Dina Grossman
Pro-Free world. Pro-Respect. Anti-Appeasement.

Getting real about Golan

Golan Heights 1981-2016

17 April 2016: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asserts that the time has come to face reality: the international community should recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel.

26 April 2016: UN Security Council expresses ‘deep concern‘ over Netanyahu’s recent Golan remarks. It recalls that the Council resolution 497 of 1981 made it clear that Israel’s 1981 decision to “impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights null and void and without any international legal effect.”

27 April 2016: Israel laments UN Security Council’s “unfair criticism” over Golan. (Yes, Israel Hayom put “unfair criticism” in quote marks as if to suggest that there is nothing unfair going on.) And Israeli envoy to the UN Danny Danon is quoted for saying “While thousands are being massacred in Syria, the Security Council has chosen to focus on Israel, the only true democracy in the Middle East.”

“Laments” criticism? Makes lame comments about being better than the bad guys — rather than exposing how little the “deeply concerned” people actually care about human life? Couldn’t official Israel defend Israel’s case by pointing to Druze in both countries, and to other Syrians, who clamor for more involvement with Israel?

29 April 2016: Predictably, Israel is now “treading carefully” (Josef Federman, AP, Times of Israel).

Although PM says Heights will remain under state’s sovereignty forever, expert stresses situation on the ground has not changed and land was never [actually] annexed.

A saga of strong-arming and entrapment?

The 1981 Golan Promise. With all the talk about Israel giving the Golan Heights back to Syria “in exchange for peace”, Yaakov Kirschen decided to search his “Dry Bones” archives for cartoons about the Golan and about Israeli “concessions for peace”. …. On 29 April 2008, Kirschen published an article and a great cartoon about a letter from 1981, where Gerald Ford, 38th President of the USA, gave the following assurance to Israel:

The U.S. will support the position that an overall settlement with Syria in the framework of a peace agreement must assure Israel’s security from attack from the Golan Heights. The U.S. further supports the position that a just and lasting peace, which remains our objective, must be acceptable to both sides. The U.S. has not developed a final position on the borders. Should it do so it will give great weight to Israel’s position that any peace agreement with Syria must be predicated on Israel remaining on the Golan Heights.”

Thirty-years went by. And then all hell really broke loose, bringing us up to the present time.

11 April 2016: PM Netanyahu visited soldiers on the Golan Height to orient them about dangerous developments and how they are being tackled. Of course the “international community” knew as well as the prime minister that there is trouble brewing there. Indeed they did — and they apparently want to double and treble the trouble.

According to a Channel 2 report on [15 April], “the first clause of a draft agreement aimed at settling the brutal civil war in Syria, being worked on with the support of the US, Russia and other major world powers, specifies that the Golan Heights is Syrian territory and must be returned to Syria”. (Times of Israel)

Did you get that? The first clause!

Here is an elaboration by a source less widely read than the Times of Israel:

To facilitate the current round of Syrian peace talks, US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed to support the return of the Golan Heights to Syria. The two presidents gave their top diplomats, Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the green light to include such a clause in a proposal being drafted at the Geneva conference on ending the Syrian civil war. (Steve Kramer, in Israel Seen)

It is hardly surprising that PM Netanyahu tried to get this changed. Given the seemingly unstoppable growth in direct and indirect aggression against Israel, it is not surprising that his attempt failed.

16 April 2016: The Prime Minister is reported to have talked with John Kerry to offer Israeli support for the United Nations-mediated talks as long as their outcome doesn’t threaten Israel.

17 April 2016: PM Netanyahu “tests the waters” to see how the US would respond. So he held a cabinet meeting at the ancient site of Gamla, telling ministers that the Golan Heights won’t be relinquished.

Israel will never come down from the Golan Heights….In the 49 years Israel has controlled the Golan, it has been a place of peace and prosperity. Israel today is the solution, not the problem

And he told the Wall Street Journal that the ‘time has come for international community to face reality’ over the disputed region.

There were no comments from US officials.

But the Syrian foreign ministry immediately protested in writing to the UN and the EU. Deputy Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad warned that his war-torn state would retake the plateau by any means necessary.

A brilliant move, I must say. PM Netanyahu’s attempts to respond to threats are framed as an aggressor’s threats justifying violent response by Syria. That certainly got the rest of the “international community” to sit up and notice. And in case the Syrian move wasn’t enough, sources such as AP in the Times of Israel have not ignored the opportunity to accuse PM Netanyahu of “sparking  a new diplomatic brushfire.”

19 April 2016: The EU was quick to affirm its rejection of Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights – and emphasized that every single member state agrees.

21 April 2016: At a meeting to condemn an announcement that it will never return the Golan, Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi called for a special criminal court to be set up for Israel.

21 April 2016: PM Netanyahu met with Vladimir Putin, primarily about coordinating Russian and Israeli military efforts in Syria. The Prime Minister also tried to explain how important the Golan Heights is; – no comment from Putin. (The Prime Minister apparently also brought up the sale of the advanced S-300 air defense system to Iran – again to no avail.)

