The field hospitals exist in storage. The experienced medical personnel are available. Demands for Red Cross access to Syrian wounded are being made.
The Arab League, Turkey and two-thirds of the American public all favor the establishment of safe havens in Syria. But the war criminals ruling in Damascus won’t hear of it. They’re probably correct that such redoubts would quickly become staging areas for the Syrian rebels and army deserters. American defense planners are reluctant to protect such buffer zones lest the U.S. get sucked into another maelstrom in the Middle East.
In the interim, thousands of innocent Syrian civilians continue to be massacred. Thousands more are lying wounded without medical attention. Syrian hospitals have become the hunting grounds for Assad’s thugs searching for victims for their voracious sadist appetites.
In recent days even Russia has joined the chorus of countries calling on Syria to give the Red Cross access to wounded civilians. But if the Red Cross gets to the wounded, where should they take them?
Israel should consider the establishment of a large field hospital at the Golan Heights crossing between Syria and Israel at Majdal Shams on the Syrian side of the border. The United Nations Disengagement Observation Force, UNDOF, located on the Golan since 1974, could provide the diplomatic cover. The Red Cross – if given access through a safe corridor – could provide ambulances to move wounded from devastated Daraa in southern Syria or from the nearby Kuneitra region where fighting was reported earlier this week.
To avoid another Syrian and Iranian-directed “civilian” march on Israel’s defense lines, like the June 2011 attempt, the field hospital must be on the Syrian side.
Only a small percentage of the residents of Majdal Shams, the Druze town under Israeli control since 1967, have accepted Israeli citizenship. Few of the Druze residents serve in the Israeli army. The town may be viewed by Syria’s Assad junta as relatively neutral. At the same time, Israel’s Druze community could serve as the public face of the medical efforts, while the IDF’s vaunted medical corps could provide experienced medical personnel.
More than a decade ago the United States pre-positioned military field hospitals in Israel for use by the U.S. military or Israel in the event of a regional emergency. The carnage in Syria is precisely such an emergency.
For the world community, accused of abandoning the innocent civilians of Syria, the Golan medical initiative would provide a first step in meeting their responsibility. For Assad, it releases some of the world pressure without surrendering territory to the Syrian Free Army. And for Israel, it provides another tangible sign of peaceful intentions to the Arab world – already secretly sending some of its sick and impotent (yes, that kind of impotence) to Israeli hospitals.
If there’s a tiny chance for coexistence with the post-Assad government of Syria and if Syria doesn’t shatter into ethnic satrapies, a life-saving medical facility along the Israel-Syrian border may be a good place to start a coexistence process. Today.