By Dr. Aaron Lerner
(July 26, 1999)

There is a tremendous quantity of surveillance equipment on the Golan - including various antennas. Some of the equipment is locked onto targets. Providing fixed, stable, positions for so much equipment in a balloon buffeted by wind is something beyond this world.

Of course, if you want to spend a fortune you can do most anything. But the very idea of replacing the Hermon as a platform for surveillance equipment with a balloon is baloney. Even if it functioned during peacetime, a balloon can be taken out with one missile in the opening attack.

While it is true that the Syrians would also attack a ground based station, it is considerably more difficult to hurt it and damaged equipment can be replaced. And if your are on the Golan you can also advance from there to take Syrian positions and place stations there. In any case you can bring in spare equipment to a damaged ground based station - something you can't do with a balloon that has crashed to the ground.

The idea of a balloon replacing the Golan Heights is part of the self-delusions proponents of withdrawal from the Golan have engaged in.

As for the alternative of placing missile batteries out of the range of Syrian artillery, with today's technology Syria can send some people in civilian clothes with laser target indicators to illuminate these batteries so that laser guided bombs released from over the horizon can strike the batteries in the opening moments of battle.

There is simply no replacement for the Golan.

If you give up on the Golan Heights you relinquish your tactical advantage. Keep in mind that the 'look down shoot down' anti-aircraft missiles for destroying low flying planes that now can be used by Israel from the Heights could be used against Israel if Israel is not on the Heights.

Motta Gur, one of the most dovish chief's of staff, wrote in a book published posthumously that there is absolutely no replacement for the Golan.

When in 1974 Saunders visited Israel as Kissinger's representative and I met with him along with Motta, we went hill by hill and examined what we can do to defend ourselves from those hills and what the Syrians could do against us if they held them. Nothing has changed since then. In fact, technology has only made our position on the Heights that much more important.

Consider for example the American experience in Kosovo. They found that shoulder held anti-aircraft missiles prevented them from doing anything below 2,500 feet. Because of that they never even used their Apache helicopters. Consider the impact of these missiles on Israel's ability to move forces to move invading Syrians if we are not on the Golan.

The Golan today provides us with natural topographical barriers against invasion that have been improved and supplemented by man made barriers. It also provides Israel with the optimum positions for tactical intelligence as well as for anti-aircraft missile batteries to bring down incoming enemy aircraft. Keep in mind that if Syria opens attack by firing missiles at civilian targets, the standing army will have to hold out for a considerable time before reserves can come up.

History has shown that demilitarized zones only remain demilitarized as long as both parties want the zone demilitarized. Nobody - be they Americans or anyone else - can guarantee the zone. Take the classic case of what happened in the Sinai when Nasser decided he had enough of the supervisors in 1967.

All this talk about second best alternatives to Israel being on the Golan are solutions which are individually inferior and cumulatively even worse.

It is a gross mistake to consider each of these elements in isolation.

Not one element of the non-Golan alternative, not one factor, is an improvement over being on the Golan. These factors work together. So even if you take an optimistic view that each factor is only 10 percent inferior off the Golan it doesn't take much, on a cumulative basis, for the non-Golan alternative to have only half or even only a quarter of the effective overall force of being on the Golan.

Before the elections Ehud Barak invited me to his home. As Chief of Staff (C.O.S.) he said that there is no alternative to the Golan, just as Shahak said when he was COS.

So I asked him, 'tell me, what are your thoughts regarding the Golan.' He talked about the creation of a psychology - a dynamics - of peace. Bull like that. Even if you buy into this story, if another dictator comes along that isn't interested in the 'dynamics of peace' then you have lost the peace and you have lost the Golan and you have lost the nation.This is pure ivory tower. Not military doctrine. There is simply no military replacement for the Golan.

There are two types of peace: a harmonious peace like between the US and Canada in which you basically don't need an army and a peace that is the absence of war - such as is the case between Israel and Egypt - under which you live via detterence. And when you live via deterrence you have no choice but to keep your abilities to the maximum.


Dr. Aaron Lerner is the Director of IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis).

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