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Golan Heights – Questions on Australia’s role still unanswered

By Hungry Charley  

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s recent statement on a new role for Australian peacekeepers in the Golan Heights, where they would join an existing Fijian force already deployed by the UN was painted largely as boosting Australian – Fijian relations by the Government, while the scope of the Australian mission is still unclear.

The Prime Minister stated that Australians would be part of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights which has been operating since 1974 following escalation of Israeli-Syrian hostilities.

He indicated that Australian troops would be sent to ‘train and support’ the Fijian contingent deployed to Syria. The Fijians (194 in number) are already present in the Golan Heights, contributing significant numbers of peacekeepers since its first deployment in 2013.

Fiji has maintained its commitment in the Golan Heights despite around 50 deaths in the UNDOF over its mission history and an incident in which 45 Fijian peacekeepers were held hostage by militia in 2014.

UN documents released in September show the current positions of forces within the UNDOF deployment, including Fijian forces.

The announcement by the Prime Minister was given within the context of the Fiji–Australia Vuvale Partnership, signed by Morrison and Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama in September this year and the increasing interest in joint military cooperation since the announcement of Australia’s role in redeveloping the Black Rock training facility in Nandi.

Fijians embarking for Golan Heights mission (image from aspistrategist.org.au)

But despite the statements made by the Prime Minister, the size of the Australian force and its function remains unclear. There have been no media statements on this deployment by the United Nations Peacekeeping Force or any other information available from UN Information sources in Australia, despite being contacted a week ago. Similarly, there is no information forthcoming from the Australian Defence Force on the scope of the engagement, which itself is unusual, peacekeeping forces are not meant to be secret, the success of operations depends to a large extent on a high profile being maintained. Assertions that the increased Australian role will be supportive is also evidenced by the presence of an ADF officer who has been deployed since March this year with the UNDOF, presumably as an advisor, but again this is an assumption.

While deploying peacekeeping missions provides nations credit as being good international actors, the timing of the Australian participation is not consistent with Morrison’s critique of the UN in his speech earlier this month at the Lowy Institute and comments regarding ‘negative globalism’ he has recently given. Australia has been winding back its peacekeeping commitments over the years of the Coalition Government and in this sense, the mission announcement came as somewhat of a surprise.

Also, the Prime Minister’s words regarding the suitability of the mission due to a low level of risk to Australian forces does not reflect what has been happening on the ground over the last year. A UNDOF report from September this year shows that UN forces have been witness to substantial military actions between combatant forces, on both the Syrian and Israeli sides, as reported in the UNDOF September 2019 report:

“I am particularly concerned about the firing on 12 June of missiles across the ceasefire line by the Israel Defense Forces. Furthermore, I remain concerned by the continued presence of the Syrian armed forces in the area of separation. There should be no military forces in the area of separation other than those of UNDOF. The Israel Defense Forces should refrain from firing across the ceasefire line and crossing the ceasefire line. The continued presence of unauthorized weapons and equipment in the area of limitation on both the Alpha and Bravo sides is also of concern. These developments have the potential to jeopardize the Agreement.”

The area of ‘limitation’ is the area where military actions are forbidden under the UN mandate, though currently the UN only has access to 50% of the area of this area, according to the UN report. In fact the political situation in the Golan sites is much more unstable than it was a year ago, thanks in large part by Israel’s action to annex the Golan Heights in 1981 and ongoing Israeli occupation that was ratified by Trump in March this year. This is despite the area being claimed by the Syrian Government due to its location in relation to the 1967 truce line. So Israeli occupiers are technically in breach of UN resolutions on this matter.

The UN responded by declaring in March that its mission would not hindered by these political developments and that, “A majority of Security Council members on Wednesday stressed the importance of upholding international law regarding the occupied Golan , in the face of the unilateral move by the United States to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over them.” But according to UN reports Israeli forces have also been erecting barriers to movement in area of the ‘Qunaytirah crossing’, subjecting UN personnel to security checks and restricting access to the areas of ‘separation’ and ‘limitation’ in the north of the zone.

