Don’t Abandon The Golan

New efforts to force Israel to give away the Golan may be in the offing.

By David Isaac

    “…they assigned Bezer in the wilderness upon the plain out of the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead out of the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan out of the tribe of Manasseh.” – Joshua 20:8

In “Golan: More Than Geography” (The Jerusalem Post, March 5, 1993), Shmuel Katz wrote of then-U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher’s first visit to the Golan Heights.

He was taken on a study tour by helicopter and, apparently for the first time in his life, he was enabled to see the full extent of Israel within the “Green Line” and to assess the significance of the Golan Heights towering over Israel’s Galilean plain. Coming away from his tour, he immediately gave voice to a confession with clearly far-reaching implications. “There is no question,” he said, “that the geography complicates the matter, and changes the situation very greatly.” (The Jerusalem Post, February 25) Christopher was manifestly surprised by what he had seen.

Christopher’s revelation was short-lived. Returning to the United States, the secretary of state was no doubt enlightened by his professional underlings at Foggy Bottom, who explained the ‘complexities’ of the matter and pulled one of their ready-made plans off the shelf and handed it to him, saving him the time and trouble of having to think up one himself, perhaps one that would have been based in reality.

Despite the fact that the Golan Heights was formally annexed by Israel in 1981 and that it has been developed beautifully by the Jews who have settled there over the past 45 years, it has been popping up in the news in worrying ways.

On Dec. 26, WorldNetDaily reported that, “The Obama administration is pressing Israel to enter into negotiations with Syria aimed at compelling an Israeli retreat from the strategic Golan Heights.” According to the report, White House envoy Dennis Ross visited Israel and Syria “to discuss specifics of a deal” that would give Syria the Golan. (For a Shmuel Katz criticism of Ross, see “Dennis Ross Confesses”)

And on Dec. 31, Ha’aretz revealed that soon-to-be-retired Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi will leave the Israel Defense Forces, and “go charging after the next objective: peace with Syria. … The price of this deal is known: withdrawal from the Golan Heights in return for security arrangements and normalized relations.” Ashkenazi thus appears poised to join the ranks of other former soldiers, such as Ehud Barak, who reached their level of incompetence the moment they set foot into politics.

Matters are not helped by strong evidence that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to negotiate away the Golan as part of an agreement with Syria during his first term in office, making it likely he will be willing to do so again.

In a 1999 article for the New Republic, Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, wrote, “[I]t is clear that, during 1998, Netanyahu became deeply involved in a secret negotiation with Assad over the terms and conditions under which Israel would transfer the Golan Heights, taken from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War, back to Syrian control.” Pipes adds: “Anyone who has followed Netanyahu’s career will instantly recognize in this episode the man’s well-established pattern of speaking loudly but carrying a small stick.”

Although one after another of Israeli prime ministers have shown an astonishing willingness to sacrifice the Golan, whether because of outside pressure, or to extricate themselves from their own political problems, to do so would be an unmitigated strategic disaster.

As Dr. Erich Isaac, Professor Emeritus of Geography at the City University of New York, writes in Outpost, the periodical of Americans for A Safe Israel (June, 1995), “[W]hile few may know this, in the course of recorded history more than 60 assaults on the Land of Israel west of the Jordan were launched from, or through, the Golan. In fact, throughout history, control of an area much larger than what is generally called ‘Golan’ today was a vital concern of those entrusted with the defense of the land west of the Jordan.”

In “Mr. Prime Minister, Do Not Abandon the Golan” (The Jerusalem Post, Aug. 9, 2008), Shmuel wrote of the history of assault in recent memory.

Here is a record of Syria’s three aggressions. No more than three years after the Syrians gained their own independence from French trusteeship, Syria in 1948 freely entered into the alliance with six other members of the Arab League to prevent by force of war the birth of the State of Israel. The towering Golan Heights were a first-class natural base for Syria’s onslaught. This was in 1948.

Miraculously, Israel survived against tremendous odds and suffering heavy casualties, but Syria retained the Golan; and then during the following 19 years, despite the armistice of 1949, playfully used the Heights as a launching-pad for lobbing shells down onto the Galilee.

It is a part of Israeli folklore that in those 19 years children in Galilee did much of their schooling in underground bunkers for protection from those shells. Partaking as targets for those attacks were also the fishermen of the Lake of Galilee.

Then in 1967, in company with Egypt and Jordan, Syria joined in a new assault on Israel. This was advertised well in advance, by Egyptian president Nasser, to be a ‘war of annihilation.’ Heavily buttressed, the Golan naturally played its part in the attack. This time however, Israel decisively won the war and was able to say ‘enough is enough.’ This time the Israeli Defense Force climbed and captured the Heights.

Israel, however, was given little respite. Six years later, and that on Yom Kippur, Syria, again in company with Egypt, made war on Israel. In hard fighting Syria failed to win back the Golan Heights and, indeed, lost an additional slice of territory to the east. Negotiations followed and, under pressure from US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, Israel returned that slice, and a border was delineated between Israel and Syria.

