Home
In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review May 30, 2008 / 25 Iyar 5768

Who gets the Golan?

By Yossi Klein Halevi



Printer Friendly Version

Email this article



Israel has no reason to trust Syria in talks over that strategic area


JewishWorldReview.com |

W ERUSALEM — The Israeli mainstream, so the truism here goes, is so desperate for peace that, in the end, it will overcome misgivings over relinquishing territory and mistrust of Arab intentions and endorse any diplomatic initiative aimed at solving the Middle East conflict. After all, the majority of Israelis have supported every withdrawal so far — from the Sinai desert in 1982 to the pullout from Gaza in 2005. And according to polls, a majority of Israelis are prepared to leave most of the West Bank and create a Palestinian state.


But that willingness to relinquish territory for peace — or even a respite — ends with the Golan Heights, which Israel won in the 1967 Six-Day War and whose fate Israel and Syria are negotiating. By an overwhelming majority, Israelis oppose ceding the Golan to Syria, even in exchange for a promise of peace from Damascus. So does a majority of the Israeli parliament, along with most Cabinet members from the governing party, Kadima.


One reason is that few here believe that the regime of Bashar Assad will honor an agreement. No Arab state has consistently shown greater hostility to Israel than Syria. The Palestinian terrorist movement Hamas is headquartered in Damascus; Syria is Iran's leading Arab ally. Without a Syrian attempt to convince the Israeli public of its benign intentions, domestic opposition will stymie any attempt by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to cede the Golan to Assad. And the prospects for a convincing Syrian overture are almost nonexistent.


The Middle East conflict has produced two models of Arab peacemakers. The first was former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, who realized that the key to resolving the conflict was psychological. The Israeli public needed to be convinced that, in exchange for concrete concessions, it would win legitimacy from the Arab world. And so Sadat flew to Jerusalem, addressed the Israeli parliament and announced that Egypt welcomed Israel into the Middle East. The result was an Israeli pullback from every last inch of Sinai.


The second model was former Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, who, rather than prepare his people for peace, assured them that Israel was an illegitimate state destined to disappear. And when Israel offered the Palestinians a state, Arafat's response was a war of suicide bombings. The result was an indefinite deferment of statehood.


Grudging and suspicious, Assad reminds Israelis far more of Arafat than of Sadat. So far, Assad has refused even to hold direct negotiations with Israel, preferring Turkish interlocutors. Give me the Golan, he is in effect saying, and then we'll see what kind of peace develops between us.


But Israelis are hardly in a rush to part with one of the most beloved areas of their country. For Israelis, the Golan Heights, with its empty hills and vineyards, is more Provence than Gaza. Unlike the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza, the Golan poses no moral or demographic dilemmas. Here there is no occupation of another people; barely 20,000 Druze, and an equal number of Jews, share the nearly 700-square-mile area.


Under Syrian control before the 1967 war, the Golan was Israel's most volatile border. Many here still recall the years when Syrian soldiers on the Golan routinely shot at Israeli civilians in the Galilee below. After 1967, though, the Golan became Israel's most placid border. Israelis sense that, for the sake of quiet if not formal peace, it is far better to have their soldiers overlooking Syria than for Syrian soldiers to be once again looking down on the Galilee.


Israeli advocates of a Golan withdrawal argue that Syria may be enticed to sever its ties with Iran as part of a peace agreement. Neutralizing a potential Syrian front in a future Middle East war — with Iran, say — would be a major gain for Israel, which is why much of the Israeli strategic community supports negotiations. Syria, though, continues to affirm the primacy of its alliance with Iran. And, during a visit this week to Tehran, Syrian Defense Minister Hassan Turkmany reinforced that message by signing a security agreement with Iran.


Two Israeli leaders, Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak, tried and failed in the 1990s to reach an agreement with Bashar's father, the late Syrian leader Hafez Assad. Though both Rabin and Barak agreed to a full withdrawal from the Golan, the Syrians demanded more: several hundred yards of shorefront on the Sea of Galilee, Israel's main freshwater source, which the Syrians had seized from Israel before 1967. When Rabin and Barak refused to allow Hafez Assad to fulfill his stated dream of again dipping his feet into the Sea of Galilee, negotiations collapsed.


The current negotiations will almost certainly fail too. In fact, possessing the Golan is hardly Assad's top priority. Instead, Assad has two more pressing interests: evading an international tribunal investigating the Syrian government's complicity in the murder of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and deflecting attention from the intensifying domination of Lebanon by the Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah alliance. Negotiations with Israel — regardless of whether they actually succeed — help Assad achieve both goals, by deflecting world attention from the destruction of Lebanese sovereignty and by transforming him from pariah to peacemaker.


Israel's Olmert hopes that peace negotiations will deflect attention from his own woes — allegations of corruption dating in part from his days as Jerusalem's mayor. Other Israelis, though, are wondering how helping Assad destroy Lebanon and escape justice can possibly be confused for Israel's national interest, let alone for a peace process.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Yossi Klein Halevi is a senior fellow of the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem and the Israel correspondent for the New Republic. Let him know what you think by clicking here.




© 2008, Yossi Klein Halevi