HIGH-ALTITUDE, cool with volcanic, basalt-rich soil: The Golan vineyards..
(photo credit: KFIR HARBI)
Anyone remotely familiar with Israel’s geographical and political landscape knows that the notion of giving up the Golan Heights is laughable.
Never mind the natural beauty, ruggedness and open spaces the region offers –qualities which have helped turn it into one of the country’s main getaways and outdoor recreational destinations.
The northern area was captured by the IDF from Syria during the Six Day War in 1967, after Israel was attacked simultaneously by Egypt, Jordan and the regime of Hafez Assad, father of the current leader. The area is a vital strategic asset.
Imagine the strife and danger that northern Israel would be facing due to the long, bloody civil war in Syria if the Golan was still in the hands of brutal Syrian dictator Basher Assad.
Former prime minister Menachem Begin’s surprise measure to annex the Golan Heights – which he pushed through the Knesset in 1981 by a vote of 63 to 21 – has proven to be a far-sighted move that probably has more consensus approval inside Israel than almost any other issue.
Begin’s decision was based on the belligerent Syrian declaration that even if Israel and the Palestinians would have reached a peace agreement, Syria would never make peace with Israel.
The reactions to the annexation were predictable. Then-Syrian president Assad called it a “declaration of war,” and the Reagan administration said that the annexation was inconsistent with the Camp David accords, complaining that the United States had been given no prior warning of the move.
That’s why Friday’s vote by the US to oppose for the first time the UN General Assembly’s annual call on Israel to return the Golan to Syria is so welcome, even though it’s been so long in coming.
As the Post
’s Tovah Lazaroff has pointed out, until now the US has abstained on this resolution, which has largely been opposed only by Israel. However, as she has done so many times in the past since taking up her position, outgoing US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley cut through politics to put things into proper perspective when it comes to Israel and the volatile region in which the Jewish nation is situated.
“The US will no longer abstain when the UN engages in its useless annual vote on the Golan Heights. If this resolution ever made sense, it surely does not today,” Haley said before the vote.
“Given the resolution’s anti-Israel bias, as well as the militarization of the Syrian Golan border and a worsening humanitarian crisis, this year the United States has decided to vote ‘no’ on the resolution,” she said, adding, “The resolution is plainly biased against Israel. Further, the atrocities the Syrian regime continues to commit prove its lack of fitness to govern anyone.”
To temper the vote, a US representative to the UN said that it didn’t signify a turnaround in its position on the status of the Golan, which is official non-recognize the 1981 annexation. It follows US National Security Advisor John Bolton’s statement in August that “we understand the Israeli claim that it has annexed the Golan Heights – we understand their position – but there’s no change in the US position for now.”
That didn’t prevent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, facing the dissolution of his government, from effusively thanking the US and its president Donald Trump for the vote. Calling it “important and just,” Netanyahu said that the vote was “completely in line with our policies – Israel will remain forever on the Golan Heights, and the Golan Heights will forever remain in our hands.”
With Syria in its current state, that declaration is one that all Israelis can get behind. As Haley pointed out: “The destructive influence of the Iranian regime inside Syria presents major threats to international security. ISIS and other terrorist groups remain in Syria.”
The annual resolution at the UN does not take that grim reality into account, and in fact, seems to be based on a fantasy world where “victim” Syria has been somehow wronged by the big, bad aggressor Israel.
We can only thank Haley and the US administration for appreciating and finally acting on the redundancy of this resolution. The world should not be condemning Israel for annexing the Golan – it should be grateful to Israel for providing a bastion of stability in a region that could explode at any time.