What is the Israeli/US interest in the Golans that has prompted Israeli occupation and such strong support from the US (and Australia) in violation of UN resolutions? The answer is partly settlement opportunities for Israel, but the other is oil. According to the Israeli operated Afek Oil and Gas there is ‘billions of barrels of Israeli oil’ under the ground. Except it is Syrian ground.

As reported in the Jerusalem Post, Afek has a permit to explore for conventional oil at up to 10 sites in a 39,500-hectare zone south of Katzrin (Qatsrin). This area lies within the Israeli area of control to the west of the de-militarised zone administered by UNDOF. The other key point here is that Afek is a wholly owned subsidiary of Genie Energy, a company with some by some powerful people on their strategic advisory board, Rupert Murdoch, Jacob Rothschild, former CIA Director James Woolsey and former Bush Secretary of State, Dick Cheney. Genie in turn is part of the larger parent company and many of the same owners IDT Corporation, an American tele-communications company and in their words, “… IDT’s Wholesale Carrier Services business is the largest independent carrier of voice traffic globally.”

Step in Newark lawyer and Genie Energy Acting President, Ira Greenstein. Greenstein was an official in the presidential transition team member for the incoming Trump administration. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner was also a member of this team and later became Trump’s “Middle East Envoy’. Greenstein was still Genie Energy’s acting President and according to the Millenium Report published in April this year, a breach of the conflict of interest rules for government employees in the US. Nonetheless Greenstein’s position on the transition team meant he had influence on government and UN appointments for the emerging Trump Administration and seems to have had influence over military actions Trump took against the Syrians following his election.

To give you an idea on the power of this conglomerate, Ira Greenstein has several corporate connections with Jared Kushner as well as within the pro-settlement organisation in Israel, Mosaic United, being the President and Treasurer of American Friends of Mosaic United in the US. Both Greenstein and Kushner have been involved with Israeli development of illegally settled areas on the West Bank, it seems now the Golan Heights is the next settlement front. Genie Energy is populated by strong pro-Israeli nationalists, such as the current President of Genie Oil And Gas, another subsidiary of Genie Energy, Efraim Eitam, who seems to be the one spearheading exploitation of resources in the Golan Heights and has strong relationships the within Israeli administration. He was a Brigadier General in the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) Reserves and has previously called all Arabs in Israel a “cancer.”

Jared and Rupert – good friends

Rupert Murdoch is another key Genie Energy connection to the Trump administration, sharing a long-time and close friendship with Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump, as well as seemingly gaslighting Trump’s military actions against Syria. In fact Murdoch is on the record saying that Genie would help spur a “global, geopolitical paradigm shift.”

Genie Energy suspended exploratory drilling just prior to President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in March. As UN reports show there has been an increase in Israeli military activity in the Golan Heights perimeter, particularly after an Iranian drone allegedly entered “Israeli airspace.” Trump has also been to the Golan himself raising feelings of Israeli nationalism amongst settlers and politicians alike, declaring a new “Trump Heights’ settlement along with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, all contrary to UN resolutions.

Given the tensions in the Golan Heights, Scott Morrison’s claims of the peacekeeping deployment being a low risk operation seems to be playing down the risks. In fact, given the recent politicking, it seems it has the potential to be a powder keg waiting to go off. A belligerent Israel with US support and an agitated Assad in Syria with increasing levels of Russian involvement due to Turkey’s recent intervention, do not add up to a stable situation for this part of the world.

Another key matter of interest is Morrison’s relationship with Trump and the Israeli administration, helped here in no short measure by ex-ambassador David Sharma. Morrison’s stance on Israel has generally been to follow the US position, herein lies the tension with the UN mission and why questions regarding our future involvement in the UNDOF need to be clarified.

