New version of an article from several years ago
THE GOLAN FOREVER
Will Barak Fall For The
On The Golan?
By Bernard J. Shapiro
The word has gone forth from Jerusalem. Now there is no doubt, despite a multitude of denials. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had already agreed to surrender the whole Golan Heights to Syrian dictator Hafez Assad. It took months of couching, but finally Syrian dictator Hafez Assad has learned to say the word "peace." Does he mean it? The United State's State Department has announced that once peace is made with Syria, then 18 other Arab countries will make peace with Israel. The pressure to accept a withdrawal will be immense. Golan residents are beginning massive resistance, including hunger strikes and demonstrations.
The time has come to clear the smoke and mirrors. There is a significant Israeli dilemma in the negotiating framework with Syria. I call this dilemma:
The "Mubarak gambit." After Egyptian dictator Anwar Sadat's death, his successor Hosni Mubarak discovered that Egypt could ignore its peace treaty obligations to Israel with impunity. Sadat had signed over 50 agreements and amendments to the Camp David Accords, which spelled out in great detail normalization of relations with Israel. These included trade, tourism, science, cultural and other attributes of peaceful relations. The late Menachem Begin, of blessed memory, fully believed that his sacrifice of Sinai, with its air bases and oil, was worth the inauguration of peaceful relations with the most important country in the Arab world. With every passing year, it became clearer to Mubarak that the Israelis were too timid to protest Egyptian violations. It also became clear that America would continue to supply aid (especially military aid) in the billions of dollars to Egypt, despite Egypt's obvious violations of their most solemn commitments to both President Jimmy Carter and Begin.
From this experience Mubarak devised the "Mubarak gambit," which sets out the principle that an Arab country can promise Israel peace and full normalization as a negotiating tactic in order to force an Israeli withdrawal from territory. Then after the territory is recovered, the Arab country can ignore the normalization part of any agreement. It is such a painless gambit, one would have thought that all of Israel's neighbors would have rushed to use it. In the Arab world, however, symbolism is very important and it took many years before they were ready to use this tactic. Mubarak, first convinced terrorist leader, Yassir Arafat, to try out the "Mubarak gambit." We all know what has happened, including the famous handshake on September 13, 1993. We also know that all of Arafat's promises to the Israelis, including revising the PLO Charter and stopping violence, have not been honored.
Now, after much tutoring, Assad has learned the principle. It has been with great difficulty that he even speaks about peace with Israel. While he is never very clear about his meaning of peace, one thing was clear: he has learned to use the "Mubarak gambit." We will be hearing a lot from him and State Department officials about how he has changed and now "really" wants peace. Don't believe it.
Most of you understand the strategic significance of the Golan Heights so I will concentrate on the other side of the equation. If Syria wants Israel to exchange the Golan for peace, we must ask ourselves the following:
(1) Is Syria capable of giving Israel peace?
(2) Is peace really possible?
(3) Does Syria deserve to get the Golan Heights ?
(4) Is the Golan really Israeli territory?
(5) What are Syria's true intentions toward Israel?
Syrian dictator Hafez al-Assad, while very intelligent, is a sociopath with extreme paranoid delusions. His brutal record of killing everyone who disagrees with him or poses even the slightest political threat bears out this analysis. In my opinion, he is incapable of living up to any peace agreement with Israel. Whether peace is possible depends upon your relative propensity to believe in fairy tales. If you believe in the real possibility of achieving utopia or nirvana; and if you believe in the tooth fairy, then peace with Syria is not only possible but desirable.
Any review of Israel's relations with Syria would indicate that the Syrians do not deserve to get the Golan. This point is rarely mentioned but is important. The bloodthirsty behavior of the Syrians, when they controlled the Golan (1948-67), makes me comfortable with depriving them of its return. When the Israeli Defense Forces conquered the Golan, we all vowed never to give it back. In the memory of the tortured Israeli POW's who fell into Syrian hands (1973), we must say No! Nothing has changed.
Is the Golan really Israeli territory? The Golan was a part of the original League of Nations Mandate at the San Remo Conference in 1920 to Great Britain, for the purpose of establishing the Jewish National Home. In 1921, The British gave Eastern Palestine to Emir Abdullah, who named it Transjordan. Then in 1923, they gave the Golan to the French to become part of the French Mandate of Syria. In both cases, the intent of the League of Nations was violated and the area of the future Jewish state was diminished. Going back even farther, one finds reference to the Golan as an Israelite territory in the Holy Scriptures (Deut. 4:43; Josh. 20:8; I Chron. 5:56). Israeli archaeologists have also found numerous ancient synagogues on the Golan.
My final question is: What is Syria's true intention? The answer can be found in a recent meeting of ten rejectionist Palestinian terrorists groups held in Damascus . They swore with Assad's backing to prevent peace with Israel and to work for its total destruction. Syria is also involved in an unholy alliance with Iran whose aim is to make the Middle East Judenrein (Jew-free).
In conclusion we find Syria incapable of making peace; that peace is not possible now anyway; that the Syrians do not deserve the Golan; that the Golan really belongs to Israel; and that war, not peace, is Syria's true intentions. Assad maybe whispering sweet nothings in Barak's ear about peace, but we must tell Barak not to be seduced.
Bernard J. Shapiro is the Executive Director of the Freeman Center For Strategic Studies.