How the US Could Provide Some Reality Therapy on the Golan Heights
JNS.org – As I write these words, ISIS has launched a major attack in Syria, targeting a town occupied by Druze on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, killing 100 innocent civilians. Additionally, Israel shot down a Syrian fighter jet last week that entered Israeli airspace, and two mortar shells launched from the Syrian side of the Golan landed near the Sea of Galilee (miraculously resulting in no injuries).
And that was in just 24 hours.
After a seven-year war, Syria is a failed state. It has been given oxygen to survive only by Iran and Russia.
And Syria’s inherent instability provides fertile ground for an array of terrorist groups: from Jabhat al Nusra and ISIS on the Sunni side to Hezbollah, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and the Al Quds Force on the Shiite side.
Syria depicts the Hobbesian state of war of man against man. The tragic events there have led to at least half a million casualties, approximately six million refugees, and at least that many internally displaced people.
Iran, with its hegemonic aspirations, has taken advantage of the situation as a pretext for entrenching its military infrastructure into Syria. Syrian President Bashar Assad has enabled this by giving the Iranian terrorist proxies Syrian military uniforms. Iran is determined to build a land bridge stretching from Tehran to Beirut to Damascus, all the way to the Mediterranean Coast.
Earlier this month, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei repeated his ominous exhortation that Israel is “a cancerous tumor that must be removed.” And Hossein Salami, the Deputy Commander of the IRGC in Syria, said that he is “awaiting orders to eradicate the evil regime of Israel” and that Israel has “no strategic depth” — therefore, “this can easily be achieved.”
Contrast this with the Israeli side of the Golan Heights, which provides an island of stability in a sea of chaos.
The Golan Heights — an area that Israel captured during its defensive 1967 Six Day War and then retained from invading Syrian forces again in its defensive war of 1973 — affords Israel a unique topographical and intelligence advantage, giving it the eyes and ears to stare down into Syria and Lebanon. And all of this intelligence is shared readily with the United States.
There is a 1974 agreement mandating the separation of Syrian and Israel forces, which thins out the forces on both sides of the disengagement line. In 1981, the Israeli government formally annexed the region. The annexation of the Golan Heights is a consensus issue that almost every Israeli, whether politically on the left, right, or center agrees with.
As Major Gen. (ret.) Giroa Eiland of the IDF has recently written, “Israel does not possess a plausible solution to its security needs without the Golan Heights.”
The demarcation line of the Golan Heights represents the demarcation of freedom against tyranny — of a failed authoritarian regime against a vibrant, healthy state based on Western democratic values.
That is why tens of thousands of Syrians would love to flee into Israel if given the opportunity. That is why 422 Syrians who are part of the White Helmet Groups, a humanitarian volunteer organization, were rescued by the Israelis and given safe passage into Jordan. That is why the IDF was able to provide tons of truckloads of supplies to Syrian refugees, including medicines, baby formula, food, and shoes. And that is what enabled the IDF to clandestinely arrange for approximately 4,000 Syrians wounded in Syria’s protracted civil war to be treated in Israeli hospitals without asking which side they were fighting for or why. When they were healed, they were clandestinely delivered back to the Syrian side of the border.
It is in America’s best national security interests to recognize the annexation of the Golan Heights as part of Israel’s sovereign territory. Israel provides an island of tranquility in the chaotic world of the Middle East, and the line between chaos and stability cuts right through the demarcation line. After all, following Friday prayers throughout Tehran, the chant is not only “Death to Israel” but also “Death to America.”
By keeping the Golan Heights as part of the lexicon of “occupied territories,” the international community simply perpetuates the conflict and the Syrian-Iranian-Russian axis’ pernicious delusion that this area is still in play.
American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights would finally put an end to these dangerous delusions. In an age when Iran constitutes the greatest menace to the region and one of the greatest to the world, it would constitute an effective and potent form of “reality therapy.”
Sarah N. Stern is founder and president of EMET, an unabashedly pro-Israel and pro-American think tank and policy institute in Washington, DC.