the West Cede the Golan Heights to a Psychopath?
By Moshe Ya’alon
and Yair Lapid
Times of Israel
July 1, 2018
We live in a world full of complex diplomatic dilemmas, but
for once here is a simple one: Would you take an area that is flourishing in a
western democratic state, where fifty thousand people of different religions and
ethnicities live in harmony, and hand it over to a violent dictatorship ruled by
the worst mass murderer of our time so that he can destroy the area and murder
most of the residents?
If your answer is “no” then you support recognizing
Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
In 1981 Israel applied its law to the Golan Heights. The
Syrians insisted it be returned to them. Most countries, including the United
States, have avoided taking a clear position. We believe it’s time to get off
The Golan Heights is a unique story in the Israeli-Arab
conflict. It’s a mountainous region of around 695 square miles (around the
size of a medium-sized ranch in Texas), in the north of Israel. It’s worth
noting, of course, that it is entirely unrelated to Israel’s conflict with the
Palestinians. Not a single Palestinian lives in the Golan Heights.
Historically, the Golan is known as the biblical land of
Bashan from the book of Deuteronomy. Just recently a major renovation of a 4th
century Jewish synagogue was completed and in archaeological excavations a coin
from 67 CE was discovered with an inscription which read, “For the redemption
of Jerusalem the Holy.” It is an area with a long and deep Jewish connection.
The Syrians, on the other hand, ruled over the Golan
Heights for only 21 years; between the years 1946 and 1967. During those years
they turned the Golan into a military base, rained rocket fire on the Israeli
communities which are under the Golan Heights and tried to divert Israel’s
critical water sources to dry the country out.
In 1967, during the Six Day War, the Golan Heights was
liberated by Israel. In the 51 years since then Israel developed the Golan
Heights and turned it into an impressive center of nature reserves and tourism,
with high-tech agriculture, award winning wines, a flourishing food-tech
industry and in-demand boutique hotels. The Druze population of the Golan
Heights, who make up about half the population, were granted all the same rights
as any other citizen in Israel, as would be done in any genuine democracy.
On the other side of the border, life went in the other
direction; in the past seven years President Assad has massacred over a half a
million of his own people and his actions led to the displacement of 11 million
more. He let the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah, the largest terror
organizations in the world, into Syria. He encouraged Shia militias from Iraq
and elsewhere to flood into Syria. It is a dark regime led by a psychopath
supported by the most malevolent forces on earth today.
The man who didn’t hesitate to use chemical weapons
against women and children, continued to demand the Golan Heights in the name of
“international law.” The fact that anyone in the Western world still takes
that argument seriously is worse than naivete – it is insanity. Does his
monstrous behavior have no cost? Do we live in the world without any sense of
reward and punishment? The fact that the Golan Heights is under Israeli rule is
the only thing that saved it from the Syrian valley of death, which is
collapsing under the weight of violence and destruction.
The international community, led by the United States,
needs to do the simple thing: To announce that they see the world as it is. We
call on the American administration and both parties – Republicans and
Democrats – to lead an international process of recognition of Israeli
sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
It is historically just, it is strategically smart and it will allow the United States to extract a price from Assad for his despicable behavior without putting boots on the ground in Syria.