Why Israel must keep both the Golan and West Bank May 28, 2008Posted by Daniel Downs in foreign policy, Golan Heights, Israel, Middle East, national security, news, Palestinians, peace, politics, security, Syria, United States, West Bank.
News of Israel’s renewed peace talks with Syria about ownership of the Golan Heights causes more doubt about Israel’s future. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been negotiating a deal with President Bashar al-Assad for over a year. Syria rejected out-of-hand Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s demand that Syria end its support of terrorists like the Iranian-backed Hizbollah and Hamas. Iran and most other Arabs were not too agreeable with Livni’s terms either. Syria’s demand is basically give us back Golan, a pre-1967 border territory, with no strings attached. Given PM Olmert’s track record it is likely he will attempt a unilateral deal just like he helped carry out in Gaza.
And, don’t forget he is still negotiating with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas over the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Giving away the Golan or the West Bank poses a serious security problem to Israel. Both parcels of real estate are vital to Israel’s strategic defense. Observing the history of Israel’s geopolitics, George Friedman wrote that Israel’s vulnerability has always been in the north. Since ancient times, Syria has always been a threat with the Golan as the easiest route into Israel. Friedman is not the only intelligence expert who recognizes Israel’s possession of the Golan as a strategic necessity. In a 1994 report published by the Center for Security Policy, four generals including Gen. John Foss, two admirals, five high ranking officials from the U.S. Defense Department including Douglas J. Feith and Richard Pearle agreed. According to these experts, the Golan is of strategic importance to Israel in at least five of ways:
First, the Golan serves a buffer zone. This extension of territory where Israel faces its most formidable enemy, is an important military asset for Israel. This remains true even in the age of missile warfare.
Second, control of high ground on the Golan gives Israel direct line-of-sight surveillance and warning of threatening Syrian movements in the plains below or in south Lebanon. Early warning is important to a defense posture….
Third, modern technology has by no means eliminated altogether the disadvantages of having to fight uphill, a reality acknowledged by military commanders everywhere.
Fourth, possession of the Golan puts the IDF within easy striking range of Damascus. This contributes to Israeli deterrence against Syria, which in light of Syria military attacks in 1948, 1967, and 1973 further demonstrates its value.
Fifth, the Golan highlands are a major watershed. Control of the Golan permits control of Lake Kinneret (the “Sea of Galilee”) which supplies roughly thirty percent of Israel’s consumption. Syria attempted to divert this water supply away from Israel before 1967.
YNet News commentary by Guy Bechor is correct. If the Jewish citizens allows PM Olmert to succeed, the Golan once again will become populated with military forces and jihadists as it was originally. Thus it will become another Gaza populated by those wanting to eliminating Israel’s existence.
Many prefer to deny Israel’s previous national life on the land. Nevertheless, it’s interesting that during its pre-Babylonian, Second Temple era, and now its modern national existence Israel has always possessed the Golan, most of the coastal plain, most of the Negev, Jerusalem, and the West Bank, according to Friedman. This is the same geopolitical areas Israel is accused of illegally occupying. Whether it is God who has the final word or not, Israel’s security necessitates so-called occupation of its land.
The West Bank is another area of strategic importance to Israel’s security. For as Friedman points out:
The eastern east of the Jordan River is secured by desert. While indigenous forces exist in the borderland east of the Jordan, they lack the numbers to be able to penetrate decisively west of the Jordan. Indeed, the normal model is that, so long as Israel controls Judea and Samaria (the modern-day West Bank), then the East Bank of the Jordan River is under the political and sometimes military domination of Israel — sometimes directly through settlement, sometimes indirectly through political influence, or economic or security leverage.
Friedman’s observation were reiterated in a Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs report titled “Defensible Borders for a Lasting Peace.” The West Bank mountains and the Jordan Rift valley serve as a natural defensive barrier. They help prevent weapons smuggling, and they provide for Israel’s air defense. The mountain tops serve as a platform for intercepting enemy aircraft and other defensive measures. That is why Israel must not allow PM Olmert or any other leader give away this land to any certain or potential enemy—not the Palestinians, not the United Nations, nor peace keeping forces.
It is only when divided and consequently weak that Israel has been overcome by neighboring nations. As long as Israel maintains unity and the strategic landscape, the only political entity of concern is the latest empire, wrote Friedman. Safe borders ensures regional peace. These are facts leading members of the Arab nation knows well.
It also means America’s scarce human resources never needs expended to protect those who can better protect themselves.
Associated Press, Syria rejects Livni’s call to cut ties with Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas, YNet News, May 25, 2008.
George Friedman, The Geopolitics of Israel, John Mauldin’s “Out of the Box,” 15 May 2008 on Investors Insight. Dr. Friedman is president and founder of Stratfor, a leading intelligence information service. Investors Insight is a financial publishing company delivering unique economic intelligence an online community of educated investors.
Israeli Control of the Golan Remains Strategically Critical, The Israel Report, 6 January 2000.
Guy Bechor, The day after a deal, YNet News, 23 May 2008.
Military-Strategic Aspects of West Bank Topography for Israel’s Defense in “Defensible Borders for a Lasting Peace,” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2005.