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June 14, 2012 2:58 pm

No Apologies: Assad, Israel, and the Golan Heights

avatar by Alexander Kogan

An IDF soldier standing guard at a military base in the Golan Heights. Photo: wiki commons.

Last year was different from all the years I lived in Israel. For the first time since 1990 I haven’t heard or noticed any serious ‘peacemaking activity’ aimed in the Syrian direction. Nobody talked about ‘pacifying’ our northern neighbor with those pesky little Golan Heights – an obstacle on the way to a flourishing and fruitful coexistence with the Syrian regime. Nobody even mentioned the amazing, but never tasted ‘hummus of Damascus’, which was one of the most renowned symbols of what Israelis were losing while clutching to that tiny chunk of mountain area.

For almost two decades I took part in the sometimes too fiery battles trying to get explanations how exactly things might turn better if Israel gave up the Golan. I was called names, of which ‘fearmonger’ and ‘puny alarmist’ were the most gracious. I have stopped actively arguing about the Golan and peace, reckoning that the majority of Israelis are on my side.

And then, suddenly the Arab Spring started, and it turned out Bashar Assad is not such an effective administrator as his father Hafez was. Yes, I mean old daddy Assad knew how to use his tools – chemical weapons and stuff. His ‘scorched earth management’  proved highly productive in Hama, leaving approximately 30,000 bodies in one month. The young current ruler is no match for him – he managed to kill only 14,000 a year. Well, one may claim that he is twice as moderate as his daddy was. And it’s a pity that we didn’t make peace with him…

Yes, I am kidding. Who wouldn’t be after hearing that the collapse of Bashar’s regime could see the Syrian part of the Golan Heights fall to groups like al-Qaeda.

Here is a quote from the AFP’s report from the last week. “If the Assad regime will fall, the biggest threat is that the northern border, the no-man’s land, can be taken over by groups like al-Qaeda,” the official in Israel’s northern command said on condition of anonymity. The fear is that the strategic plateau could slide into a situation similar to that in Sinai, where a wave of lawlessness has left the Egyptian army struggling powerless to rein in militant activity. For Israel, the ongoing bloodshed in Syria has also raised fears that Damascus’s stockpile of sophisticated weapons could fall into the hands of militants, including Lebanon’s Shi’ite militia Hezbollah, which fought a war with Israel in 2006. Last month, Major General Yair Golan, head of the Israeli military’s northern command, said the concern was that Syria’s stockpile of strategic weapons, including “the world’s largest stockpile of chemical weapons,” could end up in Hezbollah’s hands”.

And now, the weapons which remain in Syrian hands after what was used in the most recent Hama massacre may be divided between Hezbollah and ”groups like al-Qaeda”. If the regime falls, of course. But if it survives then everything is fine… Shall we hear again about land for hummus? Well, we can definitely trust the guy who kills thousands of his own people, can’t we?

No, we can’t. And the only thing we should hear is an apology. From the apologists of the ‘Golan for peace’ doctrine, which could have exploded in our faces.  From those who organized massive international pressure on Israel to give up this territory despite objections of the total majority of citizens of our democratic state.

But I doubt that we shall ever hear that. Because, frankly, there were two types of supporters of this ‘peacemaking’ initiative. Those, who were and are utterly naïve, and still live in an unrealistic dream, hoping to pacify everybody, including al-Qaeda,  and those, whose aspirations have nothing in common with keeping Israel safe.

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