It’s a shame Australia couldn’t show the same commitment to ensure the safety of Australian children and their mothers in northern Syria, not a priority it seems, but according to Morrison, neither is the peacekeeping mission.

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25 comments

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  1. Aortic

    Hoy Vey!

  2. Frances

    The Golan Heights should be given back to its rightful owner; it is Syrian territory. Here is a quote from GlobalResearch out of Canada. Of course Israel wants possession. “… when the land is abundant in resources – especially land as fertile as the Syrian Golan – a generous source of gushing waters and game changing oil reserves.

    In fact, the Golan Heights contributes a quenching one-third of Israel’s entire water supply. Its catchments leading to the Jordan River and Lake Kinneret – Israel’s main water source – receive long bouts of heavy rainfall, particularly during the colder months and occasionally during stormy season in the summer. …”

  3. Hungry Charley

    Yes indeed, water and oil. I cant see Israel walking away from this or this region in peace anytime soon. The Syrians and Israelis haven’t sat down to talks since 1984 according to the UN. Given Morrison’s religious and political ties to the US how can Australian troops be trusted to carry out a UN mandate when we agree with the law-breakers?

  4. Brad Golding

    Oh, that’s just great! ScoMo the international man of peace! What won’t you do to show off around the globe and pretend you are a big player, just like that snivelling little turd of a war criminal, Johnnie Howard? Anything to protect your zionist mates and ignore zionist apartheid in Palestine. Of course, since that other zionist parasite, Murdoch, is lining up to buy the Seven Network I guess you are hoping for some positive press for the next election. Not for you the return of land stolen from the Palestinians or Syrians!

  5. Karen Kyle

    This story, or some version of it has been doing the rounds on left blogs etc for years. Oil exploration has been going on in Israel for some time. Oil had gas has been found in some areas, but not on the Golan. The publications who have reported this doubtful news are the state controlled Russian press, you know the ones who hate the USA, and Global Research. Global Research is a Canadian left wing propaganda organ. Disinformation echoing Russian State media.

    The other notable blog was courtesy of a group of messianic Jews. Christian fundamentalists dressed up as Jews in order to convert Jews and dishonest and duplicitious. They have no trouble spreading rumours. Exploration on the Golan will continue until the license has run out, but so far, very little.

    Israel’s interest in the Golan has to do with defendable borders. They can stand on the Heights and see for miles in the desert and are aware of and any approaching army. Golan was also part of ancient Israel.

    As for Trump Town…….so far it is only a sign. Not one building, and no plans for buildings. The point was to flatter Trump.

  6. guest

    Karen Kyle

    Now why would Rupert Murdoch make comment on oil in the Golan Heights if it were not true? He was commenting on his connection with Genie oil.

    Murdoch said: “If Genie’s effort to develop shale oil is successful, as I believe it will be, then the news we report in the coming decades will reflect a more prosperous, more dramatic, and more secure world.”

    See source: nationofchange 20/17/01/15.

    See also Business Wire: A Berkshire Hathaway Company headline:

    “Business and Financial Leaders Lord Rothschild and Rupert Murdoch Invest in Genie Oil and Gas” Nov. 10, 2010.

  7. Karen Kyle

    Yeah…..Murdoch and Rothschild both have shares in Genie Oil and Gas. I am sure they both have shares in a lot of things. And Murdoch said if Genie is successful in developing shale oil, as he believes it will be the news reported in the comig decades will be prosperous etc. SO?

    As yet very little if anything has been found on the Golan. In fact exploration on the Golan has been going on for years without commercially viable results. What Murdock said is entirely different to the claims made e.g. huge oil reserves discovered on the Golan, and reserves to rival the Saudi reserves What rubbish. And isn’t it strange that this exciting news is unknown to citizens of Israel ? No coverage in the Israeli press and no mention of Oil in the Golan on any of the ME web sites.

    On the other hand oil and gas deposits found in Israel and maritime deposits have been well covered in the press.

