The Zionist Conspiracy
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Israel's leaders and outside observers have explained - sometimes convincingly and sometimes not - why it is in Israel's interest to seek a peace agreement with the Palestinians. Among the bases offered are:
-Israel did not annex Judea, Samaria or Gaza and therefore Israeli law does not apply there;
-Israel should not rule over several million hostile Arabs;
-The Arabs in Judea, Samaria and Gaza pose a demographic threat to Israel;
-Israelis are sick of performing long army service and then reserve duty in areas mostly populated by Arabs;
-Culturally, these areas are overwhelmingly Arab; and,
-The status quo is intolerable.
None of these factors apply to the Golan Heights. The Golan is today culturally Israeli. Nobody is scared to drive to the Golan. The status quo has been very tolerable since the Yom Kippur War, and a lot better than what Israel experienced when Syria controlled the Golan and regularly shelled the Galilee from it prior to 1967. Israel formally annexed the Golan in 1981, and Israeli law therefore applies there. While the Golan's Druze population is divided on whom it is loyal to, there are no clashes between the Druze and Israel or Israelis. The small Druze population obviously does not pose any demographic threat.
This is not to say that there are not arguments in favor of withdrawing from the Golan for a full peace agreement with Syria. If Syria would cut all ties to Iran and Hezbollah, Israel would benefit. It has also been argued that in contrast to the Palestinians, Israel could rely on a peace agreement with Syria, which is led by a strong government. And, many believe, the absence of peace will at some point inevitably lead to war that even in victory would result in a devastating cost for Israel.
Others, however, point out that Syrian isolation of Iran and Hezbollah could wind up putting Bashar Assad's life and regime in serious jeopardy and would therefore never actually happen even if agreed to; that the result of a Golan withdrawal would therefore be a Hezbollah presence on the Golan; that with Israel on the Golan, Syria would pay a much higher price if it went to war against Israel; that the armistice agreement with Syria, having held up for 34 years, suffices to provide Israel with quiet and security, if not peace; and that Syria no longer controls Lebanon and could not ensure security for Israel on its border with Lebanon even if it wanted to.
Along with a large majority of Israelis, I am very skeptical that it would be in Israel's interest to withdraw from the Golan Heights in exchange for a peace agreement signed by Bashar Assad. But I would welcome serious debate, discussion and consideration of this issue. Unfortunately, even as it sends messages to Assad expressing conditional willingness to withdraw, the Olmert government makes no effort to explain to Israel's citizens the bases for its approach. Nor, indeed, does there appear to be any serious debate or discussion even within Olmert's cabinet.