Archive for the ‘Golan Heights’ Category


There was a lot to digest in the joint press conference held by US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week. Most of the focus has been on the apparent walk-back Trump made from the long-term and bipartisan US policy supporting a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict and Netanyahu’s shocking apologia for Trump’s refusal to address the sharp rise in antisemitism since his election.

Another point of real significance has therefore been squeezed out of the spotlight: Netanyahu’s proposal that the US recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Read more at LobeLog

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According to reports on Syrian television, 23 people were killed along the border with Israel as they tried to go across the border with Israel.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) disputed the numberand the circumstances.

Syrian President Bashar Assad

Considering the sources of both the accusation and the denial, both highly dubious with long track records of dissembling, I’m keeping my mind open on this. But there are some very important points to be made about the violent confrontations on the northern border.

Let’s start with this: Uri Avnery was right when he said the IDF used disproportionate force. The IDF itself said all the injuries were on the Syrian side of the border—this is why they say they cannot confirm any casualties. The IDF also says they shot live fire at the legs of protesters heading toward the border fence, but still on the Syrian side. Hard to see how that can be called proportionate force. And at least one witness, a journalist, said that the Israelis are understating the severity of their response.

Let’s also be clear about another point: Israel is not defending its borders here. The Golan Heights, which is the area Israel is defending in these incidents, is occupied territory, internationally recognized as Syrian. Unlike the West Bank, which is claimed by the Palestinians but was not previously part of any sovereign state (it was occupied by Jordan from 1949-1967 and part of Mandatory Palestine before that), the Golan is Syrian, and Israel’s annexation of it in 1981 is illegal and recognized by no other country, including the United States.

So, Israel is not defending its borders here, but is defending its occupation. And herein lies the problem, because what is happening on the Syrian border, though certainly heartfelt and significant, is counter-productive for the Palestinians. (more…)

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The Israeli daily, Yediot Ahoronot reported recently that the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, had reassessed its view on Syria’s sincerity in seeking talks with Israel. Mossad now agrees with all the other branches of Israeli intelligence that the Syrian overtures are sincere and that Israel should put Syrian President Bashar al-Asad’s willingness to the test.

The potential benefits of an agreement between Syria and Israel are enormous for many parties. The United States is one of those parties, although one of the few players who stand to lose from such an agreement are the neoconservatives and hawks in the Bush administration. There are also real obstacles to an agreement, especially in the arenas of domestic politics in Israel and the US. But the chief factor blocking Israel-Syria talks at this time is the Bush Administration’s refusal to allow them. This is not something often talked about, which is not surprising–one can only picture the response of the overwhelming majority of Jews to the news that the US is blocking Israel-Arab peace talks that Israel desires.

Yet for all the difficulties, a deal with Syria is a lot easier to attain for Israel than one with the Palestinians, and it might have just as many, maybe even a few more, benefits for Israel as well as the region as a whole.

The Ground On Which To Build An Israel-Syria Agreement

To understand the potential benefits, we must first understand where we are now. The Middle East as a whole is engulfed in burning conflicts, simmering conflicts and growing potential for conflict. The ongoing bloodshed in Iraq and Sudan, the deepening tensions in Lebanon and growing concerns over increasingly tense situations in Bahrain, other Gulf states, Egypt and even to some extent, Saudi Arabia make this always explosive region all the more so. The fuse that is sitting too close to the flame is Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

Though not always reported, there are multiple, daily incidents of violence between Israelis and Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank as well as ongoing clashes between Fatah and Hamas as well as other Palestinian factions from time to time. Israel’s deepening of the infrastructure of the occupation makes matters worse. The wall continues to be built, Palestinian land continues to be appropriated and Israel continues to discuss its plans to hold onto various chunks of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley. Promised relief from checkpoints and settlement “outposts” has not materialized, echoing for Palestinians the Oslo years when Israeli promises of peace were accompanied by a massive acceleration in settlement expansion. (more…)

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Amid all the controversy American support for Israel has generated in recent months, between the Walt-Mearsheimer paper, Jimmy Carter’s book, et al, many have lost sight of the damage the Bush Administration’s policies are doing to Israel and to any hope of resolving the ongoing Middle East conflict.
Robert Gates and Ehud Olmert
I’ve mentioned previously in this space the interference of the US in Israeli-Syrian relations. The problem is continuing to grow, and is all the more obscene because there are realistic and attainable options, something that is not usually the case with American Middle East policy.

This article in Ha’aretz
by Ze’ev Schiff offers both illustration of the problem and some obfuscations and omissions as well.

The visit by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to Israel was already significant for being another in a line of signals that an attack on Iran is not forthcoming. Israel’s message to him was equally noteworthy. (more…)

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The much-awaited moment has come and the League of Arab States has reissued the 2002 Saudi Peace Plan with no changes or amendments.
Mahmoud Abbas an Ehud Olmert
It is important to understand what this initiative says and the great potential it has for putting the region on a course toward a sustainable peace. It is also important to understand what it is not — a take it or leave it offer with no room for negotiations.

In fact, it’s exactly what Israel has needed for decades–a firm opening offer and invitation to negotiations from the entire Arab world. It’s not only peace with the Palestinians. It’s peace with the entire Arab world that is being offered. And not just peace, but normal relations. This is offered in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from all territories it captured in 1967, the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital and an “agreed upon” resolution to the refugee issue, based on UN General Assembly Resolution 194.

This can’t be stressed enough–the economic, cultural, diplomatic, political and social ties that come with normal relations prevent war and create a peaceful environment that no treaty or agreement possibly can. Israel needs to jump at this offer to negotiate. The Arab states know that Israel would not accept their plan whole cloth. They know Israel’s stance is that they are unwilling to go back to the 1967 borders and are unwilling to take responsibility for the refugees. But if Israel is willing to come to the table with their points and negotiate with the Arabs, progress can be made. (more…)

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The January 16 edition of Ha’aretz revealed that some intrepid Israelis, Syrians and international supporters of peace had come together and cobbled out a document that would serve as the framework for a peace agreement between the two old enemies. It is reminiscent of the early days of the Oslo Accords, before the lawyers (and perhaps more importantly, the Americans) got involved in earnest. In the backwoods negotiations in Oslo, there seemed to have been an honest search for a peace that would produceIsrael-Syria-Lebanon Palestinian independence and Israeli security. The actual accords would not provide a framework for such a vision, but from all accounts, the initial meetings were idealistic and truly geared toward such an outcome. The Israel-Syria document was probably easier to write up. The terms in it are pretty much what has been understood for some time to be required of both sides for peace. Israel returns the whole of the Golan Heights, Syria ends its belligerence, including material support for Hamas and Hezbollah and pledges not to divert water from the Jordan River or Lake Tiberias. All of this is guaranteed by the international community, led by the United States, which would monitor the border on the ground.

The agreement is so obviously beneficial for all involved that one cannot help but be appalled that it is not immediately embraced by both sides, and more so that something similar was not agreed to a long time, and many lost lives, ago. Still, as with all political matters, even if Israel and Syria did agree to this framework, there would be complications. (more…)

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