As Russia aims its heavy weapons at Turkey causing the world to watch on in suspense, a scene is playing-out between the two belligerents, one in which the world has little control.
However, what many don’t realise, is that in another part of the world, seeds are being sown for the emergence of an even greater crisis.
It was during the remarkable events of the Six Day war in 1967, that Israel captured the Golan Heights.
After capturing the Golan, the idea was for the Israeli government to use it as bargaining chip for any post-war negotiation, or keep it as a buffer zone to reinforce territorial security against any future Syrian aggression.
Since then, continued Israeli occupation of the Golan is an arrangement which, in light of recent information, could be a latent catalyst for a Russian invasion.
Its possible that in the very act of seeking security through continued occupation, Israel may have unwittingly guaranteed a future confrontation with Russia.
Unprecedented oil deposits discovered on the Golan
In October, an Israeli energy company – Afek – was drilling around the Golan and discovered unprecedented amounts of oil.
Afek’s Chief Geologist – Dr. Yuval Bartov, said to Israel’s Channel 2 News;
“We are talking about a strata which is 350 meters thick… On average in the world strata are 20-30 meters thick. This is ten times as large as that, so we are talking about significant quantities.”
Just as Israel’s offshore Mediterranean gas discoveries created an entire energy industry, so the Golan oil find could transform Israel into a supplier.
However, while the gas is generally recognised to be within Israeli territory, the oil discovery on the Golan is not.
The disputed sovereignty over the Golan
Since 1967, the international community of nations have only recognised Syrian ownership of the Golan.
Upon publishing news of the Golan discovery, Russian state-owned media was quick to claim that “The region is internationally recognized Syrian territory”.
Until recently, the dispute over Golan sovereignty was largely just a war of words: where the United Nations would pass majority supported resolutions condemning Israel for its occupation, Israel would respond by ignoring any demands to relinquish the territory.
But everything changed in September 2015, when Russia moved into Syria.
Russia suddenly acquired a direct and vested interest in Syrian national and geographic integrity, including, the Golan Heights. From that moment on, an intriguing series of events unfolded.
Israel fails to secure US support
Almost a month after the oil discovery, Netanyahu had a meeting planned with Obama at the White-house.
As part of the meeting, Netanyahu tried to include the question of Golan occupation on the agenda, but it was rejected on the basis that the U.S. position, which objects to Israel annexing the Golan Heights, remains unchanged.
Russia condemns Israel and says the Golan belongs to Syria
A week after Netanyahu’s visit, the question of Golan occupation once again came to the fore when the United Nations voted on a resolution submitted by Syria for Israel to be removed from Golan occupation.
The motion was passed with a strong majority, but most notably, the Russian Federation supported the resolution condemning Israel for its occupation.
The resolution claimed that Israel’s hold over the Golan Heights, was “a stumbling block in the way of achieving a just, comprehensive, and lasting peace in the region.”
Syria has just asked Russia to develop its oil resources
A week after re-affirming the view of the international community regarding Israels occupation, the Syrian president – Bashar al-Assad – took the opportunity to ask Russia to help develop Syrian oil resources.
At this point, the focus on development is on sea based resources, however this could change if it becomes apparent that the Golan offers low cost extraction for high return.
UPDATE: Israel is “very concerned” about Russian activity near the Golan
It has since come to light that the Israeli government is significantly concerned about Russian military activity near the Golan as the motives of the military are unclear.
While the oil discovery rekindles the international debate on Golan sovereignty, Russia continues to support the convenient view that an Israeli occupation of the Golan is a threat to peace in the Middle East.
How far will Russia go to take a spoil under the guise of achieving “peace” in the Middle East?