Syria and Israel: Solve Golan Heights


Internal politics in Syria is now getting a lot of attention. For the past 40 years, the country has been ruled by the Assad family. Al-Assad was chosen president in 1971 and ruled for 29 years. Bashar Assad, his son, started in 2000 and has served for 11 years.

While change may soon come after 40 years of one-family rule, there is an even more important international issue that has been festering for the past 44 years that must be addressed by Syria and Israel. It is an issue that can and should be solved, soon after there is a change in domestic Syrian politics.

Syria shares a border with Israel. In the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Israel invaded Syria and occupied the Golan Heights. Thousands of Syrians were driven from their homes and became refugees. The UN condemned the taking of the Golan Heights and called on Israel to return the occupied territories (UN Res. 242).

In the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, Arab troops from as far away as Morocco assembled to open a Syrian Front against Israel in an attempt to retake the Golan Heights. Syria demanded the dismantling of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. A UN Disengagement Observer Force supervised a ceasefire (1974).

Israel announced in 1981 it was annexing the Golan Heights and that it would impose Israeli law upon the people living there. Their action was declared null and void by the UN, under the Geneva Convention, which protects the rights of civilians, living under the rule of an occupying power.

To this day, the occupation continues and the settlements remain. After 44 years, the problem has not been resolved and it cannot simply be ignored, or swept under the rug. They only way Israel may enjoy a truly lasting peace is to come to terms with Syria.

A peace treaty with Syria can be made. Israel made peace with Egypt in 1978, with the help of Jimmy Carter. During the Clinton Administration in 1994, Israel made peace with Jordan, due to King Hussein’s cooperation. A peace treaty between Syria and Israel was nearly reached in 2000. Soon, the time will come to get it done.

President Obama is the right middle-man to broker the deal. What needs to happen is for Americans, particularly the friends of Israel, to put pressure on Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud Party. They need to be told in no uncertain terms to remove the settlements from the Golan Heights, and to give the land back to Syria, so that a lasting peace may be implemented.

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