In possible jab at Moscow, Herzog pays surprise visit to the Golan

“In these days of global instability, we must remember: we must base our defensive power on ourselves alone.”

By David Hellerman, World Israel News

Israeli President Isaac Herzog paid a surprise visit to the Golan Heights on Tuesday in what may have been a jab at Russia.

The visit, and certain comments he made may have been linked to Russia’s denunciation of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan on Wednesday.

“Russia doesn’t recognize Israel’s sovereignty over Golan Heights that are part of Syria,” Deputy Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy said at the UN Security Council during a debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Polyanskiy was believed to be subtly threatening Israel for empathizing with Ukraine as Russian forces massed on the border. Russia invaded Ukraine hours after that Security Council meeting.

The President’s Office, which normally releases Herzog’s schedule for the coming week each Friday, didn’t issue one this past Friday. Also, news of the visit was embargoed until after Herzog left the Golan, an unusual measure for a presidential activity.

Herzog’s comments emphasized Israeli self-reliance and the defense of borders.

“One cannot speak about borders, and about border defense or border security, especially here in the Golan, without saying a word about the IDF,” Herzog said at Kibbutz Ramot. “In these days of global instability, we must remember: we must base our defensive power on ourselves alone.”

Herzog also quoted from Ethics of the Fathers, saying, “‘If I am not for myself, who will be for me?’ That is the lesson of this era. The IDF must remain the best of the best, and therefore we must ensure it has the best people and retains the best people, so that they will continue to serve day by day, hour by hour, to risk their lives, in the hope that they will always return home in peace after defending the homeland.”

The President also expressed condolences to the family Roman Brodsky, the first Israeli killed in the Ukraine conflict. Brodsky, was in a convoy of cars making its way to the Moldovan border when it came under a shelling attack. Brodsky was shot and killed by Ukrainian soldiers in what appears to have been a case of mistaken identity.

“This is a terrible tragedy: the personal tragedy of Roman and his family and the tragedy of the Jewish community and the Ukrainian people,” said Herzog. “We are profoundly concerned for them. Together with the whole family of nations, I hope this war ends quickly.”

Herzog also visited a wind farm run and local farmers.

In December, the Israeli government approved an initiative to double the Golan’s population, establish new communities, improve infrastructure and create 2,000 new jobs over a five-year period.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria during the Six-Day War in June 1967 after Syrian forces shelled Israeli communities in the Galilee.

While Israel opposes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Jerusalem has been very careful to keep its criticisms low-key. Israel and Russia have security coordination to avoid coming into conflict in Syria, where the Israeli Air Force frequently strikes Iranian targets.