Published in The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle
During my recent trip to Israel, I visited the Golan heights and understood the reasons why a majority of the Israeli people don’t support withdrawal from all the Golan even for a “peace treaty’. For many years, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin also had been talking about withdrawal on the Golan, but not from ALL the Golan. Now it appears Rabin has changed his position and that Israel is willing to withdraw from all the Golan to the international border in exchange for a peace treaty.
Many Americans will wonder why many Israelis think Israel should hold on to the Golan if there will be a peace treaty. The answer is that such withdrawal can endanger Israel’s ability to go on existing in security, with or without peace. Why?
The Syrians have attacked Israel without provocation three times in three wars
For 19 years up to the Six Day War in 1967, Syria terrorized North Galilee communities, causing many casualties without Israeli provocation . When you stand on the mountains of the Golan Heights, even without an electronic device, you can see Jordan and Hula Valley below. If advanced weapons were used from these positions, devastation would be inevitable.
Americans would do well to remember during the Gulf war, the tension and outright panic that gripped Israelis from the threat of 39 Iraqi Scud missiles. Now Israelis are asked to give up their peace of mind for a piece of paper called peace, while Syria continues its aggression in Lebanon and support terrorism.
Syria, having allegedly been invited to Lebanon, now rules there with its military presence.
In any comprehensive peace, while the Israeli presence in South Lebanon would be questioned, the Syrians would still be there threatening Israel’s northern border. Furthermore, with Syria permission, the Hezbollah Muslim extremists have been bombarding northern Israel and fighting Israeli soldiers in the security zone.
For decades Syria has been a haven and training ground for about a dozen terrorist groups
Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine( led by Ahmed Jibril, who is rumored to have planned the destruction of Pan AM flight 103)have offices in Damascus. Even though Secretary of State Warren Christopher often visits Syria in pursuit of a peace agreement, Syria is still on the U.S. list of countries that support terrorism.
Any withdrawal on the Golan means relinquishing strategic depth.
During the Yom Kippur War, Israel realized that the Golan, even in its entirety, lacks the minimal depth necessary to stop the surprise Syrian attack and land breakthrough into Eastern Galilee.
The Syrian regular army is many times the size of the regular Israeli army . Israel relies on its reserves to fight wars. Consequently, to repel a surprise attack, Israel needs the Golan to give it 24 hours to recruit the reserves. To those who say that in this modern age of long range missiles there is no value to a small piece of land, the Gulf war should teach us that even though the U.S. bombarded Iraq for weeks, it still was not able to conquer Iraq without fighting on the ground. The Syrians can bombard the Golan and even the Galilee but to conquer the Galilee they still need to fight on the ground of the Golan first.
The Syrian dictator has never built a trust relationship with the Israeli public.
In recent government meetings, it is reported that Rabin asked rhetorically of his ministers if the government expects the Syrian leader to get less for a peace treaty than Sadat of Egypt did. In reality , Haffez Al Assad is no Sadat, and he should not get all the Golan as Sadat got all the Sinai. Sadat showed his sincere intention of peaceful coexistence by coming to Jerusalem, speaking in the Israeli parliament and meeting then Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Assad resists the possibility of real peace with full normalization of relations between the countries.
The Rabin Government says that a prerequisite to a full withdrawal from the Golan Heights would be an advantageous security arrangement for Israel. Henry Kissinger once said the Israelis give the term “peace” a Talmudic importance, and he continued to say that “ if Israel will be weak compared to the Syrians, there shouldn’t be any expectations that the word peace will restrain the Syrians.”In light of the risks and the unwillingness of Syria to compromise, I wish Rabin would wait a second and think about Israel’s security first.