  8. Phil

    Karen Kyle you make bullshit a science.

    https://journal-neo.org/2017/03/30/golan-heights-israel-oil-and-trump/

    https://www.timesofisrael.com/israels-oil-wars-shift-to-the-golan-heights/

    https://www.rt.com/business/317906-oil-golan-heights-israel/

    https://mjaa.org/huge-oil-discovery-on-the-golan-heights/

    https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2015/11/07/black-gold-under-the-golan

    https://www.armstrongeconomics.com/international-news/middle_east/is-there-really-more-oil-in-the-golan-heights-than-is-saudi-arabia/

  9. Karen Kyle

    Most of those articles are based on supposition and they are old. Some are just propagandist. The most reliable source is the Times of Israel and that is five years old. At least it is honest according to what was known at the time. And the situation seems not to have changed much, Even if that oil exists they have to get it out, and it is said to be in rock……which means it might have to be fracked. That’s what Murdoch implied. Oil has several requirements to be commerially viable.The amount and quality has to be there and they have to be able to get it out cheaply Otherwise it has to stay in the ground.There are oil deposits in many places around the world, and many are just not viable. For example Russia has considerable oil reserves in Siberia, but oil companies can’t get it out of the frozen ground so it is useless to them at this time. And that seems to be the problem with Golan, not commercially viablle because it might have to be fracked and Murdoch hopes that will happen in the coming decades.Maybe he is counting on improved technology. Meanwhile nothing much…..just a lot of propagandist twaddle..

  10. Roswell

    ..,just a lot of propagandist twaddle.

    There’s a word for that. It’s called ‘projection’.

  11. Karen Kyle

    Rosewell……whatever you say.

  12. Roswell

    It’s Roswell, not Rosewell.

  13. Phil

    Karen Kyle……in response. Wafffle, waffle, waffle waffle, Burp, waffle , waffle, waffle. I repeat you make bullshit a science. You are laughable. I actually feel sorry for you, you really don’t know anything do you?

  14. Karen Kyle

    New Eastern Outlook……..Russian propaganda. The site is available in two languages Russian and English. A click and you can ..change the language to Russian.

    Israeli Times…..legitimate…..but five years old.

    RT….blog, non professional…..says oil found on Golan according to press reports. Does not back the claim. Does not name the press concerned. Five years old and total bunk.

    MJJA……..Messianic Jews….really weirdo Christian Fundamentalists whose role it is to pretend to be Jewish so they can bring Jews to Christ and they pray for the end times when everyone will get theirs including the jews and the “saved”can watch with delight. Weird. Dishonest, and deeply anti Semitic.

    The Economist….behind a pay wall and does not appear to be professional. They don’t say who they are. Two bit news organization.

    Armstrong Economics a sort of a one horse site dealing with the Global Economy and trends with products for sale. They are in it for any money they can make and they don’t identify themselves either. Main stream media is liable if they knowingly print crap….there are remedies,at least the public can complain and any legit news outlet that lies like Fox News will lose reputation and credibility which is what is happening. but not for these shonky news services on the Internet. They can and do get away with anything. Russia must be pleased, Russian paradise where nothing is true and everything is possible. Just make up whatever you want and if you hate the US and Israel and the West and wish them harm …..go for it.

  15. Phil

    Karen Kyle. Go back to sleep. Thinking will tax your over worked brain that is regulating your other body functions. You will end up with a bad head ache.

  16. Karen Kyle

    Phil…..that is not an argument.

  17. Kaye Lee

    November 2017

    Afek, the subsidiary of Genie Energy Ltd. conducting an oil and gas exploratory program in Northern Israel, today announced that preliminary analysis of results from its completed Ness 10 exploratory well in Northern Israel suggests that the well’s target zone does not contain commercially producible quantities of oil or natural gas.