That border, incidentally with Damascus in its sights, has ever since 1974 assured Israel of peaceful relations, such as they are, with Syria. That border emphasizes the truth, for which a heavy price in blood has been paid, that only with the Golan in Israel’s hands can peace be maintained.

The Israelis have done wonders with the Golan, in sharp contrast to the Syrians, who did virtually nothing to develop the area and merely treated it as a large artillery platform from which to shell the Israelis below. The Jews, on the other hand, have made the region flourish, building first-class wineries, as well as developing agriculture and a mineral water industry.

Such development is unfortunately no proof against a weak, opportunistic Israeli leadership. Despite accounting for 15% of Israel’s agricultural exports, Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip was evacuated and its buildings razed to the ground in eight days.

But the Golan’s Jewish population is 23,000 and growing. Recently, young Israeli families have been moving to the region. Two thousand Israelis moved into the town of Katzrin alone in the last year, swelling the town’s size from 6,000 to 8,000.

Sami Bar-Lev, the mayor of Katzrin, believes it’s the region’s Jewish history that will ensure the Golan remains a part of the State of Israel.

In “Golan: More Than Geography”, Shmuel writes of the “moving ‘Charter of the Golan’” signed by virtually all of the 4,000 pioneers who first came there after 1967. It read, in part:

“We have returned to the Golan to build and be rebuilt. Every furrow of soil has been sanctified by the blood of our sons. In the basalt rocks we have anchored the foundations of our homes, and into the fertile soil we have set our roots. Here are our homes, and this is our legacy; we shall never forsake them.”

That is the sound of Jewish settlement starting out on the right foot. If the new residents imbibe the spirit of the old, then the Golan’s best line of defense won’t be Jewish history, but the living Jewish present.

January 18, 2011 | 13 Comments »

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  1. Massada of the North on the Golan

    Gamla has been found.

    Israelis are calling it the Masada of the north. Masada, south of Jerusalem in the Judean wilderness, was the last Jewish outpost to fall to the Romans thus ending, in 73 A.D., the First Jewish Revolt against Rome. Jews at Masada committed suicide rather than surrender to the Romans.

    Gamla, on the Golan Heights, was among the first Jewish strongholds to fall to the Roman military machine that crushed the Jewish revolt. The Romans destroyed Gamla in 67 A.D.

    As with Masada, we learn of Gamla from the first century Jewish historian Josephus Flavius. Gamla is located on top of a high, pointed mountain that sits in a wadi—a dry river bed. The mountain is surrounded by “inaccessible ravines”—except on one side where the mountain is joined by a slender neck to the high ranges on either side of the wadi.a But, in the first century, even this ascent to Gamla was treacherous because, as Josephus tells us, the Jews cut a ditch across the connecting neck to prevent the Romans from reaching the city.

    Despite the difficult approach, the Roman legions succeeded in bringing battering rams to three points of the city wall. These broke through the wall and then, Josephus says, the Romans poured “through the breach with loud trumpet-blasts, clash of arms and the soldiers’ battle-cries.”

    If the Romans thought the Jewish inhabitants of Gamla would surrender, they were badly mistaken. The Jews stood their ground against the Romans until finally forced by overpowering numbers to retreat to the upper part of the city. Then the Jews turned on their pursuers and attacked. The Romans tried to escape. For protection, the Roman soldiers crowded onto the roofs of the little houses perched on the steep slopes. The houses could not bear the weight of all the Roman soldiers and collapsed, killing hundreds. The Jews fought on, with swords taken from the dying Romans, and the remaining Romans fled for their lives. Read more

  2. A message to those who would give what is not theirs to give. A message to the nations who go up against Israel:

    Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations; ask thy father, and he will declare unto thee, thine elders, and they will tell thee. When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the children of men, He set the borders of the peoples according to the number of the children of Israel.

    For I lift up My hand to heaven, and say: As I live for ever, If I whet My glittering sword, and My hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to Mine adversaries, and will recompense them that hate Me. I will make Mine arrows drunk with blood, and My sword shall devour flesh; with the blood of the slain and the captives, from the long-haired heads of the enemy.’

    Sing aloud, O ye nations, of His people; for He doth avenge the blood of His servants, and doth render vengeance to His adversaries, and doth make expiation for the land of His people.

  3. Syria better tread carefully with us, for the G-d of Israel is always watching over us and our land & this has NEVER been fulfilled: Isaiah 17.1 “The prophecy of Damascus,Damascus is taken away from being a city and it shall be a ruin-heap.” Our Tanach is SO accurate that archeologists only have to search it’s pages to know where to dig and look for Jewish stuff Psalm 102.13 “For thy servants take pleasure in its stones, and favor the dust thereof.”

