There is a great roar heard in the chamber of the Security Council condemning the recent declaration of Prime Minister Netanyahu that “the Golan Heights would remain in Israel forever”.
The U.N. resolutions have declared that Israel’s annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights following the Six Day War in 1967 was illegal. No nation in the world recognizes Israel’s occupation and annexation of the Golan.
To better understand the problem, one needs to go back to May 19, 1916 when the representative of Great Britain, Sir Mark Sykes, and the representative of France, Francois Georges Picot, met and signed what became famously known as the Sykes-Picot Agreement.
Its purpose was to divide most of the Arab lands which had been under the rule of the Ottoman Turkish Empire and to bring them into British and French spheres of influence at the end of World War I.
But what both Sykes and Picot neglected was to allow the further growth of Arab nationalism and its demand for independent states, supported by their hero, Lawrence of Arabia.
France gained control of all of Syria, including the Golan and modern Lebanon, and the greater part of Galilee, including Tel Hai and Kfar Giladi, from Acre to the Sea of Galilee.
Britain gained control of all of Mesopotamia around the provinces of Bagdad and Basra. Palestine was designated to be under international control due to Russia’s claims for their churches and monasteries in the Holy Land.
Sir Mark Sykes was a Christian Zionist who supported the right of the Jews to have a homeland under a British mandate.
The territory east of the Jordan River and the Negev desert were to be given to an Arab state under British protection.
French influence was strong in Syria and the Golan and especially in French-speaking Christian Lebanon.
However, in the years following the First World War tensions arose between Britain and France and the Sykes-Picot Agreement became the subject of bitter criticism and
the Agreement was officially abrogated by the Allies at the League of Nations San Remo Conference in April 1920.
The Conference recognized the Jewish claim to Palestine, following the lines of the 1917 Balfour Declaration and it gave Palestine to the Zionists to be administered by the British under a Mandate.
The mandate was intended to administer all Jewish and Arab affairs in Palestine. But it violated the terms of the Balfour Agreement and the San Remo Conference by partitioning Palestine in 1922, giving 77% of the country to the Emir Abdullah of Trans-Jordan, retaining 23% of Palestine for Jews and Arabs.
The Golan area of Syria was to remain an integral part of the Syrian state until it was lost to Israeli troops in 1967.
Therefore, under international law, the Golan Heights belong to Syria in spite of Netanyahu’s national proclamation that it would be Israeli territory forever.
We Israelis have a pattern of discerning history and borders to agree with our national passions and desires for secure borders.
But the future decision of the Golan Heights, populated by 23,000 Arab Druze whose loyalty is to Damascus and Assad, will remain a conflict that needs to be solved….but hopefully, not by another war.