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From the Right – Should Israel Return the Golan Heights?

The Golan, which was lost by Syria during the 1967 War , is again in the news. The headline is quite predictable: Syria wants it back. The underlying question is, “Should Israel return it, and is it good for the Jews?” In my opinion, under the current state of affairs, the answer is a resounding “No”.

Let us consider several compelling reasons why the Golan should remain in Israel’s hands. To begin with, Syria’s president does not hide its strategic alliance with Iran. Recently, Assad Jr. stated publicly that even if the Golan Heights are returned and peace with Israel is achieved, he would keep his close strategic alliance with Iran.

There are those who undoubtedly will argue that countries should be free to forge and maintain relationships with any country they wish. While this is true, it is also very clear that the current leader of Iran seems to have one major mission in mind and that is to wipe Israel off the map. As a matter of fact, he is quite obsessed with that idea. So much so that he even repeated it recently in Rome, during a conference (to which he was not officially invited, mind you) that was supposed to deal with the worldwide food crisis. Israelis should remain skeptical of Syria’s true intentions regarding achieving a real and lasting peace.

Yes, it could be that the alliance with Iran is out of convenience; maybe Syria feels isolated and is desperately looking for strong friends who could help defend her against external threats. Or it could be that the alliance is just pre-negotiation posturing, a way to pressure Israel if you will, and prior to the negotiations Syria would suspend the alliance. But what if the relationship is really genuine, and after receiving the Golan the alliance would be re-established over time, and even strengthen? Would Israel be able to retake the Heights for this reason alone? Of course not. In my opinion no peace agreement can force the Syrians to promise to never establish relationships with other countries that pose an existential threat to Israel. An example that illustrates that axiom is the relationship between Egypt and Iran. According to Jonathan Schanzer (National Review online, May 1, 2008 ) Egypt, which had signed a peace agreement with Israel, and Iran have been at odds since the Iranian revolution in 1979. However, in late 2007, the Iran-Egypt dynamic shifted dramatically. As Israel and the U.S. , with the backing of the international community, moved to isolate Hamas in Gaza, representatives from Cairo and Iran began to meet frequently. According to recent news reports, Mubarak is still wary of Iran’s growing influence in the region. Moreover, Egyptians widely believe that the enmity between the two countries is too entrenched to overcome. Nonetheless, there is cause for concern as Iran continues to lobby Egypt on behalf of Hamas. One also has to consider the fact that the aging semi-dictator Mubarak is rapidly reaching the end of his presidency and as of now nobody knows who would replace him.

Another reason to question the wisdom in returning the Golan at this juncture is the fact that Syria has been harboring several terrorist groups and their headquarters for many years. The assassination of the master terrorist Mornier is deadly proof of the cozy relationship that exists between Syria and terrorists (Syria is on the US state-sponsored terrorism list). Syria’s refusal to dislodge the terrorists (Assad refers to them as freedom fighters) from the country as a pre-condition speaks volumes about Assad’s true intentions; get the Golan back for a make-believe peace agreement. Syria’s support for the ruthless Hezbollah (Iran’s proxy in Lebanon and beyond – see the Jewish Federation bombing in Argentina), should leave no doubts about which side of the fence Syria would rather be. Nassralah’s (the leader of Hezbollah) diabolical use of Israeli soldiers’ body parts (Lebanon war, 2007) as bargaining chips in order to force a prisoner exchange is testament to the brutal nature of the group which Syria openly supports.

The above are only two examples that support the argument against ceding the Golan to the Syrians at this point in history. I have not discussed Syria’s secret nuclear ambition that was interrupted by Israel, nor have I mentioned the 30-year pillaging of Lebanon, a country which Assad still considers to be part of greater Syria. In my opinion, the rift in Israeli society that would open as a result of returning the Golan (because of lack of consensus on the issue) outweighs the danger of maintaining the status quo, after all it is a fact that the quietest border between Israel and its Arab neighbors for over 40 years has been between the dictatorial Syria and Israel. Besides, I am not quite ready to change my last name.

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