GOLAN AND PEACE
By Boris Shusteff
On September 28, Susan Korda, who arrived from Britain and settled down in the Golan 12 years ago, said in an interview "We will have to give up the Golan if we want to avoid wars with Syria" (1). Although there are a lot of Israelis who share Korda's point of view it is very difficult to find any kind of logic associated with it. While Korda came to the Golan only in 1987 it is doubtful that she is unaware that the Six Day War started from a position when the Golan was Syrian territory. Since Israel did not "avoid war with Syria" in 1967, what makes people assume that if the Golan is surrendered the threat of war will disappear?
The major differences between the years 1967 and 1999 are that during the last 32 years the Syrians have accumulated mountains of destructive weapons, and Hafez Assad has moved from the Defense Minister's chair into the Presidential one. Syria's hatred toward Israel has only increased during this time. Even then, in 1967, Assad could not wait to see the day when Israel was destroyed. On May 22, 1967 he declared in Damascus: "Our forces are now entirely ready...to initiate the act of liberation itself, and to explode the Zionist presence in the Arab homeland.... The time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation." (2)
Assad did not talk about the liberation of the Golan Heights - they were in his possession - he talked about the liberation of the "Arab homeland" from the "Zionist presence." Since the Zionists are still present in the Middle East, what makes people think that Syria will be satisfied with the Golan Heights?
Dr. Bashar Assad, the son and probable heir of the president of Syria, said in an interview with a Saudi weekly "that the proposed peace will be highly restricted. There will be a formal peace agreement but the possibility of conflict between the two countries will remain, requiring Syria to continue arming itself." (3) Is it really to Israel's advantage that this time Syria will be armed with American and not with Russian weapons?
As a matter of fact, the Syrians are not hiding their persisting intentions to destroy Israel. A clear example is a recent editorial in the Syrian press on the anniversary of the 1973 War. The political editor wrote, "On the anniversary of October war, Syria is going on her crucial and important political battle equal to October war. It is represented by peace battle, which has the same aims of October war and it is another extent of it." (4) It would be helpful to refresh the memory and recall the Syrian "aims of October war." The British writer, researcher and defense commentator Edgar O'Ballance wrote:
"Basic disagreement existed between Egypt and Syria on the goal of Operation Spark. By accepting United Nations Resolution 242, Egypt had virtually recognized the existence of Israel, but Syria has not and refused to do so. President Sadat's aim for operation was simply to recover the occupied territories, while Syria's goal was to dismantle the state of Israel."(5)
If one thinks that Syria has changed her goals, one should listen to the Syrian leaders. In their speeches and interviews they openly show their attitude toward the Jewish state. The Syrians see Israel as an enemy of the whole Arab and Islamic world. A country that wants to swallow the entire region. Syrian Vice President Abd-al-Halim Khaddam was very frank in an interview he gave in January of 1998. He said,
"From our point of view, the conflict is not between Syria and Israel. The conflict is between Arabs and the Israelis.. The Israelis are targeting the Arab homeland and the Islamic world at large;. All Arabs are targeted. We are targeted as an Arab nation and homeland. Israel's objectives go beyond the Arab region and extend to the Islamic world and Central Asia. .Anyone who believes that he is safe from Israeli threats is entertaining a great illusion." (6)
It is absolutely unrealistic to assume that after the Jewish state relinquishes the Golan Heights the Syrians will stop viewing Israel as targeting "the Islamic world and Central Asia," as a state whose objective according to Khaddam "is to establish a Torah Israel., to establish greater Israel - a strong and domineering state to which nations and peoples come in capitulation without carrying arms against it." (6)
It is unfortunate that the Israelis do not understand that, in spite of all their moral and territorial surrenders, the Arabs still view her as a strong state. If it were otherwise, and the Arabs thought that they are stronger, they would have started another war for Israel's destruction long ago. So the simple conclusion is that if peace is possible it is possible only in possession of the Golan.
Actually, why does Israel have to relinquish the Golan? Who has determined that Syria's claim to Golan is more legitimate then Israel's? Syria's desire to have the Golan is completely equalized by Israel's desire to have it. From any other perspective Israel has many more rights to the Golan then Syria.
