From the Golan Heights, the tragic legacy of the West’s botched response to the Arab spring is all too visible


 Members of the Palestinian community and their supporters march toward the Israeli consulate to protest President Donald Trump's decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem

In Israel, you have an up-close-and-personal view of Obama’s greatest mistake.

At the Decks bar and grill in Tverya, on the sea of Galilee, the proprietor – a pleasant woman with an American accent – is explaining the exchange of hostilities on the Israeli-Syrian border.

Her finger traces along the grain of the wood. “They went here,” she says, barely shifting her finger over one side of the grain to indicate the Golan Heights, Israeli-controlled territory that was struck by 20 missiles, reportedly from Iran (though the government in Tehran disputes this). “And in response, we went like this.” She smashes her hand down flat on the other side of the table, indicating the retaliation against Iranian military installations, which killed at least 20 soldiers (though the Israeli government disputes the figure) and weakened Tehran’s military presence in Syria.

She was not speaking triumphantly, or ruefully, but matter-of-factly. This is how it goes: this is how it has to be.

That’s the orthodoxy in the Israeli defence establishment. Because the country is so small – it is a touch smaller than Wales and its population is less than London’s – the only way it can remain safe is through a disproportionate response to military threats, or so the theory runs. That is part of the thinking behind the response to protests on the Gaza border on 14 May, when the Israel Defence Forces fired live ammunition at marchers and protestors.

Capital ideas

The protests and the bloody response have overshadowed the opening of the American embassy in Jerusalem. As far as the Israeli government and people are concerned, the country’s capital is Jerusalem: it hosts its parliament, the prime minister’s residence and the central bank.

But the Palestinians also claim Jerusalem as their capital, and the sensitivity of who governs the city is one reason why most …read more

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