Golan Heights Withdrawal
Due to Popular Pressure, 16 June
by Stephan Löwenstein
The decision by the Austrian government to withdraw the approximately 380 soldiers of the armed forces from the UN mission in the Golan Heights has initially been received positively at home.
The man in the street applauded. [...]
Only a handful of commentators on foreign affairs, as well as two previous ministers of defence, criticised the unilateral nature of the decision and that it was obviously taken with the election campaign in mind. Austrians will choose a new parliament in September. But until then criticism may increase. […]
The government in Vienna has so far reacted astonishingly coolly to the [international] appeals. One has to put up with criticism, Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said on the record. And he added that such a decision was no laughing matter.
The Timely End of a Mission, 7 June
by Andreas Koller
Without a doubt, the withdrawal of the Austrian soldiers from the Golan Heights, which the federal government decided on Thursday [6 June], is linked to the election campaign. The situation in the mountain strip is precarious. Pictures of injured young compatriots, some even killed, a furious opposition as a result, a tabloid press going wild – that would have just been the last straw for the governing parties struggling for re-election.
Thus Austria’s foreign policy has once more been subordinated to domestic politics and the short-term expediency. But that changes nothing about the fact that it is the right decision to bring Austrian soldiers back home. The UN soldiers were not moved to the Golan to wage a war but for a peace mission. [...]