Israel had gained air space superiority in the Middle East after it destroyed the Egyptian air force during the 1967 6-days Israeli aggression war against it neighbors. Since then, the Arab weakness in the air force arena had emboldened Israel to use its air force power intensively and unhindered, up till now, to inflict damages to its Arab neighbors without endangering its troops in risky confrontation.
The free open-air space of the region allowed Israeli bombers to hit installations in the heart of some Arab countries, such as the 1981 bombing of Iraqi nuclear facility and the 2007 bombing of the alleged Syrian nuclear reactor. Violating international human rights, and without any international condemnation, Israel used its air force to destroy main civilian infrastructures, bomb civilian homes, hospitals, schools, mosques and churches, and many civilian institutions. This was apparent particularly in Israel’s invasions and wars against Lebanon and against Gaza Strip.
In fact, Israel was so emboldened that it had routinely violated Lebanese air space to attack Syria under bogus claims of self-defense, pre-emptive strikes against rocket convoys to Hezbollah, retaliations against claimed ISIS rocket launchers, and lately against alleged Iranian military facilities and rocket factories in Syria.
Within the last few years, arrogantly emboldened Israeli leaders had intensified their military aggression against Syria without paying any military or political price for it. This has just changed last Saturday February 10th when Syria finally considered that enough is enough and decided to defend its own air space.
Syrian government forces use drones to monitor ISIS’s military movements. Israel, as it had done in the past, decided to help its proxy army; ISIS, by bombing the Syrian drone air base. Two Israeli fighter planes were launched early Saturday morning, violated Lebanese air space, as usual, heading to Syria to do what they accustomed to believe a relatively easy mission.
Yet, the Israelis were surprised to discover that the mission was not business as usual. The Israeli fighter planes were confronted with heavy Syrian defenses and with ground to air missiles that downed their F-16 and damaged another F-15 fighter planes.
Panic and fear of further rocket attacks spread all over the northern Israeli colonies. Warning sirens wailed in many Israeli towns in the north, Israelis hurried into shelters and Ben Gurion international airport near Tel Aviv had temporarily halted air traffic. On Sunday Israel spread its iron dome rockets on its northern border, while sending more reinforcements south on the border with Gaza Strip. Israel does not have any territorial depth that could protect its citizens from any rockets launched from Syria.
Netanyahu, fearing further “Iranian” and/or “Russian” retaliations, or even worse, getting Israel alone involved in an unplanned and unprepared war against Syrian and Hezbollah forces, rushed to the phone calling on Trump and Putin claiming that Israel does not seek “escalation” and that the Israeli attack came as a limited retaliation for Iranian drone violation of Israeli air space. This is a claim that Netanyahu had always used to justify Israel’s continuous aggressions against Arabs accompanied with the bullying daring threat not to retaliate against these aggressions. “We seek peace, but are prepared for any scenario and I wouldn’t suggest to anyone that they test us” he arrogantly challenged in many of his speeches. Finally, Syria decided to test Israel’s resolve, and Netanyahu panicked.
Israeli officials were shocked by the unexpected result of what seemed to be an easy mission for the F-16 that is equipped with the latest American defensive Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) that is supposed to defend the plane from missile attacks. The shock did not hit only the Israelis but also hit the American military air force headquarters even harder especially when it was revealed that the very expensive ECM failed to defend the plane against the older 1960s technology of the Russian S-200 missile that hit the planes. This is so concerning to the Americans since the American air force fleet is comprised mainly of F-16 fighter planes using the same ECM defensive technology.
Israeli officials hastened to justify the attack as a retaliation for an Iranian drone that allegedly had violated the Israeli air space. It is worth mentioning, here, that Israel seems to be inflected with a dangerous pathological phobic obsession called Iran; Iranian nuclear bomb, Iranian rockets, and finally Iranian drones. All these have proven to be Netanyahu’s false manifestations of his over-imaginative sick mind, who wants to convince the world that Iran, not Israel, poses threat to the region and to the world. The alleged Iranian threat never escapes all of Netanyahu’s speeches.
History proves that Iran has not entered into any war of aggression for centuries and had never developed nuclear weapons, while Israel had been born out of a colonial war, lives into a state of perpetual aggressive wars against its neighbors, reported to have between 200 – 300 nuclear bombs, and had dropped nuclear tactical bombs on Yemen. Unlike ISIS creator America, Iran has no military presence in Syria, but few military advisers invited by the Syrian government.
This event of downing Israeli F-16 fighter plane is not a casual incident, but could be viewed as a crucial turning point in the on-going Arab/Israeli conflict. It could mean that Israel cannot any longer bomb its neighbors without any heavy price to pay. Israel needs to think deeply and to reconsider its policies before jumping into any military adventure. It is true that Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria have come wounded of devastating wars, yet they had come out experienced, determined, and better armed. The “Order out of Chaos”, the “New Middle East”, and the American Israeli ISIS terrorist wars, that meant to weaken and destroy the Arab Resistance Axis had failed and produced the opposite planned results. The Arab Resistance Axis, leadership and nations, is stronger instead.
Israeli leadership understands, now, that this event ushers a new strategic phase. The era of Israeli air force bullying its Arab neighbors is over. Any future Israeli air engagement could further demonstrate to other Arab leaders that Israel, with its air defense neutralized and without any territorial depth, is very vulnerable. Israelis can only resort to their American protectors to deter any possible confrontation or rocket attacks that would herd Israeli citizens into shelters shuttering the myth of “Israel is the safest place for Jews”, and could initiate a reverse immigration.
The only people Israel can now bully and terrorize are the Palestinians in the West Bank and in Gaza Strip, who are now going into their 11th “Week of Anger” demonstrating against the Israeli occupation, and engaging, with stones, the fully armed Israeli soldiers. The possibility of bombing Gaza to raise the reduced morale of the Israeli pilots, a common practice of Israeli leaders whenever they face a military failure, is very high now. The Hamas military wing; Izz ak-Din al-Qassam Brigades, announced that it had raised its readiness for any possible Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip.
Dr. Elias Akleh is an Arab American from a Palestinian descent. His family was evicted from Haifa, Palestine, after the 1948 Nakba when the Zionists stole his family’s property. Then the family was evicted again from the West Bank during the 1967 Naksah, after the Zionist, again, occupied the rest of Palestine.