Syria Naksa Day - Reuters - June 5, 2011
Israeli soldiers takeing aim next to the Syrian-Israeli border fence near the Druze village of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights June 5, 2011. Photo by Reuters
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The IDF proved this week that it does a good job preparing for the previous war. It may only be an isolated incident, whose character was more civilian police-oriented than military, but anyone who found flaws in the intelligence and military systems on Nakba Day (May 15 ) must admit the lessons were learned, the forces were deployed and the mission was accomplished.

On Sunday, Naksa Day, the Israel Defense Forces succeeded in blocking hundreds of demonstrators who, surrounded by cameras, stormed the border fences in the Golan Heights, carrying flags, posters and loudspeakers.

The price, in fatalities from sniper fire, was perhaps overshadowed by frequent reports about the massacre of Syrian civilians by Bashar Assad's security forces. Israel may also have achieved the goal of showing determination to prevent penetration into territory it holds, to the extent of exercising lethal force. But the hope that this would also achieve deterrence from similar demonstrations in the coming days and weeks, in a stream that would peak simultaneously with the Palestinian Authority's move to gain statehood in September, seems like an illusion.

The Palestinians reckoned they would have casualties. They too have learned lessons from May 15. It did not deter them, and there are no grounds to assume it will deter others on other fronts, especially when the regimes or organizations holding the Arab side of the border have no interest in acting against the demonstrators. The incidents have also shown that 30 years of forced annexation and naturalization have not turned the Golan Druze into devoted Israeli citizens.

This has become routine in the Israeli-Arab conflict - the IDF scores a tactical victory, which shrinks in contrast to the strategic failure. Netanyahu's government wanted to sweep aside the existence of a yet-unsolved conflict between Israel and Syria. Previous governments bargained with Bashar and his father, Hafez Assad, about a formula enabling returning the Golan to Syria - entirely or almost entirely (a small difference, over which the main bargaining was held ) - in exchange for peace. Netanyahu has refrained from doing so in the past two years, despite the chance to break up the dangerous Iran-Syria-Hezbollah northern alliance.

The negotiations will not come to life in the twilight of the Damascus regime. But Israel will not be able to persist indefinitely in denying the need for openness to a peace process, both vis-a-vis the Palestinians and vis-a-vis Syria.