21 April 2016:

The Bashar al-Assad regime is outraged. So angry, in fact, that on Tuesday [21 April] it asked the UN Security Council to do something. And the council, including America, finally agreed on something regarding Syria: It must get back the Golan Heights from Israel (Benny Avin, New York Post, 26 April 2016)

Benny Avin may be over-interpreting about an actual demand for withdrawal. To the Security Council’s credit, there is ostensibly support for allowing Israel to stay in the Golan, at least until a negotiated solution can be reached. But this support – from a body whose own peace-keeping efforts in the Golan have been less than mediocre – may well be worthless.

Yet another call for moral courage

Israel is being bullied by most of the world for a wide range of unsavory reasons. No country  in the world, democracy or otherwise, deserves this kind of treatment. And the case of Golan clearly illustrates how this treatment can become suicidal for the bullies and their fellow travelers.

I can’t just stand by while this happens. So I am asking anyone who will listen to me to come forth in Israel’s defense – and to pressure their representatives and leaders to do the same.

I’m not asking for recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan at this time. I’m not even asking for activities in the Golan to be removed from EU and UN databases that support BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction), but which at least theoretically can be used to fight it.

All I’m asking for now is firm support for the status quo of Israel control – along with adamant rejection of any demands for Israeli withdrawal in the context of the horribly complex Syria negotiations.

— and a call for destructive know-it-alls to wake up

Moshe Maoz, an expert on Syria at Israel’s Hebrew University made this prediction

In my assessment, any government in Syria which will emerge after this mess will demand the Golan Heights

He called the prime minister’s tough stand “an affront and chutzpah” to the international community.  Really? I think this is a code for saying that the “international community” always finds it wise to appease certain bullies. How dare Netanyahu threaten everyone else’s smug, false sense of security?

And how I wish we would be spared superficial, denigrating musings such as this one:

It remains unclear why Netanyahu decided to drag his Cabinet to the Golan, a three-hour trip from Jerusalem. It may have been a message to international negotiators not to forget Israeli interests as they try to end the Syrian war. It also may have been meant as a show of strength to domestic critics. AP – Josef Federman, 29 April


Crash course on the Golan Heights – and on actually Caring about human lives

“Wither the Golan Heights”. Steve Kramer, 17 February 2016. Short – important historical information and excellent maps.

“What if Israel had given up the Golan Heights? A lesson for Syria’s crisis.” Aaron David Miller, 6 October 2015.

“Syrian Refugee Thanks Israel — Aboud Dandachi wants the world to know how remarkable Israel is.” Dr. Yvette Alt Miller, 5 March 2016.

“Israel’s great opportunity — The plight of the Druse grows more dire from day to day.” Caroline Glick, 18 June 2015.

Op-Ed: The Druze and the Middle East’s Minority Pact- Israel must, simply must, save the Syrian Druze. Mordechai Kedar, 19 June 2015.

“Two States — The Druze — Creation of Modern Middle East”. Jack Cohen, June 22, 2015. Those who are dedicated to the concept of a two-state solution because it is fair and equitable, might be interested in the application of this idea to other international conflicts than the Israel-Palestine one.

My previous calls for action

Time for Moral Courage (19 Dec 2015). Danny Danon and Binyamin Netanyahu have each asked countries that hide their support of Israel to step forward openly. All of us should join in on this project to pressure our leaders – using every possible opportunity.

UNHRC Agenda, Permanent Item 7, calls to action (22 March 2016). Three times a year the United Nations so-called Human Rights Council convenes for about a month. Since 2007 it has had a permanent Agenda Item 7 to discuss any and every real or imagined possible violation of human rights by Israel. Let’s all try to do something prior to the next meeting this summer. I give very specific suggestions for action – numbers 1, 2, and 3 are still highly relevant.

UN Security Council: You must call for religious freedom on the Temple Mount / Noble Sanctuary NOW (27 April 2016). There are no comments on the page, but in other contexts I have received nothing but criticism for this idea. Check it out anyway – maybe it isn’t as crazy as it might seem on first sight. And please read the first two comment fields.

  • The first gives concentrated information about the “status quo” on the Temple Mount.
  • The second describes what triggered me, which was the UNESCO 15 April 2016 resolution that presented the Mount and everything on, under, and around it as exclusively Muslim. I include suggestions for action about the resolution – which I think is important, but which cannot remove the urgent need to stop the bloodshed.
About the Author
I am an American who has lived and worked in Denmark since 1978. On retiring from "gainful employment" in 2013 I noticed - really noticed - how much bashing Israel is getting from within and without, and found it not only grossly unfair but dangerous. Since then I have worked full time as a volunteer to try to open Danish minds and hearts, to stimulate curiosity about Israel to replace or prevent the development of indifference or actively negative feelings. Sometimes I write in English and use my ToI blog to share.
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