefing up of Russian support to the Syrian regime and its claim to sovereignty”. He also said that “the joint flights, which approached Syria’s border with Iraq as well, could also be seen as a message to the United States, according to which, ‘Russia is back’.”
Friday, January 28
• Anshel Pfeffer published in The Jewish Chronicle website an article titled: “As the was clouds gather in Ukraine, is Israel ready for the coming storm?” In the article, its author concludes with the following question/conclusion: “Why carry out and publicize this joint maneuver now if not as a reminder to Israel that if it wants to keep its freedom to bomb Iranian targets in Syria, it should keep well away from whatever happens in Ukraine?” This indicates, without explicitly saying so, that “Israel” is actually involved in what is happening in Ukraine.
• In Maariv, Tal Lev Ram sees that: “This week’s publicized flight of Russian and Syrians fighter jets over the skies of the Golan Heights does not bode well”. He adds that “An American-Russian confrontation, even if there is no physical friction between the two powers, could last for months and in any case, good for Israel will not come of it”. At the end of the article, he says: “If Israel is already disappointed today with the relatively low priority given by the US administration to the Iranian issue and other issues in the Middle East, further entanglement in the plot in Ukraine is likely to exacerbate the trend”.
It may not be exactly correct to link the tension and escalation related to Ukraine with the unprecedented Russian-Syrian joint air patrols over the Golan, as the matter goes beyond that. It is certainly beyond the limits reached by “Israeli” media, and even some “Arab” media, whether those considered closer to the Syrian regime or its opposition.
Before talking about any linking factors with Ukraine, it should be noted that Ukraine here is just one of the symptoms of the crisis and conflict between Russia and China on one side and the US and NATO with it on the other side.
If we keep this in the back of our minds, then among the main issues suggested by linking these patrols to Ukraine (that is with to the Russian-American conflict), are the following:
First: As we noted above, the battle over Ukraine is not only about it. Despite intensive attempts by Western media to portray the ongoing escalation within the boundaries of a superficial narrative about “Russia intending to invade Ukraine, and the US and NATO working to defend it”, the clear truth is that the battle is much broader and larger. It is a battle over restoring the pre-1991 “military borders”. Meaning, this is not just putting a stop to NATO’s expansion eastward, but even pushing it back, to the position it had prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Naturally, this does not only concern Eastern Europe, but the entire world map, including our region.
Second: If the current global battle is so wide, this implicitly means that the margins, within which certain players jumped between here and there over the last 30 years, have become much narrower. With the imminent steady escalation, these players will lose any room for games of this type. Implicitly, “Israel’s” core Western alignment will put it in a forced confrontation with both of China and Russia.
Third: Among those who acknowledge the reality of the current change in the international balance, and who know with certainty that wind trends are constant towards more Western retreat, there are those who present a “theoretical possibility” of “Israel” moving from the West bank to China and Russia’s bank. They are basing this on the historical experience of the Zionist project transitioning from British sponsorship to American sponsorship after World War II. Disregarding the fact that a transition from British to American is not a transition from one bank to another, but rather a shift on the same bank, it is no secret that a “theoretical possibility” like this of “Israel” transitioning from West to East has no grounds in reality. The Zionist project as a whole – “Israel” implicitly – is essentially a Western project founded on placing an advanced military base for the high seas’ sultans in the heart of the Old World. This is within comprehensive management of the world trade routes to push them towards the seas and keep them away from solid ground. The “base” works implicitly, as do all American bases, to prevent land connection, intensify mutual hostilities, and deepen instability to give life to unequal exchanges as the new form of colonialism.
Fourth: The Zionist role in Ukraine – despite insistence by Lapid, Bennett, and other “Israeli” officials to refuse commenting on what is going on there, and even to try and say that “Israel” is neutral towards this conflict – is an exposed and well-known role. This role is even very old, and its well-known beginnings go back to the 1950s, where the cities of Kiev, Odessa, and Nikolaev were active staging centers for Zionist action against the Soviet Union. This was to the extent that Ukraine itself was described as the “Israel of Eastern Europe”. Not to mention that parts of Ukraine itself, including the Crimea previously, were among the options of the first Zionist groups to realize the idea of “national home for the Jews”. To this day, and with every new crisis the Zionist entity experiences, talk about Ukraine as an alternative option is repeated.
Fifth: Starting in the 1950s, specifically in 1955 with the first Soviet arms deal with Abdel Nasser’s Egypt, and since the days of tripartite aggression against Egypt and all the subsequent wars between the Arabs and “Israel”, the hostile alignment of “Israel” with the West against the Soviet Union was open. That was in complete harmony with the “Israeli project” being fundamentally and essentially a Western project, then British, then British-American. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the balance was lost, and Zionist capital entered very influential positions in contemporary Russia. Despite being dealt very important blows since the early 2000s, nevertheless, the major battle with it is still on the near future’s agenda, as the actual battle over the new international balance, for Russia, is primarily linked with its internal situation, and particularly with its financial situation. Real immunity cannot be reached within the latter without an inevitable battle, especially with the Zionist capital.
Sixth: With regards to our region in the current international conflict, going back to pre-1991 “military borders” implicitly means not only gradually and quickly putting a limit to the colonial roles that “Israel” plays in our region, but also paving the way to push their roles towards retreat. Therefore, the joint patrols, albeit in one dimension a message concerning the entire Western conflict and its visible side now (that is Ukraine and NATO’s European boundaries), nevertheless they also concern the place where they took place, more than any other place in the world.
The joint air patrol, which will be regular, are not merely a passing message regarding Ukraine, or even the conflict with NATO over Europe. Rather, it is primarily part of the direct conflict between the Russians and the Americans. At the same time, it is an expression of the intensity of the degree the conflict has reached. In this equation, “Israel” is the same as America.
The message from the patrols does not comprise only one dimension of an international nature, but also a regional and domestic one as well. That is, it is a message concerning our region to a great extent. This message does not indicate a transformation or change in the policies as some would like to say, but indicate a new qualitatively advanced stage within the same track, which will be followed by many stages