    Afek continues to analyze the data from Ness 10 in the context of the results of its prior drilling and other activities, and has suspended oil and gas drilling operations in the interim. The Company will make decisions about future operations when it has a more complete picture of the results and analysis.

    https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/genie-energy-suspends-exploratory-oil-and-gas-drilling-program-in-northern-israel-300558113.html

  18. Karen Kyle

    Kaye Lee….Thanks for that. Oil exploration in all of Israel has been less than successful. There is some oil, but not much, better reserves of natural gas. The Golan has been subject to oil exploration on and off for nearly a century, with poor results.

  19. Phil

    Phil…..that is not an argument.

    I don’t need one you’re wrong. And my links stand. There are plenty more but you already know that. You’re blind hatred for anything left needs no further debate.

  20. guest

    My understanding is that Afek stopped exploring in 2017 after its initial allowed exploration time. It claimed there was not enough oil for commercial gain.

    But it might be that there is oil there, but they are not saying so. Anyway, to take oil out would be illegal, contrary UN international law. But then, Israel claims to have annexed the Golan Heights since 1981. Perhaps, it is said, Israel is waiting for someone like Trump to sanction Israel’s annexation just as he prematurely made Jerusalem capital of Israel (Dec 6, 2017) – whereas Rex Tillerson said Trump’s decision had not been ratified.

    It is interesting that Western countries feel they need to interfere in Middle Eastern affairs to protect their own interests, which they have done for a very long time.

    And it interests me that Rupert Murdoch perhaps believed that he could profit from an economic venture in the Golan Heights. Murdoch’s media empire is all about profit and power.

  21. Kaye Lee

    There are still questions about the proposed Qatar-Turkey pipeline and if it may have influenced events in Syria and the involvement of Russia in the area.

  22. Karen Kyle

    It isn’t surprising that the US and Europe would take a keen interest in ME Oil. After all, we were all fed, clothed and educated because oil supplies were safe and secure. Without it the western economies would have collapsed. A fact of life ignored by those with an agenda..

    However having said that there is a new book out written by Rachel Maddow of MSNBC. She is a bright spark, a Rhodes scholar. The book is called Blow Out and it describes the corrupting influence of the Oil and Gas industry the world over, with emphasis on Putin’s Russia and the Ukraine. The book was released only about three weeks ago, and it is already out of print. I have ordered a copy and the bookseller said they should have it by the end of this month. The book is getting a lot of publicity in the US and from what Maddow has said about it, it will make the current world situation much clearer.

    Maddow comes with immpecable credentials. She wrote a book about the US Military called “Drift” which was a NYT best seller for months , Maddow has lectured West Point students on the book and it is nowpart of military colleges in the USA. As I said she is one smart cookie.

  23. guest

    Karen Kyle,

    you are right about Rachel Maddow. We need to issue a few thousand copies of “Blowout” here in Oz. Stir the pot.

    It confirms what I have suggested about Rupert Murdoch and Genie Energy and the Murdoch media’s pitiful denials about AGW.

    A tiny bit of what Maddow says I had filed away from Peter Frankopan’s “The Silk Roads” (2015, p.331):

    “The discovery of oil made the piece of paper signed by the Shah in 1901 one of the most important documents of the twentieth century. For while it laid the basis for a multi-billion-dollar business to grow – the Anglo-Persian Oil Company eventually became British Petroleum – it also paved the way for political turmoil. That the terms of the agreement handed control of Persia’s crown jewels to foreign investors led to a deep and festering hatred of the outside world, which in turn led to nationalism and, ultimately, to a more profound suspicion and rejection of the west best epitomised in modern Islamic fundamentalism.”

  24. Karen Kyle

    I thnk it will be best to read the book before reading something into it. Apparently Maddow describes the corrupting influence of the Oil and Gas companies which untimately also corrupt government. And she said the Oil and Gas companies are guilty of propping up corrupt authoritarian governments all over the world who will meet their demands. Russia is a first rate example of that kind of corruption but from what I understand this was a deliberate strategy adopted by Putin. It wasn’t “creeping corruption” but a wholehearted embrace of it as strategy and policy..

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