The Nusra Front, a Syrian insurgent group affiliated with Al Qaeda, recently released 45 Fijian peacekeepers that had been held captive for two weeks. Since their release, the UN has decided to relocate its Golan Heights peacekeepers to the Israeli side of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) buffer zone in hopes of preventing another attack or abduction. Attacks by Syrian militants on members of UNDOF in the buffer zone between Syria and Israel have been increasing over the last couple weeks. According to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “the situation in UNDOF on the Syrian side and the area of separation has deteriorated severely over the last several days.”
UNDOF’s mandate is up for renewal in October, but it is questionable whether or not soldiers will continue to be sent into this increasingly dangerous area. With the evacuation of UN peacekeepers from the UNDOF post at the Quneitra Crossing and increasing violence from the Nusra Front, it seems as though Israel is inching closer to becoming a player in the Syrian civil war. The Syrian army has two divisions responsible for its side of the Golan Heights; however, with more important battles being fought in Aleppo, Damascus and elsewhere, the soldiers in this area have not received supplies for months. For them, defecting or just laying down their arms is a better option than fighting the insurgents.
If UNDOF’s mandate is not renewed and soldiers in the Syrian army continue to defect, who will be left to prevent these insurgents from crossing into Israel? The Israeli Defense Forces. If Israeli forces are dragged into the civil war, will American forces also be necessary to back up our closest Middle Eastern ally? With the approval of Congress to arm and train Syrian rebels, President Obama insists that U.S.ground troops will not be sent overseas. Will Obama change his mind if terrorist forces seriously threaten Israel? Should Israel ask for U.S. help, Israeli lobbyist groups will put pressure on Obama to send Israel the supplies it needs whether that be arms or troops. However, with a large majority of Americans currently opposed to sending troops abroad to fight in Syria, Obama will feel the same pressure against sending U.S. troops to assist Israel.