Recognizing the Golan Heights. Why Now?

These are my thoughts on Trump and recognition of Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights.

As Left wing as I am, and I AM, I would never advocate Israel leaving the Golan Heights, under any circumstances. Anyone who has ever served in the Golan Heights and been on Mt. Hermon, knows how essential the Golan Heights is to Israel’s survival. It is not for nothing Mt. Hermon is called “the eyes of the nation”.

Mont Hermon. The Eyes of the Nation.

I served in the Golan Heights for a decade of reserve duty. I traveled the length and breadth of them. There are more memorial plaques and sites in that region than I have ever seen or can count, and every time I traveled, either on my way out to an outpost or back from one, I would stop at one such memorial, no matter how modest, for a few minutes and bow my head in respect and awe of the selfless sacrifice our brave soldiers made, literally laying their bodies on the line, in order to slow down the advance of the Syrian invasion until Israel could organize its defense, knowing that they were facing death and would not live through the battle. As for the Valley of Tears? I have shed many a tear there, imagining the hell of that battle and marveling at the ability of our soldiers to keep it together enough to prevail, against insurmountable odds, when it would have been expected of them to just go crazy with panic and despair.

A modest memorial on the Golan Heights.encountered on my travels.

It is not as if Syria has a stable, responsible leader whom we can trust to observe international agreements. If there is anything we have learned from these years of civil war in Syria, it is that the situation there is so volatile and unpredictable, that there is no way we could rely on anyone other than ourselves for our security – and you do not give up such an essential security asset in a region as unstable as ours.

However, I do not have need of any other country to tell me what I know. To me, it is obvious that our security is far more essential than global politics. I would much rather have quietly continued to do what is necessary in the Golan to ensure my country’s safety, without drawing unnecessary attention to it. This irresponsible tweet by Trump, calculated to give his fellow suspect in arms, Netanyahu, a boost in the polls during this election campaign, thereby interfering in the elections of a foreign nation, will now draw focus to Israel’s hold on the Heights and place in question Israel’s legitimacy to continue to hold onto them. Instead of letting the status quo continue, unnoticed by the rest of the world. It draws attention away from Assad’s atrocities and the human tragedy which is playing out before our eyes, every single day, and the illegitimacy of his actions, rather drawing the focus onto us and opening us up to accusations about the illegitimacy of ours. This is going to backfire on us, big time.

Valley of Tears memorial.

Had Trump coordinated this move with his allies, where this recognition would have been the first domino falling, which would cause other nations to follow suit, it would be a welcome gesture. However, it is not that. It is a gesture in defiance of the stance of other countries, setting the US – and us – apart from the rest of the Western world, further isolating us, and creating yet another bone of contention with which we will have to deal in our already complex mission of diplomacy and hasbara. Thus, it is not welcome. This region does not need a bull in a china shop. It needs someone with finesse and talent, with the ability of longer vision than an election three weeks away, or a year and a half away.

About the Author
Paul Mirbach made aliya from South Africa to kibbutz Tuval in 1982 with a garin of Habonim members. Together they built a new kibbutz transforming rocks and mud to a green oasis in the Gallilee. He served in infantry during his army service, serving in both Lebanon and the West Bank, including on reserve duty during the first intifada. Paul still lives on Tuval with his wife and two sons.
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