In 1920 the League of Nations included the Golan Heights into the original British Mandate for Palestine. The territory of the Mandate, where "the close settlement by Jews on the land" was encouraged, was tailored on the geographical borders of Eretz Yisrael; therefore, the Bashan region (the biblical name of the Golan Heights) was an inherent part of the Mandate. Although the terms of the Mandate were confirmed on July 24, 1922 by the Council of the League of Nations, and the mandate was supposed to come into operation in September 1923, the British, in violation of the Mandate, gave the Heights to France in March 1923, and they became a part of the French Mandate of Syria-Lebanon.
The Golan fell under Syria's jurisdiction only in 1944 upon the termination of the French mandate. Since Syria controlled the Golan for 23 years and Israel has it for 32 years, it is hard to understand why a 23-year long claim should be considered more valid then the 32-year long one. Moreover, a big part of the Golan legally belongs to the state of Israel.
"In 1892, Baron Edmond de Rothschild bought 80,000 dunam of the Golan Heights from the Arabs. . In 1957 [he] transferred the deeds to the land to the Jewish national Fund (Keren Kaemet) and from there to the Land Office of Israel and to the Government of Israel. All deeds and other documents were transferred to Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs through an irrevocable power of attorney." (7)
Syria lost the Golan in an aggressive war. It is immoral to give the Golan to Syria, thus rewarding the aggressor. If Syria's claim can be considered legitimate, then Germany should be rewarded with big portions of real estate from Russia, Poland and Slovakia. On the other hand, when in September 1948 India invaded the state of Hyderabad to force it to join India, Hyderabad's appeal to the United Nations was ignored. In 1961 when India annexed Goa the world community did not really care that "the Portuguese were deprived of their territory by armed force, and the native Goans, were never consulted on their preferences but seemed in fact to prefer Portuguese rule." (8) So if India is allowed to conquer territory in an aggressive war, why is Israel not allowed to keep the Golan, which she acquired in a defensive war?
Who has determined that it is Israel that must surrender Golan for peace? "At Madrid [then US president] Bush called on Israel and Arab countries to aim for a territorial compromise to settle their dispute. [but] didn't mention the formula 'land for peace' in his speech"(9). The formula "land for peace" is not mentioned in UN Resolutions 242 and 338 either. It was invented by the Arabs and willfully accepted by the Jews. The time has come to correct this formula, and to base relations between Israel and Syria on a territorial compromise - Syrian territorial compromise. Syria will compromise on the territory and Israel will reward this compromise by ceasing "to target it as an Arab nation and homeland" and there will be peace.
It is nice to dream of peace. However, before doing this one should recall that in "1968 the historians Will and Ariel Durant calculated that the world was war-free in only 268 of the previous 3,421 years" (10), and according to historians George and Meredith Friedman in The Future of War, in the next century "war will still be waged. And the outcome of wars will determine the fate of nations." (10)
It is doubtful that Syria will become the first country to take war out of its political arsenal. Yitzhak Rabin said in 1992 that abandoning the Golan Heights would be tantamount to abandoning Israel's security. That means that Israel needs this territory. It is Israel's military force located in the Golan and not a piece of paper with Assad's signature on it that will determine the fate of the Jewish nation. [10/31/99]
1. XINHUA News Agency, 09/28/99
2. Louis Rene Beres, "Where the shadow really falls." Internet posting 10/11/99.
3. Moshe Zak, Open Cards in Damascus, Jerusalem Post 8/27/99
4. Editorial: "President Hafez a-Assad the Hero of War and Peace Syria Will Never Bargain or Concede", Syrian news, 10/9/99
5. Edgar O'Balllance, "No Victor, No Vanquished, The Arab-Israeli War, 1973."
6. Damascus Syrian Arab Television Network 1/27/98: Interview with Syrian Vice President Abd-al-Halim Khaddam, Dubayy Space Channel, 1/26/98.
7. Dr. Manfred R. Lehmann, The Golan Heights, published in the Algemeiner Journal, July 26, 1996. Internet posting by H.Maverick 8/10/99.
8. David Ziegler, War, Piece and International Politics.
9. Moshe Zak, "The Waldorf Game," The Jerusalem Post, 9/28/99.
(10) John Omicinski, "Devastating war has a future, historians are certain." Gannet News Service, 10/27/99.
Boris Shusteff is an engineer in upstate New York. He is also a research associate with the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies.