IDF tanks are seen along the Golan Heights border with Syria.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Michael Oren says it is time for the world to recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel.
In contrast to negotiations with the Palestinians, there is no Syria to negotiate with, Deputy Minister for Diplomacy in the Prime Minister’s Office Oren said on Tuesday.
“Without Israel there [in the Golan], the region would be jeopardized. ISIS would be on the Kinneret
,” he said, adding that other states in the region are glad Israel is on the Golan. This is one of several important outcomes of the 1967 war still felt today.
Israel annexed the Golan in 1981 in a decision that was never recognized internationally.
Oren was speaking at a Jerusalem seminar hosted by The Israel Project and the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research. The seminar – one of a series that runs through June – is focused on the impact of the war of 50 years ago, domestically and geopolitically, with special emphasis on Jerusalem.
“The capital city is a key element of the seminar, in the lens of Israel post-67, through its distinct populations, demographic developments and historical significances. Discourse will be forward-thinking, as participants will be exposed to the plethora of ideas for the future in relation to these various issues, with a focus on the role of the Arab countries and wider international community,” said Lior Weintraub, vice president of The Israel Project and director of its Israel office.
“The purpose of this activity is to provide the foreign diplomatic and press communities based in Israel – who are faced with an abundance of information and have the difficult task of producing their own analyses of events on the ground – with a fresh look at current realities,” he added.
Oren, a former ambassador to the United States and current member of the Knesset for the Kulanu Party, is the author of the 2002 book Six Days of War
. He reminded the audience that in many ways his life was shaped by the momentous events of 1967.
“Would we be sitting in this room today,” he asked, if Israel had lost? “Wars in history become wars of history. [It took place over] only six days, but we will be battling over the importance of the war, we will see it over the next months as we approach the anniversary.”
Netanyahu: ‘The Golan is Israel's forever’
The 1967 war began on June 5th, and that day this year will mark the 50th anniversary of the conflict. As Oren noted, some see the war and its outcome as a catastrophe, as Israel became an occupying power over Palestinians. Others see it as a momentous victory. Oren urges those looking at the war through the prism of the present to see it through the situation Israel faced at the time.
The country lacked relations with China and India, those it had with the Soviet bloc were bitter, and the US did not see Israel as a strategic ally.
The Jewish state only had a weak promise from the 1950s that said if Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran – linking Israel to the Indian Ocean and providing it an oil lifeline – the Americans would stand with Israel. Oren said he was a great admirer of Levi Eshkol, the Israeli prime minister who kept the country on an even keel before the conflict began.
“Eshkolian diplomacy sought to prove to the world you went the extra mile. That is a lesson for Israel,” he said.
What he meant was, the three torturous weeks Israel waited before attacking Egypt, bought the time the country needed during the war to defeat its enemies.
Oren stressed the importance of remembering also that Israel sought peace before the war. It remonstrated with Jordan even during the conflict, at one point asking its King to consider peace before paratroopers entered the Old City.
He also said – in contrast to some of the triumphalism that resulted from the war – there were mixed messages.
"Shir LaShalom," first performed in 1969, was a song of peace with lyrics composed of dead soldiers talking to the living.
“The dead are saying don’t glorify war and say only peace is important,” noted Oren.
The Israel Project seminar seeks to add nuance and context to some of the wisdom received and lessons drawn from the decades. Those in attendance, including diplomats and journalists, seemed to learn something new. At the very least they were struck by the fact that where they were sitting – in the quiet streets near Rehavia – they were so close to where shells once rained down on Jerusalem from Jordan, where snipers once fired from the Old City walls and where soldiers once battled in 1967 for control of the city.