  4. The Golan was part of the British Mandate until trasferred to the French – quite illegally – in 1923. The Syrians used the Golan to attack Israelis between 1948 and 1967. In 1967, in addition to shelling, they attacked a day after Israel humiliated the Egyptians. They were trounced then losing the Golan and again in 1973, when Israel withstood the Arab sneak attack. Now the Syrian’s precondition for talks is the return of the Golan up to the shore of the now receded Kinneret. If Israel agrees, the Syrians would consider ‘normal relations’, whatever that means, but not normalized ones. This is the same Syria, which has normalized relations with Turkey which invaded Syria and siezed the Alexendretta region. It seems that it is OK for a fellow mohammedan regime to take territory by force, but for the Jewish state mohammedan aggression must be cost free. And the greatest problem is that no Israeli politician has had the guts to tell the Arabs and their sponsors, that a nation that has prevailed against aggression has a right to compensation, even if it is the Jewish state.

    There is another problem with Israeli politicians and military. They forget what I, as a faithful unionist recognises: a fair devision of labour. In Israel’s case, they forget that it is up to the military to win the wars and for the politicians to win the peace. As long as politicians meddle in military campaigns and as long as generals play politics, it is a lose-lose scenario for Israeli civilians and combat soldiers.

  5. Thinker says:
    January 20, 2011 at 1:56 am

    Give away Golan, give away Jerusalem, give away Judea and Samaria, and Hevron too – hell just leave now and let’s get this suicide over with. G-d forbid. Jews stand up be proud and stop apologizing for what belongs to us

    Thinker, you been eating and drinking with Yamit (Uncle).

    Yes, that should be the motto of all Jews throughout the world.

  6. Give away Golan, give away Jerusalem, give away Judea and Samaria, and Hevron too – hell just leave now and let’s get this suicide over with. G-d forbid. Jews stand up be proud and stop apologizing for what belongs to us. Please go to and learn our historical rights. From the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea to the Jews as a right and not a sufferance. lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq to the Arabs. Go learn about it and it will put everything into proper perspective. But learn is ours and what is theirs.

  7. The Golan is very much part of historical Israel, going back over 3000 years. 1/3 of Israel’s water comes from the Golan Heights. End of argument.

  8. In hard fighting Syria failed to win back the Golan Heights and, indeed, lost an additional slice of territory to the east. Negotiations followed and, under pressure from US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, Israel returned that slice, and a border was delineated between Israel and Syria.

    Bad move.

    Not one inch. [Honest rongrand, I had exactly the same thought as you before I saw your post.]


  9. Ted, you once posted a great radio clip from Rabbi Tovia Singer re what Israel’s foreign policy towards Syria should be, in which he said: “..the policy is you should drop dead. We’ll ski in the Golan, hike in the Golan, drink wine in the Golan and praise the Lord in the Golan, and you can drop dead! You’ll never see it again. And if you ever start with us, there goes Damascus, that farkakte toilet!..”
    Haven’t been able to find the clip, if you can re-post it, it’d be great!
    I, and I think all of us, share and agree with his views.

  10. I have said many times here on Israpundit,

    Tell that stupid goose neck (lookalike Ichabod) Syrian knucklehead president, the Golan Heights is not for sale, not today, not tomorrow and not likely in the future and if he can’t see it, then find a good optometrist.

    Israeli leadership cannot and should not consider giving up an inch (and I mean an inch) of the Holy Land and the territory they secured when the Arab world thought they could defeat them.

    If anything, they need to continue building communities and moving out any Palestinians or any Arab who doesn’t want to live in and about the Sovereign Nation of Israel.

    The leadership better recognize they cannot buy peace.

    The peace in the ME is by strength and control.

    As the sign says “There is no diplomatic solution”

  11. Just say no. The rest of the world can keep their sensibilities to themselves – they’re worthless.

    Here’s our peace agreement with everyone. We’ll give you peace and you give us peace. The moment that ceases to be true, the peace agreement is over and you’re responsible for the consequences.

  12. It’s one thing to kick the religious Jew by abandoning Jerusalem and Judea to Palestinians, an insignificant enemy beloved by the world media. It is another thing entirely to deal with Assad’s terrorist regime, which annoys just about every politician on earth.

    Ceding the Golan Heights to Syria is overwhelmingly unpopular in Israel, and negotiations would diminish BB’s public standing rather than improve it. Unlike Judea and Samaria, which are off-limits to most Israelis, the Golan Heights are a popular destination, and have been for 2/3 of Israel’s history, forty years out of sixty two. The sense that the Golan Heights belong to Israel is deeply ingrained in the public mind, and no politician would promote himself by giving them away.

    Israel and Syria haven’t signed a peace deal for a simple reason: they don’t need it. Both sides would gain nothing from peace. Israel and Egypt, at peace for almost forty years, have not reduced their armies, established meaningful commerce, or developed popular goodwill toward one another. Only the IDF—keeps both Egypt and Syria at arms length.

    The Syrians are the most ancient Jew-haters and won’t embrace their Israeli neighbors.

    There can be no peace with Syria.