CLOUDS OVER a village on the Golan Heights.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
During the recent events in Gaza and the stormy election race in Israel, US President Donald Trump’s declaration to recognize Israel sovereignty in the Golan Heights was seen by many as an election contribution to his friend Benjamin Netanyahu. This interpretation does injustice to this historic act.
This is a tremendous strategic achievement for the State of Israel, and is not less important – and in some respects even more important – than the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem. Moving the embassy was a more symbolic act which attests to the deep ties between Israel and the US. It supports the battle over the establishment of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and helps to legitimize similar acts of other states.
The American declaration on the Golan, on the other hand, has a lot more than only symbolic significance. Above all, it is an act with a dramatic contribution to Israel’s national security. Today, after Syria disintegrated during its civil war and re-emerged last year, the Golan has become even more important because of the deep involvement of Iran and Hezbollah in Syria.
Secondly, the American declaration contains a hint of compensation for the gap created in the inter-regional equation of the area, related to the US declaration of its intention to end its military presence in the Syrian front.
Russia, which took “ownership” of the area, has little interest in what Israel’s national security requirements are. Trump’s declaration on the Golan signals to the Russians to not push Israel into the corner. It embodied, in fact, a warning that the US is still in the region, even if it is not physically present, and that a lack of consideration of the Israeli interest might have a price to be paid by Russia’s allies.
Beyond the security and political considerations, the American declaration does historic justice to the population of the wonderful pioneering settlers of the Golan Heights. It’s a group of devoted people who have devoted their lives and invested in the future by transforming the barren heights into a green land of beauty. It’s a population that has created, among other things, a world class wine and meat industry that competes successfully in Europe and the United States. The American declaration helps to remove the gray cloud that has always hovered over their lives’ work.
The declaration also glorifies the memory of the IDF soldiers who fell on the Golan during the Six Day War, as well as those who bravely defended Israel from Syrian attack during the Yom Kippur War, turned the tables and handed the enemy a defeat.
Finally, even during the intense ideological division in Israeli society, it seems that on the subject of the Golan Heights, there is almost wall-to-wall consensus on the importance and necessity of the region to Israel’s national security. The American declaration is, therefore, a historic move of dramatic importance, and a brave statement which constitutes a significant peak in the relations between the two countries.
There is no doubt that the reemerging Syria will resume an international battle aimed at preserving the narrative of the Golan Heights as occupied Syrian territory, while denying the legitimacy of Israeli annexation and sovereignty. In the face of this, Israel will be required to conduct a complicated legitimization battle, while increasing its efforts to prevent an Iranian establishment on the other side of the Golan. The American declaration, with no doubt, will help to manage those efforts.
The writer served as a general in the IDF, and was the head of the Operations Directorate in his last position.
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